Vis­it­ing Colom­bians want our travel dol­lars

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - LISA ALLEN

NOWthat the South Amer­i­cans have suc­cess­fully got us hooked on Buenos Aires and San­ti­ago, they’re hop­ing the Colom­bian cities of Bogota, Carta­gena and Medellin will also pro­voke us to part with our hard-earned travel dol­lars.

With the drug wars of the 1990s largely be­hind it, Colom­bia’s tourist burghers are vis­it­ing Aus­tralia’s east coast to ed­u­cate travel agents in how best to sell the de­lights of the coun­try’s Ama­zon jun­gles, Caribbean beaches and An­dean moun­tain ranges.

Their un­usual motto is no doubt a ref­er­ence to the drugs and vi­o­lence of days gone by: ‘‘The only risk is want­ing to stay.’’

The tourism board’s cam­paign ap­pears to be turn­ing around the num­ber of ar­rivals: for­eign­ers vis­it­ing Colom­bia jumped 16 per cent in the first five months of this year.

‘‘Aus­tralians want ex­treme sports, they want cof­fee, his­tory, 500-year-old sites, as well as salsa,’’ says Jorge Mon­tero, of the coun­try’s tourism, for­eign in­vest­ment and ex­port pro­mo­tion body, ProEx­port Colom­bia. About 10,000 Aus­tralians have been vis­it­ing Colom­bia an­nu­ally and Mon­tero is cer­tain that will grow.

One can’t deny Colom­bia has some great ge­o­graph­i­cal as­sets — it fronts two oceans and three An­dean moun­tain ranges. And when it comes to its cities, Bogota, Medellin and Carta­gena’s cob­ble­stone streets and colo­nial plazas are ap­par­ently jump­ing with party at­mos­phere.

LAN has six weekly flights to San­ti­ago via Auck­land from Sydney, but it’s an­other six-hour flight from San­ti­ago to Bogota. Qan­tas is also of­fer­ing three code­share flights from the east coast to San­ti­ago each week.

‘‘Peo­ple used to talk about South Amer­ica be­ing Machu Pic­chu, Rio or Buenos Aires, but now it’s open­ing up,’’ a LAN spokesman says.

‘‘South Amer­ica is the gate­way to Antarc­tica, Patag­o­nia and Chile. It is be­com­ing very pop­u­lar, par­tic­u­larly with the lux­ury and ad­ven­ture mar­ket.’’

It re­mains to be seen, how­ever, if there’s a sud­den surge in Aussies head­ing to Medellin.

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