FLANK SPEED

Colombia 2013 | TOURISM | FOCUS: NAUTICAL TOURISM

With its privileged geographical location, favorable weather, and reputation as an international tourism destination, Colombia is launching new projects in the marine segment.

With Colombia's 1,600 kilometers of Atlantic coast and advantageous conditions for the development of marinas, new projects are underway. Located in the Atlántico department, Puerto Velero Marina aims to be the largest nautical complex in Colombia and a national reference in terms of maritime sports. With an initial investment of $22 million, the project's construction started in 2010 and consists of a port within a marina with space for 540 boats, a sailing school, 93 cottages, a hotel, and a shipyard with the capacity for around 500 more boats. According to Puerto Velero's General Manager, Zoraida Martínez Méndez, this project will contribute to the development of local tourism, deeming that historical places and monuments are not a necessity for a local tourism industry to develop. “Barcelona was a completely different city before the Olympics in 1992. Today, it receives millions of tourists," she explained to TBY.

Puerto Velero Marina also aims to raise awareness of a sailing culture in Colombia by boosting the practice of maritime sports among children and teenagers through its sailing school. “We believe we can contribute to the promotion of maritime sports in Colombia, while encouraging young children to live a healthy and active lifestyle," Martínez added. However, this may take time, as Colombian sailors have yet to discover the wonders of sailing on the sea rather than on freshwater lakes. The sailing school will be finished in the coming months, and after that a third stage will be developed in tandem with the shipyard, docks, and a hotel that will have the capacity to organize conferences and events.

The Colombian maritime tourism industry has reached the same level as the Spanish variant boasted 40 years ago. Colombia now has a total of 26 major nautical facilities, of which 10 are marinas, 10 are dry docks, and the remaining six are shipyards or slipways. Although the development of these types of projects lags behind, favorable conditions give the country a competitive advantage for the development of the sector. Located in the center of the continent, the Colombian Caribbean is in a strategic and privileged place; its connection with the rest of the world is exceptional, serving as a gate for South America to hubs like Los Angeles, New York City, and Panama. Far from the hurricanes that affect many parts of the Caribbean and the cold winters that freeze lake water, the Colombian Caribbean coast enjoys summer-like conditions all year long, which is a great advantage for sailors and boaters, as well as one of the reasons that make it a favorite destination for many.

The government has also recognized the huge potential the maritime industry offers, stressing the magnitude of the work of Puerto Velero, which has generated 250 direct jobs and 2,500 indirect ones, especially for residents of the municipalities of Tubará, Atlántico, Puerto Colombia, and Salgar. Maritime develop has become a major driver of the economy of the region, and during the opening of Puerto Velero in Tubará, Minister of Trade, Industry, and Tourism, Sergio Díaz-Granados Guida, said that encouraging this kind of tourism in the country will generate thousands of jobs in the target regions, initially ranging from the Gulf of Uraba to La Guajira. “Two years ago, the subject of nautical tourism was absent, but we decided to begin improving the conditions," he said, adding, “We identified the bottlenecks and the factors that generated developmental delays in nautical tourism." The Minister also explained that nautical tourism is a new area of economic development, and that it will create permanent employment in the provision of services to ships and tourists. He noted that it will attract investment, add value to the coastline, generate and coordinate urban development, encourage tourism, ensure maritime safety, lead to economic development and opportunity for coastal towns, and provide more options to local fishermen.