IT’S COLOMBIA’S TIME

Colombia 2018 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eduardo Osorio Lozano, General Manager of FONTUR, on investing in competitiveness, promotion, and infrastructure, the importance of culture and nature, and protecting the country's youth.

 Eduardo Osorio Lozano
BIOGRAPHY
A lawyer and specialist in administrative law with more than 29 years of professional experience in the public and private sector, Eduardo Osorio Lozano is the general manager of FONTUR, the National Tourism Fund. He has led projects developing the sector in branch lines, promotion, competitiveness, and infrastructure. He also has extensive experience in leading companies in the telecommunication and television sectors, which has given him a broader vision of how to develop and position local tourism.

What have been your major strategies to increase foreign visitors, employment, and foreign currency in Colombia?

We are working according to a policy conceived by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism within specific policy axes whose main goal is to increase foreign visitors, currency, and the hospitality sector. The ministry developed this idea, and FONTUR, as a resource pool, is in charge of carrying out these projects. As such, we are responsible for projects concerning competitiveness, promotion, and infrastructure from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, and from the industry in general such as hotels, travel agencies, airlines, convention and event hosts, restaurants, and bars. All of them contribute with parafiscal taxes that make up FONTUR's budget.

What strategies have worked in the past eight years?

The government has made an historic investment of COP1 trillion in competitiveness, promotion, and infrastructure. In terms of competitiveness, we are in charge of tourism planning and support the administrative entities in developing their tourism market and promoting their regions, training every part of the sector's value chain, and administrative entities regarding tourism quality. We also help hotels and travel agencies get quality and sustainability certifications, which is important. There are 12 certified tourist destinations and 13 more in the process of certification. Additionally, the culture of sustainability in Colombian tourism did not exist before, but now we have strict quality controls. In terms of promotion, we are in charge at the national level. We also finance ProColombia to promote the country at the international level in its function as the foreign promotion agency. We approve projects for the administrative entities and the industry value-chain, and are also in charge of everything related to advertising, media, and audio-visual material. In terms of infrastructure, around 50% of the COP1 trillion budget went to the construction of tourism-related infrastructure, since a certified tourist destination needs this infrastructure to attract visitors and make them have a great experience. Colombia has four high-importance tourism products: culture, nature, health and wellness, and congresses and meetings. For example, for nature tourism, we built docks, yacht club and marinas, ecological trails, theme parks, and bird watching towers. Colombia has a very privileged location as a high-interest destination for Latin America.

What are the most important partners for FONTUR?

Our allies are the regional, state, and municipal authorities, and our efforts are focused on making these regions aware of the importance of tourism as an economic booster, though they used to just pay attention to health, transportation, education, and employment. In terms of private partners, we work with institutions that contribute parafiscal taxes, such as hotels, travel agencies, and airlines.

How does FONTUR promote a safe child environment?

The ministry's policies are focused on working together with both the private and public sectors regarding the safety of children and teenagers when traveling. This is called responsible tourism and involves making tourists and society in general aware of the importance of protecting children and teenagers from sexual exploitation. Recently, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism and FONTUR organized a global summit in which more than 100 countries and 92 international exhibitors came to talk about the topic and raise awareness about its seriousness. We have created a successful campaign together with the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare, the police, and many other private and public institutions.

What is FONTUR doing to attract foreign investment and partners to Colombia?

We have recently been holding many events. Since we are the administrators for the sector's resources, we are in charge of training and awareness along the entire value chain, so we finance congresses and forums for all labor unions related to tourism and bring in international exhibitors. Colombia is in the global spotlight and is seeing a transformation that is bringing in more and more foreign currency. As our campaign says: “It's Colombia's time."