Sustainable tourism: Colombia's view

Who knows when, but the pandemic will be over within the next few years, and, fingers crossed, even earlier. So if you're a keen traveller you could start planning that trip in your mind to help you cope with present restrictions. And when the world does open up again, tourism needs to be much more sustainable. 

By Coco Piras
Colombia wants sustainable touristm

To coincide with World Tourism Day (27 Sept 2020) Colombia’s Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Tourism has presented a new bill to amend the General Law of Tourism, with sustainability at its core. The new mandate, which will form a key role in the country’s post-pandemc recovery strategy, formally recognises that the protection of the environment and local communities is crucial for country's tourism industry

Colombia wants tourists back when it's safe for people to travel, but as all countries are realising, it needs tourism that doesn't deplete natural resources and damage the environment. 

Colombia is home to more than 58,000 species of animals and plants, according to the Biodiversity Information System of Colombia. It's the second most bio-diverse country in the world, making it popular with international travellers who want to be immersed in nature. Its five regions boast a wide range of ecosystems, from tropical glaciers to the vast Amazon rainforest, as well as a rich culture which encompasses 65 native languages and more than 86 indigenous tribes.

Colombia's new bill going through its parliament aims to further strengthen and formalize the country’s commitment to environmental protection. 'Our county is committed to ensuring tourism is used as a force for good. Our incredible biodiversity will play a pivotal role in driving economic recovery in the tourism sector, but to do so we must ensure we are protecting our environment, biodiversity, unique ecosystems and incredible heritage,' says Flavia Santoro Trujillo, President of ProColombia.

FIVE WAYS TRAVELLERS CAN SUPPORT COLOMBIA’S SUSTAINABLE TOURISM INDUSTRY

Visit one of Colombia’s certified sustainable towns and villages 
Colombia now boasts 27 ministry-certified sustainable tourism destinations, an initiative designed to promote destinations that are going to extraordinary lengths to demonstrate a commitment to sustainable practices. These destinations have been awarded the status for a combination of reasons, ranging from local conservation and protection of local communities to innovate recycling initiatives and effective use of water and renewable energy resources. Certified destinations include Santa Rosa de Cabal, famous for the sprawling Los Nevados National Park and its magnificent hot springs, and Puerto Nariño, which can only be reached by boat along the Amazon River. Other towns and cities include La Macarena in Meta, Salento in Quindío, Mompox in Bolívar, and Ciénaga in Magdalena. For more information visit: www.colombia.travel/en 

Choose a hotel that is driving conservation efforts 
Secretos de Colombia, Secrets of Colombia, is a newly formed coalition of thirteen boutique hotels, committed to driving conservation, working with local communities, respecting local traditions and promoting alternative tourist destinations. Each hotel offers an intimate and authentic experience which helps preserve the local environment and support local communities. The Corocora Camp offers luxurious tented accommodation in the wetland savannahs of Los Llanos. Working closely with the El Encanto de Guanapalo Nature Reserve – a highly vulnerable ecosystem in Colombia – Corocora funds local wildlife conservation projects and invites guests to participate too. It has also developed a local community education project, called ‘Guardians of Guanapalo’, to educate young locals about conservation and prevent illegal wildlife trafficking in the area. For more information, visit: www.secretosdecolombia.com

Experience Colombia through the eyes of a local 
For those seeking a deeper and more personal travel experience, Colombia offers a wide range of community-led experiences that enable visitors to connect with host communities. As well as benefiting travellers by providing unique insight into the local areas, it also positively impacts local communities by creating more opportunities for local people. Rafting for Peace is a community-led initiative which reintegrates former FARC members into the community by training them to become certified raft guides. Based in San Vincente del Caguán, in Caquetá, an area once synonymous with the armed conflict, these local guides share the history of Colombia’s armed conflict and the impressive story of how peace is being built in the community along the historic Pato River. On this educational and exhilarating tour, visitors can also raft along river rapids, explore caves, encounter incredible wildlife, and enjoy dinners cooked by local host families. This experience is part of the Meaningful Travel Map of Colombia, a project that includes the best initiatives in community tourism from more than 15 destinations chosen by ProColombia and Colombia Productiva. For more information, visit: https://colombia.travel/en/tourism-cares/rafting-peace or https://colombia.travel/en/tourism-cares.

 

Cartagena is a beautiful city
Colombia is a paradise for bird watchers

Get off the beaten track and explore Colombia’s lesser-known destinations
Travellers can support Colombia’s sustainable industries by exploring the country beyond its gateway cities and far from the more established tourist hotspots. Responsible tour operator Colombia Oculta Tours offers guided tours to ‘hidden Colombia’, such as Chiribiquette. As Colombia’s largest national park – and the largest tropical rainforest national park on the planet - Chiribiquette is considered one of the most unexplored places on the planet. The park is rich in wildlife, home to at least five endemic species, as well as jaguars, harpy eagles and the Chiribiquete emerald hummingbird. By visiting these lesser-known destinations, travellers are also contributing to a new and vital source of income for lesser destinations which have often hereto relied on extractive businesses, such as wildlife trafficking. For more information, visit: www.colombiaoculta.org

Support local farmers and sustainable agricultural practices 
As well as diverse culture and ecosystems, Colombia also boasts a rich diversity of agricultural produce. A trip to the coffee belt in the northern reaches of the Andes is the perfect destination to learn the story behind the cup, and it also helps to drive a high-quality coffee culture that is empowering Colombian farmers to build brighter futures. The route, which takes between three to five days by bike, offers breath-taking scenery, meandering through mountains, rich coffee terroir and colourful villages. Coffee farms such as Finca del Cafe embrace generations-old techniques to produce organic blends that are organic and minimally invasive to the environment. For more information, visit: www.colombia.travel/en/blog/coffee-cultural-landscape