The Top Post-Covid-19 Destinations for Conservation Lovers in Colombia

Colombia bets on four new post-Covid-19 nature tourism routes! MinComercio, Colombia Productiva, and the Natural Wealth Program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with the support of the UNWTO, EAN University, and Ruta N, created the Colombia Riqueza Natural Prize, an award for the transformation in nature tourism.  

In order for us to continue being one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, the government of Colombia will continue to focus on identifying initiatives that promote the natural wealth of the country. The main goals are:

  1. Highlighting Colombia’s biodiversity.
  2. Reactivate the nature tourism sector.
  3. Helping local communities in different regions of Colombia.

This is key to boosting nature tourism in the phase of economic recovery that followed the Covid-19 crisis. And, also, to keep showing and promoting the best of Colombia. 

The prize was looking for the transformation of Nature Tourism in the face of the contingency of the COVID-19. The idea was to encourage the reactivation of the nature tourism sector and support environmental conservation and local communities economies.

“This award will not only serve to strengthen our plans to revitalize nature tourism, but it also highlights the importance of being one of the most megadiverse countries on the planet and the second most biodiverse”

– said the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, José Manuel Restrepo.
San Andrés & Providencia

A Prize for a Post-Covid-19 Economic Recovery

According to Martha Aponte, USAID’s deputy director in Colombia, nature tourism can contribute to the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity as well as to economic development.

For this to happen, it is indispensable to discourage tourism that threatens the health of our ecosystems. Nature tourism should be seen as a tool to improve the well-being of local communities, conserve resources, and educate visitors.

The post-Covid-19 economic recovery phase will support the identification of initiatives that protect natural resources and, at the same time, promote nature tourism in Colombia under the current situation.

In this regard, Camilo Fernández de Soto, President of Colombia Productiva, explained that in Colombia nature tourism needs to:

  • Implement more efficient processes,
  • Improve the quality of its offer,
  • Accelerate the digital transformation,
  • Implement digital marketing strategies, and
  • Adopt sustainability as the fundamental part of the experiences.

The award seeks to support the work of nature tourism into overcome its main issues in order to continue attracting more local and international travelers, especially in the context of post-Covid-19 economic recovery. 

The winners will receive up to USD 50,000 to make their projects a reality in different regions of the country.

The Applications

During one month 1,185 projects applied to this prize. All of them coming from the 32 departments of the country.

54% were submitted by legal entities, while 46% were submitted by individuals. Most of the initiatives were submitted by micro and small businesses, foundations, and NGOs.

Proposals were also received from indigenous organizations, collective territories, peasant associations, community councils, and even large companies. Additionally, 84% of the proposals had not received any pre-award funding.

The Judges

The jury was composed of Brigitte Baptiste, rector of EAN University; Camilo Fernández de Soto, president of Colombia Productiva; Gilberto Salcedo, vice-president of Tourism for ProColombia; Natalia Bayona, director of Innovation and Transformation for the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); Ricardo Sánchez, director of USAID’s Natural Wealth Program; Ximena García, advisor to USAID’s environmental office; and Agostinho João de Almeida, director of the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Finalists

From the total number of projects, 15 finalists were selected and evaluated by the high-level jury.

In addition to the resources funded by USAID’s Natural Wealth Program, the winning initiatives will receive specialized accompaniment from EAN University and Ruta N to execute their projects.

Also, the 15 finalists will receive scholarships from the World Tourism Organization and EAN University in tourism management.

The Top 4 Winning Initiatives

Among the 15 finalists, only four projects won the prize. All these projects are aimed at the conservation and sustainability of Colombian ecosystems. All of them highlight the country’s biodiversity, and focus on addressing the economic impact of Covid-19 on the nature tourism sector, which has been one of the most affected by the pandemic.

The winning projects highlight Colombia’s unique biodiversity:

  • Caribbean Region: ‘Seaflower Meaningful Diving’ (in San Andres Island).
  • Andean – Chocó Forest Region: ‘Establishing the first birding route for visually impaired people in South America’ (in Valle del Cauca).
  • Orinoquia Region: ‘Ensuring a future for jaguars in the only jaguar watching destination (in Casanare).
  • Orinoquia – Amazon Region: ‘Reactivation of nature and cultural immersion tourism in the Matavén jungle’ (in Vichada).

