Destinations Central & South America

Colombia’s poor country branding stands in its way to becoming a tourism powerhouse

Excerpt from Knowledge@Wharton

Jan 03, 2013 2:38 am

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Colombia’s public image still suffers from its violent past and even if it repairs its public image, outdated transportation infrastructure and a lack of tourism leadership may limit the country’s ability to take advantage of its natural resources.

— Samantha Shankman

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Rafat Ali

Riding over the slums of Medellin. Rafat Ali


Negative perceptions die hard. The February 2012 U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ travel warning for Mexico began this way: “Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day.” In contrast, the analogous warning for Colombia was: “The Department of State reminds U.S. citizens of the dangers of travel to Colombia.”

The greater Colombian economy — specifically its tourism industry — is the best positioned of any in Latin America to expand steadily in the coming decades. Its breadth of geographic, natural resource and labor diversity positions it advantageously. However, it has failed over the last decade to capitalize on this advantage through poor brand management, a misunderstanding of the importance of its international perception and a number of larger, strategic infrastructural challenges.

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