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Destinations, entities and companies linked to the national tourism sector received at least a dozen awards this past year based on its products, management and great service to millions of tourists who visited the country and experienced the fusion between reality and fantasy that characterizes Colombia.
This magical realism is reflected in the architecture of colonial Cartagena, the sporting and event infrastructure of Cali, the cuisine and nightlife of Bogota and the natural beauty of Santa Marta, which has contributed to the cities’ recognition among the "25 most popular destinations of South America".
The administrators of the tourism website Trip Advisor, which classify its destinations based on user ratings, published last June that Colombia had become one of the five countries in South America whose attractions would be featured on the Website.
Months later, thanks to a new survey, the beaches of San Andres and Providencia were ranked, for a second year in a row, as one of the "10 most popular in South America", along with places such as Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela.
The reviews from Internet users who praised the archipelago of San Andres and Providencia highlighted not only the amazing hues of its waters, but also the diversity of wildlife that inhabits the area.
"The diversification of tourism in Colombia has played an important role in recent years and it has expanded the opportunities to attract more travelers from traditional markets such as the United States, strategic markets like Europe and exploration markets like that of Asia", said the president of Proexport Colombia, Maria Claudia Lacouture.
Those who have visited Colombia will agree that the friendliness of its people is reflected in its good service, making it one of the country’s biggest appeals. During 2013, several organizations revered this quality and it has now become a trademark.
According to those who are accustomed to accessing and participating in the surveys released by the Spanish version of Trip Advisor, they were most impressed by the attention to detail presented in Casa San Agustin, earning the recognition as the “world’s new top hotel” among 30 others that opened to the public during the past year.
The colonial-style accommodation consisting of 24 rooms located in the walled city of Cartagena de Indias, has rivaled the competition of those found in London, New York, Shanghai, and Vilnius (Lithuania).
On a similar note, the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Hotel (also in Cartagena), won the category of "best luxury wedding destination in all of South America" awarded by the 2013 World Luxury Hotel Awards; the highest distinction that can be achieved within the global luxury hotel industry.
Outstanding customer service and effective management are some of the variables evaluated by judges (tour operators, travel agents and guests) during the competition which first launched in 2006. This year, for the first time in the event’s history, an establishment in Colombia has received this award.
This is not the only award the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara hotel won during the year. In fact, readers from the popular magazine Conde Nast (sold in Europe) cherry-picked this hotel in first place among the "Top 25 Hotels in South America" in the list of Reader Choice Awards 2013.
In recent years the cruise industry has become vital for Colombia as the country looks for ways to diversify its tourism and create infrastructure in port cities. Fittingly, the public and private sectors have developed strategies to attract more shipping companies and therefore more passengers.
The capital of the state of Bolivar in Colombia finally reaped its efforts in April 2013 at the Cruise Shipping Trade Show held in Miami receiving two awards. One of them was granted by Royal Caribbean International and the other one by Cruise Insight Magazine.
The first award called "Dazzling Silver Award to Tourism New World, for an outstanding year of delivering interporting" refers to the silver category honor given annually by the American company to the ports that had the best performance in terms of number of passengers.
Since December 2008, Cartagena - named second, just behind its competitor Genoa (Italy) - has been serving as one of the ports for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. According to the Colombian Immigration Department, between 2012 and 2013 (June YTD) a total of 58,576 passengers (domestic and foreign) embarked in the city.
Also, the magazine specializing in cruises chose the historic port as "Most Improved Destination" in 2013, given the improvements that have been made to its facilities and equipment in order to increase its capacity to mobilize passengers and ships.
The awards were received by representatives of the Regional Port Authority of Cartagena, who, along with tour operators and authorities of San Andres and Santa Marta, participated in the Trade Show with the support of Proexport Colombia, the entity in charge of promoting tourism to the world.