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Colombia’s cruise restart is complete with the arrival of Hurtigruten’s Fram in Bahia Solano

Hurtigruten’s Fram arrives in Bahia Solano with dancing concluding the destination tour
The arrival of the first cruise ship in Bahia Solano since the start of the pandemic, Hurtigruten’s Fram, marks a full return to operations in Colombia and initiates the start of the 2022/23 cruise season in the Colombian Pacific.

Fram's 100 passengers – among them Americans, Germans and Britons – visited settlements in Bahia Solano and met with locals and members of the indigenous Emberá community. And with fishing the main source of income for the town, cruisers learned about the local fishing cooperative. Participation in a dance performance of Afro-Colombian rhythms concluded the tour, part of a 17-day expedition cruise that includes Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Chile.

Remarked Germán Umaña, Colombia’s minister of trade, industry and tourism, ‘The cruise industry is a segment of great importance within the international promotion strategy that we lead from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism, hand in hand with ProColombia, regional entities and the Directorate General Maritime (DIMAR Dirección General Marítima.)’

Emerging destinations for the expedition market

He added, ‘Currently, Cartagena is the leading destination in terms of calls, however in the 4,171km of coastline in the country, we have a wide range of emerging destinations with the capacity to position themselves even more in the expedition segment, among them Bahía Solano, Buenventura, Utría, Gorgona and Cabo de la Vela.’

Recovery and outlook 

The number of passengers expected to arrive in Colombia for the 2022/23 season represents an increase of 221% compared to 2019/20, when almost 317,000 cruisers arrived in the country over 198 calls. There will be a total of 214 calls, of at least 26 lines, to the main ports of the Pacific and the Caribbean, reactivating destinations such as San Andres and Providencia, which will receive the first calls after the passage of Hurricane Iota, which affected the coasts of the archipelago in November 2020.

‘Cruise passengers arriving in the country generate commercial dynamics that favor the local communities, leaving significant income and generating efficiency and sustainability for the industry,’ stated Gilberto Salcedo, tourism VP of ProColombia, the agency in charge of promoting Colombia’s international tourism.

‘Having expeditionary cruises reaching this region also allows us to show international travelers the immense natural wealth Colombia has; our Pacific region is Colombia’s best kept secret, a megadiverse region where rain forests meet the ocean,’ he added.

Five cruise lines are projected to visit the Colombian Pacific region this season including Hurtigruten, Silversea Cruises, Noble Caledonia, Hapag-Lloyd and Scenic. They are set to carry over 200,000 passengers and represent 135% of the calls the country had during the 2021/22 season. Destinations such as Utria and Gorgona are among the destinations that will be visited by the latter four lines.

Strategy for expedition sailings plus Colombia’s first river cruise on the horizon

ProColombia – which seeks to position Colombia as a country offering exotic, biodiverse and sustainable destinations – together with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism, has drawn up a strategy to promote new cruise destinations in Colombia. Starting this month, for instance, Lindblad Expeditions will introduce destinations such as Sapzurro, Capurganá and others in the Gulf of Morrosquillo to one if its itineraries. There is also interest by expedition cruise lines in Cabo de la Vela and La Guajira.

'We are also waiting for the launch of the first river cruise in Colombia that will navigate the Magdalena River around February 2024,’ added Salcedo. ‘This is one of the most important initiatives for our tourism sector, as it is aligned with the recovery of the navigability of our main river artery.

‘In addition, this project perfectly matches our strategy towards preserving the ecosystem, protecting the local communities and supports our mission to position Colombia as a world power of life.’