March 2023 Edition
Unique experiences, the key to boosting tourism in 2023
In Colombia, we inbound tourism companies kicked off 2023 with moderate optimism. On one hand, all trends point to a busy year, considering that in 2022 the number of non-resident travelers came significantly close to the numbers registered in 2019 (by October of last year, the country received more than four million people, according to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism), which was both a general and urgent goal to help the industry recover since the pandemic. On the other hand, we have our eyes on the initiatives from the government that will maintain the gained momentum, especially now that the incentives (and taxes in particular) established in Law 2068 of 2020 have ended and that, given the global framework, we stand before a need to strengthen the sales strategies to attract an even bigger number of foreign travelers.
That optimism, which was heartily discussed in Fitur 2023 and is also shared by the UNWTO, is a great first step to driving inbound tourism growth in Colombia, but it is necessary to ground it with concrete actions that maintain or even surpass the expectations of those visiting the country. While, for this purpose, some companies from the industry want (and will) reinforce their businesses with digital tools and competitive pricing, at VAOVA Travel, we deeply believe that the biggest contribution comes from offering memorable experiences to travelers. We already think of simple, friendly purchase processes and high-quality standards as a given (as our travelers do). But these aspects are no longer differentiating factors, except maybe tourism with a sustainable approach. And with the valuation of the Colombian peso, competition is not going to be found in pricing. Instead, what truly catches our traveler’s attention is the ability to offer experiences that meet the preferences of each person, and at the same time, experiences that connect them with the most authentic traits of Colombia, its culture, history, gastronomy, and art. In other words, offering genuine experiences that link and empower local players, and that allow foreigners to discover a tangible and inspiring Colombia, so they can then take those stories to their home countries and spread the word: traveling to Colombia is worth it, and as a destination, the difference lies in its people.
How can art be used to connect travelers with their destinations?
Inbound tourism presents many opportunities to bring travelers closer to the essence of the destinations, to the elements that make a place unique and memorable, and in the case of Colombia, to the cultural contrasts that shape the national identity. Among the many possible roads that can be explored to achieve an effective connection between travelers and destinations, at VAOVA we believe that art (in all its expressions), moves people in a hard-hitting way, inspiring different and intimate interpretations of what Colombia truly is. This stance of what might be considered “genuine” has taken us to approach different kinds of artists in our destinations to create unmatched experiences, from associations that use dancing as a vehicle for empowerment and social transformation, artists specialized in intervening non-conventional spaces, and iconic characters from local traditions, like the Medellín ‘silleteros’ and singers from Cartagena.
With these experiences, we want to help our travelers fall in love with the destinations, and we go beyond the traditional commercial practices by working directly with the local artists, dignifying their role in society, generating a positive economic impact, and avoiding third-party practices, which can be harmful to the working dynamics of the industry. All this is brought together around tourism products that are born of a deep knowledge of the destination, and with which we aim to demonstrate the local artistic talent while transforming the image that non-resident travelers have of our country.
About the need of putting “sustainability” to practice
The implementation of sustainable politics and practices in inbound tourism has become relevant in recent years, amplified by the health crisis during the pandemic and by travelers that are increasingly aware of the effect that they have on the destinations that they visit. In fact, according to a report published in January by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and Deloitte, 69% of travelers are actively looking for “sustainable travel alternatives”. This behavior necessarily changes the playing field, and forces the industry to correspond with an offer that matches the interest of travelers in a more responsible tourism, which according to the WTO itself, it should at least include three aspects: the appropriate use of environmental resources, the respect and preservation of the sociocultural factors, and a viable operation that has a positive impact on the players that intervene in the value chain.
In the specific case of Colombia, we have had an important breakthrough in sustainability with the Sustainable Tourism Policy drafted by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism. After all, this is a country with such a wide diversity in nature and culture that the products and services in tourism emerge from these characteristics, structuring a unique offer for travelers with more demanding standards. But implementing this policy, as well as those from the industry’s players, also requires a commitment that transcends the current market trend. Sustainable tourism measures have a direct impact on the destinations, both in terms of perception and the contribution of tourism at a local level. This underscores the importance of not using the term “sustainability” lightly in inbound tourism, and that its usage comes with specific examples of how, for example, a travel agency is contributing to fair trade practices, a hotel is reducing its plastic waste, or a destination is measuring the traffic of travelers in protected natural areas. If sustainability is the vanguard to position Colombia as a tourist destination, generating a much-necessary balance in the industry, the coherence of those of us participating in it will be a crucial factor for the success of this national agenda.
VAOVA Travel’s key figures
In light of the recovery that we saw last year in the tourism industry, which was enhanced by the lifting of a few biosafety restrictions, a favorable exchange rate, and a stable socio-political landscape (even with complex factors such as presidential elections), at VAOVA we have witnessed a growth in the number of travelers hosted in Colombia, the articulation with artists and suppliers, and the direct investment local communities. These are some of the most important figures from 2022 and the first trimester of 2023:
2023 (January to March)
- We hosted more than 1580 travelers with more than 40 different nationalities between January 01 and March 31.
- We designed and executed 18 trips and events in our business lines of University Treks, MICE, and Leisure Travel.
- Thanks to these trips and events, we worked directly with 243 members of the VAOVA Community: artists, hosts, guides, support, logistics, and medical personnel.
- Considering that our vision of tourism is built around the concept of happenings, the artists were a vital part of our trips. We had the opportunity to work with musicians, singers, symphonic bands, jugglers, actresses, skaters, dancers, make-up artists, popular queens, ‘silleteros’, ‘mulatas’, ‘palenqueras’, and decorators, among many others.
- Our work with the members of the VAOVA Community resulted in a direct investment for our destinations of COP 394 million.
- We hosted 3.200 travelers from different nationalities between January and December of 2022.
- We mainly worked in five national destinations: Bogotá, Medellín, Cartagena, the Coffee Region (Pereira, Armenia, and coffee towns), Santa Marta, and Palomino, as well as Mexico City, continuing our expansion to other destinations in Latin America.
- We executed our trips in alliance with 280 artists, hosts, guides, medics, and supporting staff.
- We achieved a direct investment in the local communities of approximately COP 3.500 million.
- We raised COP 1.500 in a crowdfunding campaign in a2censo, a platform from Colombia’s Stock Exchange.