Business

Colombia wooing Jamaican hoteliers

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter

Friday, October 26, 2012    

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COLOMBIA is trying to entice Jamaican investors to help develop its hotel and tourism sectors.

"All revenue for running the hotel will be exempt from tax," said Carlos González, the Caribbean executive director of Proexport Colombia, the country's government entity dedicated to international tourism and non-traditional exports.

To make welcome local tourism investors, the Colombian government has set up a 30-year tax incentive scheme under the condition that investments start in 2018.

Colombia has been undergoing a transformation process with a stable inflation rate of 3.7 per cent. González added that the unemployment rate has been down — it dropped below 10 per cent last month — and the country has grown on average of five per cent in recent times.

Why seek Jamaican investors?

"Our country is more secure... we have been growing above average (in the region)," González said.

It's only natural to appeal for investment in the hotel and tourism sectors, he added.

San Andres, the island, 35 miles from the Colombian mainland with a population of 74,000 people, has been fingered as one of the hotspots to construct hotels. González said the island, which was declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve, protecting its ecosystem.

He acknowledged the language differences saying the island's official languages are Spanish and English so there shouldn't be a problem. As it regards mainland Colombia, he González said the government has invested in educating its labour force, and the hotel industry has fast become bilingual. Already, visitors travel from countries such as Argentina, Canada, Peru, and the United States.

Additional incentives for tourism investment in Colombia include tax break for hiring new workers under 18 years and women over age 40. This is in light of the need to maintain the country's low unemployment rate, González said.

With the start of Colombia's free trade agreement with Canada, Switzerland and the US, González said business tourism is expected to grow at a faster pace, complementing the need to develop and improve the hotel infrastructure.

"Investing in Colombia allows businesses to enter the markets it has free trade agreement tariff," Proexport Colombia said.

Incentives will not only be given for the construction of hotels, but for the expansion and development of the already existing hotels.

The Colombian's health care system has also made the country attractive for medical visits as well as business tourism and leisure tourism.

"We have a competitive medical service in Colombia, ranked the 22nd best in the world by the World Health Organisation," González said. He added that medical expenses would amount to 10 to 35 per cent less than that of North America and Europe.

In addition to inviting investors to develop the hotel and tourism investors, he said Colombia could offer Jamaican manufacturers and entrepreneurs in the productive sectors semi-finished and raw materials at more competitive prices.

"Rather than looking to Far East, come to Colombia. The goods will reach Jamaica in a week," González said. He added, "plans can be made to sell goods in small quantities as the buyer requires".

Glass used for packaging, chemicals and papers are some goods the country can offer to Jamaican businesses.

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