Jun. 25, 2021


Flavia Santoro

Colombia

Flavia Santoro

President, ProColombia

“We want to be recognized through our new country brand manifesto, ‘Colombia: The most welcoming place on Earth.’”

BIO

Flavia Santoro holds a Bachelor's Degree in Law and a Master's Degree in Insurance Law from the Javeriana University in Bogotá, Colombia. She has great experience in the development and management of institutional relations within the private sector, as well as in creating strategic and commercial alliances for fund raising. Her professional experience covers a wide variety of sectors such as consulting and sales in the insurance sector, nonprofit organization work and actively participating in two presidential campaigns with proven achievements. Mrs. Santoro was recently recognized as one of the 50 most powerful women in Colombia by Forbes magazine. Through her current role as President of ProColombia she is committed to promoting exports, foreign direct investment and tourism for Colombia, as well as to strengthening international relations that bring Colombia closer to new business opportunities.


What makes ProColombia the number-one organization that companies in Colombia can count on and a one-stop shop support for their expansion endeavors?

As part of the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Tourism, we want to establish Colombia as a leading destination for FDI. We offer strategic support for investors at all stages of the investment cycle. We adopted a strategy along with the government that we call the “red carpet,” which is a comprehensive package of institutional, legal, and financial actions that give us the necessary tools to offer investors timely and empathetic attention. We also developed a one-stop shop with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank to be the single point of institutional contact for foreign investors who seek to be profitable and successful in Colombia. We want investors to find valuable information to make investment decisions that will allow them to carry out the process of getting established in our country. We prepare agendas tailor-made to the sectors and individual investors.

What programs does ProColombia have for the benefit of the business community?

We are working hard to support the reactivation program. We are convinced of the importance of the immense contribution by the international business sector for the development of our country. We consider it an honor to support them in their internationalization and investment processes. From August 2018 to April 2021, we have accompanied the arrival of 521 investment projects from 48 countries, which represent more than USD20.1 billion and will create more than 215,000 new jobs. For 1Q2021, we had USD4,236 million in non-mining exports, a 14.3% increase YoY. Agro exports grew 16.5%, while chemicals and life sciences increased by 20.9%. We also promote sustainable and high-quality tourism, which is why the country has led major projects such as the sustainable tourism policy and the general tourism law, which focus on strengthening the sector from a sustainable perspective. We have resumed 55% of air travel routes. In recent studies, Colombia is one of the countries in the region with the greatest recovery in tourism. We are ready to assist all national and foreign companies to succeed here.

What steps has the country taken in terms of export promotion?

We started as an agency to promote exports in our country. We are working hard to make our exports well-known and recognized as quality products and talented services. We are working on strategies to reach key markets and working through the internationalization factories program to make regions more successful in exports. This program offers tailor-made services for our companies, and the idea is to strengthen their foreign trade area. We would like them to take advantage of exporting via e-commerce, among other services. We also want Colombian companies to participate in the main fairs around the world because we want to establish relationships with the most relevant buyers of industries. We would also like to facilitate business opportunities.

What areas of the Colombian economy are interesting for business and pose important opportunities for investors abroad?

We have several sectors that we want to showcase to the world. For example, there are great opportunities in agribusiness and infrastructure. In infrastructure, there are opportunities to modernize roads, railroads, river transportation, and airports. Colombia also has great potential to generate energy through non-conventional sources such as solar, wind, ocean, and geothermal. For the agribusiness sector, our country has more than 32 million ha available to grow fruit, vegetables, cocoa, specialty coffees, teas, and other products. There are opportunities in assembly of auto parts, construction materials, and aerospace among others. Colombia also presents opportunities in cosmetics, chemicals, and life sciences. We have been growing at high rates of exports in those sectors. We also have opportunities in the oil and gas sectors. For tourism, our country has a range of possibilities in hospitality, infrastructure, and tourism projects. During the last five years, Colombia has ranked fifth with the largest number of FDI in projects in the tourism sector in the region. IT infrastructure is also a great opportunity for the delivery of services. We are the fourth-largest IT market in Latin America. The orange law seeks to develop and promote the creative industry. Colombia is also a prime location for movie production. We have a law that provides tax incentives for film creatives. Medellín is host to the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution of the World Economic Forum, and it represents a great opportunity to be the first Spanish-speaking country and Latin American state to be part of that network.

In the first part of 2021, the Colombian tourism sector had the quickest recovery among South American countries. To what do you attribute this success, and how is Pro Colombia committed to supporting this industry?

We were working before the pandemic to make tourism the new oil for Colombia. We want the tourism industry to have a full recovery. We took measures to protect the sector and designed a recovery plan focused on developing processes that the new reality required for our sector to adapt. We are providing the tools to help travel sector companies maintain their businesses, which is essential. We are redesigning all products and experiences according to the new types of consumers. For example, we made our exporter training program virtual, and it has been an example for the region. This tool offers training on biosafety, innovation, sustainability. In 2020, we had more than 21,000 participants in all departments of the country, and this year, we will relaunch the same program with more content. We implemented our certified COVID-19 biosafety seal, which seeks to generate trust among travelers and consumers, minimize the risk of infection, and boost tourism. Right now, more than 700 companies have been certified, including airports like Bogotá, Cali, Cartagena, Santa Marta, Bucaramanga, and Cúcuta; airlines such as Vivaair, Wingo, Satena, and Easyfly; and hotels like Movich and Decameron. In 2021. Colombia has already recovered 55% of its international capacity. We want to promote best practices that conserve and protect Colombia's natural and cultural heritage through responsible tourism. We have reformed the tourism law that puts sustainability as the main core.

How would you describe Colombia in a sentence and how would you like the country to be recognized abroad?

We want to be recognized through our new country brand manifesto, “Colombia: The most welcoming place on Earth.” We want the world to experience, know, and feel at home in Colombia. The international community must recognize Colombia's service-oriented culture and the empathy that is part of our DNA. We want travelers to enjoy the warmth and richness of our destinations, and for business leaders to appreciate the talent of our people. We want to tell travelers, investors, and international buyers that Colombia is ready to continue with their businesses. We will work hard to develop success stories by working hard in our transformation through innovation, sustainability, and business in our different regions. We are working hard on our vaccination program as well. We hope we can see more visitors soon.

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