All projects have one year for their development and implementation.

San Andres & Providencia Coral Reef Diving Destination

An experience that will use augmented reality and learning for you to enjoy diving the coral reefs of San Andres Island, and helping its conservation.

Seaflower Meaningful Diving, Diving With a Purpose

This is a project focused on promoting collaboration between islanders, fishermen, and tourists to finance education, conservation, restoration, and management projects of coral reefs in the San Andrés Archipelago.

This project proposes the implementation of e-courses, complemented with gamification and augmented reality, allowing people to start their diving experience and preparation from home. Also, experiencing from home how is the activity of nursing corals.

At the destination, travelers will be able to obtain three rewards:

  • The Green Fins certificate, as responsible and environmentally friendly diving operators
  • The Reef Check Trainers, for participation in coral monitoring, and/or
  • The Reef Repair Trainers, for participation in coral reef restoration.
Coral gardening, Coral reef restoration, Reef Giving, Responsible consumerism. Picture by coralesdepaz.org

Inclusive Bird Watching Destination

A captivating experience that will allow visually impaired people to enjoy the wonders of the San Antonio Cloud Forest and its hundreds of bird species, in one of the most biodiverse areas of South America: the Valle del Cauca.

First Birding Route for People with Visual Disabilities in South America

This is a project carried out in order to find a new way of approaching, recognizing, and linking with nature for the population with visual disabilities.

This contributes to the enjoyment and identification of the species of most representative birds of the Andean region of Colombia, in the AICA/IBA San Antonio Fog Forest – Km. 18, in Cali. Know more about San Antonio Forest in our entry Know the Winged Jewels Held by San Antonio Cloud Forest – Km 18.

The initiative transforms birdwatching tourism in Colombia into an inclusive activity and fosters new market niches. In addition, it takes into account the creation of a special sound guide for the visually impaired population and the training of tourist guides in the region.

Oiga Mire Lea Festival – Birding activity with visually impaired people at San Antonio Cloud Forest with Juan Pablo Culasso and CVC ©Sonidos Invisibles

Jaguar Sighting in Colombia

An experience that allows you to walk the jaguar route and get to Hato La Aurora to visit the first destination for safe jaguar watching in colombia. 

First Jaguar Sighting Route in Colombia Post-Covid-19 Destination

Ensuring a future for jaguars in the only jaguar sighting destination in Colombia: Hato La Aurora, in Casanare. This project’s aim is to strengthen this jaguar sighting destination as a strategy for the conservation of big cats and flooded savannas, and coexistence with sustainable productive activities.

The project includes the creation of a guide to good practices for cat watching, the training of guides from the region, and the creation of trails and a portfolio of services associated with nature tourism.

Jaguar ©skeeze at Pixabay 

Nature and Immersion Tourism in Vichada

Connect with the indigenous traditions of the Piaroa people in one of the most beautiful jungle areas of Colombia!

Matavén Forest and Piaroa Indigenous People

This project seeks to strengthen nature and immersion tourism products with indigenous communities, as the Piaroa indigenous communities from La Urbana and Pueblo Nuevo, of the Great Matavén Reserve, in Vichada. Its aim is to motivate an economic reactivation and conservation of the region’s biodiversity.

Piapoco Culture at Matavén ©Mauricio Romero Mendoza at Flickr

We are all very happy for the winners. We hope to have wonderful products by 2022 that offer you the best nature destinations in Colombia. Destinations that support our biodiversity, that are inclusive, that use innovative technological tools, and of course, that help the economic reactivation of nature tourism in Colombia.

Stay tuned!


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About the author

Sara Colmenares

Current director of Sula. Doctor in Biological Sciences. Her main interests are to explore and understand the organism – environment interactions, taking advantage of emerging knowledge for the management and conservation of species and ecosystem services. She is currently working as a consultant in functional ecology, ecosystem services and conservation projects in Colombia related to ecotourism and birdwatching.