Can Colombia enjoy the revenues left by flocks of tourists visiting its wonderful destinations despite the news media opinion of this beautiful country?


A few weeks ago, I watched an MSNBC program about Libya’s intent to enter the world of international tourism. The administration of Colonel Gadhafi, that since the late ‘90s has been working on, what the article calls, an effort to re-brand Libya, has a mid-term plan to develop its 1,242 miles of Mediterranean coast. The goal is to build 100,000 beds by 2010 and attract an expected 10 million visitors to their brand new resorts, yacht clubs and golf courses.

As I was watching the segment, I couldn’t stop thinking about how once obscure countries are now fiercely fighting in the same arena with Cancun, Italy, Spain and the rest of the world hot spots.

Can a country like Libya, run by one of the western world’s biggest archenemy, re-brand itself to attract wealthy tourists to its beautiful beaches?

Colombia, my country of birth, has had a long history of struggling between perception and reality. Colombia is a country blessed by nature, with a wide array of unique destinations, from the well-known Cartagena on the Atlantic, to the virgin and secluded beaches of Bahia Solano in the Pacific; a fisherman’s paradise.  I have never in my life seen so many shades of green as the ones you can enjoy in the Coffee Growers region where “Haciendas” await eagerly for visitors who will be pampered by the most hospitable staff. Colombian people are warm and welcoming. Bogota is a cosmopolitan city where dining and partying reach, literally, a unique altitude (Bogota is located on the top of a mountain, 2,640 meters above sea level) . The hospitality industry is renowned for its quality. But I haven’t been able to convince my British or American friends, or my Austrian family to come down for a visit. They are afraid!

Their perception of my country has changed, from being a jungle back in the ‘80s when I went to college in Boston (and I was often asked if I lived in a Tiki Hut) to being nothing more than a drug emporium (I still get requests for a pound of white coffee). And lately, it is being described as the most dangerous place after Baghdad and Mogadishu.

Colombia has made an interesting case of re-branding itself. About a decade ago, whether it was intended or not, Colombia started to change the perception from within. Once always badmouthing Colombians started to feel pride in their country. Somehow, and as a result of civic administrations and internal media and advertising campaigns we all became ambassadors. Speaking derisively about Colombia wasn’t cool anymore.

Lately Colombia has been featured in the pages of the most prestigious newspapers of the world.

Like my country, Libya plans to invest millions to be perceived as a paradise destination. And like my country, it will only succeed if the efforts have a structured strategy that transcends the very expensive seconds of paid international media.

In some cases, not to say in all, the branding efforts start by finding the inner soul that makes your product, service or destination unique, and then building it from within. (Colombia es Pasion You Tube, transcends the physical realm, it’s about energy…it’s about the people more than the country itself). In the case of destinations, remember that the 24/7 editorial content of CNN International plays a bigger role than the strength of you budget.

Meanwhile, I hope to see all my readers in one of the many restaurants on the G-zone in Bogota. You won’t regret it. Guaranteed!


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July 14th, 2009 19 Comments Branding / Branding Politics / Branding Strategy / Destinations Branding

  1. SunshineOnACloudyDay

    I think……

    YES a country can rebrand itself. Anything can be rebranded. But can it be SUCCESSFUL? In this case (in the case of an archenemy becoming a tourist destination), it would completely depend on the tourist feedback.

    So Libya rebrands itself and the next week there is negative news-coverage… “Breaking News – The United Nations refugee agency accuses Italy of forcibly deporting asylum seekers to Libya” and one of the refugees runs through a golf course and assaults one of the American tourists….. that’s the end of that.

    So I come back to my original statement… YES, they can rebrand, but they better have the proper infrastructure to back it up.

    July 15th, 2009 //
  2. ftpmumbojumbo

    I agree that there is so much branding can do and that the efforts have to be backed up by a “real” value proposition beyond. A professional branding process, finds the unique value proposition of the product, service or in this case combination, builds a credible story around it and designs a long term strategy to build around it. They key aspect of what I just described is in the FINDING A REAL AND OWN-ABLE PATH. Branding doesn’t build on a company’s aspirations but aspires to make a company reality impact.

    July 15th, 2009 //
  3. SunshineOnACloudyDay

    Yes. But this isn’t a company. This is a country and you don’t have full control over all the variables.

    July 16th, 2009 //
  4. ftpmumbojumbo

    Branding is dynamic. It reacts to the variables out there.

    July 16th, 2009 //
  5. Trish

    This morning as I was reading the ‘Financial Times’ I came across an incredible article that reminded me of your blog post.

    The article, ‘Confidence returns after years of turmoil’ proofs the point that a country can in fact re-brand itself successfully. The article proofs the point giving examples such as the growth of tourism from 2007 to 2008 and the increasing number of cruise lines coming to Cartagena compared to last year.

    It is an amazing article that inspired me to take a trip to Colombia and see what I have been missing!
    MumboJumbo if you want to read more about it go to this link –,s01=1.html

    But I also have to agree with SunshineOnACloudyDay because their needs to be the proper infrastructure to back up the branding efforts, regardless if it is a country or a corporation (which brings up your other post on Marriott. Marriott has great advertising and good branding but not a strong infrastructure).

    September 24th, 2009 //
  6. ftpmumbojumbo

    Thanks for sharing Trish. Good Article

    September 24th, 2009 //
  7. Marc Shaw

    Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! :)

    – Marc Shaw

    October 15th, 2009 //
  8. Online Stock Trading

    Hey, I found your blog while searching on Google. I have a blog on online stock trading, I’ll bookmark your site.

    October 16th, 2009 //
  9. ftpmumbojumbo

    Thanks Marc. Only when someone reads a note is brought to life.

    October 18th, 2009 //
  10. cash advance is very informative. The article is very professionally written. I enjoy reading every day.

    November 13th, 2009 //
  11. sam

    It’s possble to creating Libyan destination brandig it’s include a lots of tourism goods

    December 3rd, 2009 //
  12. RealkildRed

    Oh my god enjoyed reading your article. I submitted your feed to my blogreader!

    December 12th, 2009 //
  13. ftpmumbojumbo

    Thanks for reading. I am glad you liked it! Please keep coming back.

    December 12th, 2009 //
  14. ftpmumbojumbo

    I am not questioning the beauty of Libya as a destination just wondering if it can be branded as one

    December 12th, 2009 //
  15. Janet Cruz

    Excellent work. You have gained a new fan. Please keep up the good work and I look forward to more of your interesting posts.

    December 18th, 2009 //
  16. Anderson Bode

    This is exactly what I’ve been looking for all day. I should have found your post sooner.

    December 21st, 2009 //
  17. ftpmumbojumbo

    Thanks, I hope you visit often and suggest themes

    December 23rd, 2009 //
  18. Rodolfo Angerman

    Thanks. Really educational article.

    January 9th, 2010 //
  19. ftpmumbojumbo

    Thanks Rodolfo.

    January 14th, 2010 //

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