What differentiates your department from that of other areas and countries?
ALAN JARA URZOLA Meta is doing interesting work in the areas of petrochemicals and fertilizer production. We need investors that want to transform production by building a refinery that can produce petrochemicals, fertilizers, and other products. Another field, tourism, is also a very interesting possibility for the development of our department. We still lack very good hotels. In the places with natural beauty in the form of jungles, waterfalls, and rivers, there are no hotels, making it very hard for people to visit these areas. This lack of hotels is an opportunity for growth. Furthermore, in agriculture there are also many opportunities. We have the ability to produce sub-products of agriculture, and we are seeking ways to begin processing more value-added products.
RODRIGO GUERRERO VELASCO Fortunately, we have six rivers that flow from the mountains. Basically, what we have is a strategic position. That was not as important in the past when the economy was developing; it was more a source of protection. It made more sense to put factories in Bogotá because most of the market was there. However, now with the free markets and the opportunities to export products, Cali has a unique position. Colombia historically was designed to look north to the Caribbean. We always looked toward Miami and New York City. Now, the economy has changed; it is the Pacific that is making a difference. We have cheaper real estate and human capital, and we are now seeing people return to Cali. One big differentiator from other areas of the country is that we have a port that is fairly close, and it is the only Colombian port of any significance on the Pacific coast. Bogotá and Medellín do not have a port, and we are building two new highways to bring us closer to them, as well as looking at improving railroad and pipeline infrastructure. Cali is the third largest city in Colombia, and it has nine universities and some of the best hospitals in Latin America. It also has qualified human capital and a sophisticated industry.
What is the potential of your department becoming a major tourist destination?
AJU There are very interesting tourism opportunities in Meta. In Sierra Macarena, there is an astoundingly beautiful river called Caño Cristales. The department also boasts biodiversity in the form of special flora, well suited for adventure tourists who want to see mountains and rivers, and fauna, especially in terms of bird watching. The Department of Meta is one of the richest places in the world in terms of biodiversity. Therefore, adventure and ecotourism are very interesting opportunities for this area. Beyond that, agro-tourism is also possible because there are many farms with pleasant houses for people to visit. Villavicencio, the capital of the Department of Meta, is very close to Bogotá at only 87 kilometers away. In a few years, it will only be one hour away from Bogotá. To have the capital just one hour away would be a huge plus, as it is the biggest market we can have access to. Domestic tourism is also developing along with international tourism, especially in the ecology segment.
RGV Traditionally, long before Cartagena, we were known as a place for tourism. Nowadays, Cartagena has taken over and probably has a much better environment. However, there is something in Cali's air that makes it very attractive. Salsa has become a major factor for attracting tourists, as the salsa here is danced much faster. You see people moving frantically and it becomes acrobatic. It is part of the culture, which is a good thing. You can go to the slums and in every barrio they have a salsa school with boys and girls beginning to learn when they're small.