Analysis of Foreign Tourism Figures in Colombia 2023 - Perspectives 2024 - Medellin Advisors

Analysis of Foreign Tourism Figures in Colombia 2023 – Perspectives 2024

Tourism in Colombia 2023/2024

Welcome readers. In this article, we will take a close look at last year’s data for tourism in Colombia. Given the country’s exciting growth within the sector in recent years, this is a topic that garners plenty of interest, while managing to be underserved by poor data. We will examining data provided by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism. After, we will fix our attention to Medellin, the city that best exemplifies the country’s growth in tourism. Finally, we will examine the challenges that are to be faced in 2024, such as the crime trends affecting foreign travellers and subsequently garnering more global attention. 

Tourism in Colombia during 2023 according to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism

Last year, Colombia’s tourism sector showed no signs of abating and even outperformed sectors related to production, trade and transportation of goods. According to figures from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MINCIT), in 2023, Colombia reached a record number of 5,869,869 non-resident tourists. International tourism, a once weak sector that provided relatively little for the wealth of the country, now tells a very different tale. The Colombian economy grew a modest 0.6% in 2023, with tourism providing one of its biggest boosts.

Based on the figure of 5,869,869 non-resident tourists arriving, this represents a 24.3% increase from 2022 and a 173.6% increase from 2021. Perhaps more telling however, is that last year international tourism exceeded pre-pandemic figures. According to MINCIT, non-resident visitors between January – December were 29.1% higher in 2023 than they were in 2019.

Analysis of foreign tourism in Colombia for 2023 and 2024
Mobilization of Tourists in Colombia

The latest report from the Economic Studies Office of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism reveals that in 2023, out of the 5,869,869 total non-resident visitors to the country, 3,841,675 were foreigners (excluding Venezuelan citizens), 1,449,259 were Colombians residing abroad, 233,650 were Venezuelans visiting for leisure, and 345,285 were passengers from international cruises.

Tourism Figures Provided by Migration Colombia

On the other hand, we have some slightly differing figures coming from Migración Colombia (Migration Colombia). They however allude to the same positive outlook for tourism.

As per the migration flow data regularly released by Migration Colombia, foreign arrivals to the nation experienced a 23.5% increase in 2023 (compared to the year prior). This is slightly lower than the 24.3% increase calculated by MINCIT.

Migration Colombia’s records indicate that in 2023, 4,334,603 foreigners arrived in the country, marking a 23.5% expansion compared to 2022, during which 3,507,232 arrivals were recorded.

Various reasons cited by international visitors upon their arrival in the country include tourism, accounting for 3,331,202 arrivals; transit with 266,292 entries; business with 163,419; crew with 144,478; and events with 112,801 entries.

Regardless of the slight data discrepancies arising between Migration Colombia and MINCIT, the growth within this sector is apparent with successive years of growth recorded since the pandemic. Furthermore, the nation is now exceeding pre-pandemic levels of tourism.

Analysis of foreign tourism figures in colombia
Foreign arrivals at the International José María Córdova Airport.

Exploring Key Indicators of Tourism in Colombia

Now, let’s explore some key indicators of Colombia’s tourism sector. Of course, we will ensure to take a particular focus on Medellin – a city that is experiencing one of the largest growths in foreign arrivals on the continent. From that, this article will explore the dynamics of 2023 and anticipate trends for 2024 which is already well underway.

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The winners of The World Travel Awards (2023)

What Are The Most Visited Cities in Colombia in 2023?

For last year (2023), we have the following data:

Colombia’s capital, Bogota, was once again the most visited city, by some margin. Bogota received approximately 1,340,666 foreigners in 2023.

In second place was Medellin, which since early 2022, has overtaken Cartagena as the country’s 2nd most visited city by foreigners. According to Migration Colombia, Medellin received some 659,097 international visitors in 2023.

Following tightly in third place, Cartagena received 640,331 international visitors (18,766 less than Medellin). The fourth most touristic city was Cali (193,440), followed by Cúcuta (92,419), Barranquilla (91,779), San Andrés (60,607), and Santa Marta (52,008).

Analysis of tourism in Colombia
Most visited cities in Colombia: Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, Cali.

What Was The Ranking of Foreign Tourists by Country of Origin? (2023)

According to Migration Colombia statistics, Americans (US) once again lead the way with 1,104,798 arrivals in 2023. This represents a 21%+ from the year prior.

Venezuelans make up the 2nd place for foreigners entering Colombia in 2023 but we shall omit them from this ranking as the vast majority have not come for tourism. 

After US foreigners are the Ecuadorians who have shown a 40% growth in arrivals since 2022. This may coincide with the actual events occurring in Ecuador that have compromised the security and quality of life of much of its population. In 2023, 340,358 Ecuadorian citizens entered Colombia.

After this, we have Mexico, of which 320,244 people came to Colombia.

Of the top 10 nations arriving in Colombia every year, Spain is the only country outside of the Americas. Spanish arrivals into Colombia increased by 23% from 2022 – 2023.

