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May Jun 2015 Marina World

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MARKET REPORT: COLOMBIA Photo: Jaime Borda Fotografía Aerea its infamous drug trafficking history, piracy, wild tides and weather on the Pacific side, confusing and frustrating customs regulations, the widespread language barrier and a lack of repair or maintenance facilities. But, according to industry professionals in Cartagena, many of these problems are now outdated and inaccurate. Historically, the country’s customs regulations and procedures have made cruising its coastline impractical. Until recently, transients were required to clear out of each and every port. The government has now recognised the problem and visitors need only check in and out of the country once. This has simplified the process and made Colombia more accessible. Another problem for those attempting to develop the industry has been the government’s perception of nautical tourism. According to numerous industry insiders, the government is only now beginning to see the potential this sector offers to the economy. Previously, all things boat and boating were considered the domain of the military, which still controls a large part of the industry today. However, the government is now positively encouraging the development of the nautical sector and streamlining its regulations to attract foreign visitors. Colombia is still struggling to overcome the stigma of its drug problem which, following enormous efforts to clamp down on drug trafficking by the coastguard, police and navy, is fast becoming an issue of the past. However, the country’s drug A drystack for 150 boats dominates at Todomar CL Marina but additional wet berths are planned. Photo: Jaime Borda Fotografía Aerea history has contributed to the slow development of nautical tourism as, not so many years ago, simply owning a boat in Colombia was deemed suspicious. Santiago Amortegui, director of the Cartagena Boat Show, says Colombia’s economy is growing fast and he expects that, due to Cartagena’s geographical position, the nautical industry here will grow too. He adds that Colombia is much safer, with vast improvements seen in both the drug trade and piracy. “The landscape has changed,” he says, “and perception and investment need to change too.” Today, infrastructure is more developed towards tourism and projects are more optimistic, with an increase in both domestic and international demand. However, growth in Colombia has now stagnated, he notes. While the economy has improved – with tourists Club Nautico de Cartagena has been refurbished in recent years and has 100 berths. It is a very popular marina with high occupancy levels. spending more money inside the country – and security tightened, there are still few modern marinas and a deficit of berths. Armed with statistics that show the nautical tourist in Colombia spends four times more than any other tourist, Amortegui is determined to change perception at government level. Demand for berths currently, however, outweighs supply, not just for international visitors but for domestic boat owners. In order to develop the industry and push for bigger, better and more facilities, The Asociación Náutica de Colombia was established in February this year. Hugely significant as a first step forward, it is the first entity to represent the nautical interests - May/June 2015 27

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