Tourism figures for Medellin and Colombia in 2023 and 2024
Migration Colombia's breakdown of top 10 countries to visit Colombia in 2022 and 2023.

Among the data provided by Migration Colombia, a pertinent detail is the growth of Ecuadorian, Mexican, Panamanian, Costa Rican and Brazilian citizens, all of which exceeded growth rates of 30%.

Of the top 10 countries arriving into Colombia in 2023, Costa Ricans experienced the largest growth rate from 2022 to 2023 (+68%) followed by Brazilians who increased in volume by 45%.

Canadian arrivals increased from 67,231 to 94,769 (+40%). Meanwhile, the arrival of German, French and Italian tourists increased by 26%, 25% and 25%, respectively. 

China also doubled its arrivals into Colombia from 10,114 in 2022 to 20,931 in 2023. This represents an impressive 107% increase.

Finally, around 444,559 UK nationals visited Colombia in 2023.

Colombia tourism in 2023 and 2024
Comuna 13 is an example of how the local community has adapted in response to tourism.

Situation Beyond the Official Tourism Figures in Colombia in 2023

According to reports from the travel and tourism sector, in 2023 the sector contributed a figure of $15.5 billion USD, equivalent to 4.8% of the country’s GDP. This is a positive fact, since it shows that since the country signed the peace agreements with the main insurgent group FARC, tourism has become an activity with high growth potential.

The tourism sector had long been stifled by the horrors of its past. This, has however, created an opportunity for the sector to boom as many Colombian cities, such as Medellin, continue to gain popularity. 

Some Aspects That Colombia Must Improve to Make a Living From Tourism:

Colombia is an incredible and accessible country for tourists from all over the world and could compete with other destinations in the Caribbean and America such as Costa Rica, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and others like Spain. However, many things are still missing for the country to generate greater opportunities in employment and services and for these to translate into greater well-being for its citizens. Between them we have:

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Crime remains a challenge for Colombia's tourism sector.

Whether you observe its 20-year reduction in its homicide rate, or that in 2022, it overtook the Walled City of Cartagena as the second most touristic city in the country – Medellin is a city that continues to surprise us.

Of course, this city is our bread and butter. We have personally observed its growth and prosperity in the last decade. Medellin has gone from being a no-go zone to being a place visited by the brave few backpackers. It has again matured into what it is today: one of the most desirable digital nomad destinations in the world. 

Although Medellin comes second to the capital city in terms of total tourist visitors, no other city better exemplifies the country’s rapid growth in tourism. In 2010, there were around 5 hostels catering to foreign tourists. Today, there are well over 200. Furthermore, we are seeing the proliferation of new builds geared exclusively to digital nomads.

With all this unprecedented growth comes an undesirable and dangerous strand of tourism: sexual tourism. Not only is it ugly but rather quite dangerous, with 5 foreigners dying in the first month of 2024. Of those

Medellin is great for divorced individuals.

In 2023, Medellin received approximately 659,097 international visitors and 1.2 million tourists altogether (this includes Colombians). This represents 439,934 more visitors than the highest pre-pandemic record in 2019.

Medellin Does Have its Challenges:

Medellin’s appeal to the international community is varied. With its friendly people, great climate and affordability, not only is it a desirable place to retire or work remotely, but Medellin is also a city that also hosts attractive annual events.

Such examples include the legendary Feria de las Flores which brought in around 50,000 international tourists in 2023. Another example is the annual Alumbrados display which is said to attract an average of 400,000 daily visitors! 

Furthermore, the city increasingly finds itself converting into the scene of major concerts, held by the world’s biggest reggaeton artists like J-Balvin, Karol G, Maluma & Daddy Yankee). 

With all this unprecedented growth, however, comes an undesirable and dangerous strand of tourism: sexual tourism. The mayor, Federico Gutierrez, has proclaimed that “we don’t want more sexual tourists nor those coming for drugs”.

This comes after an ugly start to the year in which 5 tourists died in as many days.

Sexual tourism in the Antioquian capital has evolved into a deadly endeavour with criminal entities hot on the heels of foreigners chasing women. Such is the scale of the issue that the US embassy recently issued a warning to travellers, urging them to avoid dating apps. 

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As the presence of foreigners becomes part of life in Medellin, so too do the criminal gangs taking advantage.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Colombia’s tourism sector displayed a strong performance in 2023, with Medellín at the forefront, exemplifying the nation’s tourism boom. The country welcomed a record 5,869,869 non-resident tourists, evidencing a significant recovery and growth post-pandemic. Medellín, in particular, saw 659,097 international visitors, underscoring its appeal as a cultural and digital nomad hub. Despite this success, 2024 presents challenges such as addressing the impacts of sexual tourism and ensuring visitor safety. Sustainable growth and safety measures are vital for preserving Colombia’s tourism appeal.

Have any questions? Feel free to get in touch with the team at Medellin Advisors. 

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