San Andres & Providence, Colombia

Improving market access for small and medium sized tourism businesses in the Colombian archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina

  • Client:
  • Partners: National Geographic Society Maps Division, Inter-American Development Bank, Marca País Colombia, The Colombian Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies (ANATO), The Hotel Association of San Andrés and Providencia (ASHOTEL), The Corporation for the Sustainable Development of the Department of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina Archipelago (CAROLINA), Cook County Visitors Bureau, SEADIVERS, the Association of San Andrés Diving Centers, SENA’s (National Training Service), The Chamber of Commerce of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina
  • Project Duration: September 2013 – September 2014

The Challenge

The archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina is Colombia’s Caribbean retreat, boasting beautiful beaches and marine resources. The archipelago covers 115,831 square miles and is a core region of the Reserva de Biósfera Seaflower (Seaflower Biosphere Resevere)- one of the world’s largest biosphere reserves. The region’s economy is centered around tourism, retail, and fishing; however, environmental problems, high population density and increasing poverty present deep challenges to the expansion of productive economic activities. In partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank, the local Chamber of Commerce and the Colombian Government, our challenge is to enhance the archipelago’s tourism offer in a sustainable manner that incorporates preservation of local environments, cultures, traditions and people by improving market access for local businesses and tourism stakeholders to the tourism sector.

The Solution

The Geotourism Program for the archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina is helps local communities improve their market position within the tourism sphere by providing potential visitors with local knowledge of the archipelago’s unique place-based tourism attractions, sites and businesses, and the abundance of authentic experiences offered. The project’s core deliverable was a National Geographic co-branded website that motivates people to visit the region and provides a resource for travel looking for the more unique and authentic attractions of the region that enhances the benefits from tourism for local people.

The archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina project mobilized public action in the region to be part of an interactive platform to tell the stories of their places through the website, select the key messages, attractions, activities, products and experiences that tell the unique stories of their region’s communities, culture, history and natural wonders. These were then highlighted, interpreted and marketed through the Geotourism website. The Geotourism website not only drove increased visitation to the region, but by its nature also attracted the type of visitors most likely to enjoy the cultural and natural experiences of the archipelago and to care about the people and place they visit.


Major Activities

  • Initiate key stakeholder outreach and establish Geotourism stewardship council: Program partners engage diverse regional stakeholders (conservation, community, business, cultural, and ethnic) to identify and recruit a broadly representative Geotourism Stewardship Council (GSC) to help guide the program locally.
  • Develop methodology for submitting nominations for the map: Solimar, National Geographic and program partners develop a plan for gathering site nominations for the Geotourism Website within the local context and design and create site nomination web site to start gathering local content.
  • Geotourism MapGuide launch events: Participatory Workshops and events are held with key stakeholders to engage local participation in gathering local stories about sites, attractions and businesses.
  • Execute community outreach and collect data: Solimar and the local Geotourism Stewardship Council organize community outreach activities, to help people from the region tell their story through the website.
  • Verification and Fact Checking: Information uploaded to the site is checked, verified in partnership with the local Geotourism Stewardship Council and where needed lightly edited.
  • Contextual Information: Based on the information gathered, destination level descriptions and introductory text is developed through interviews with key local voices.
  • Cartographic design, research, edit Through the information gathered by Solimar in collaboration with our local partner, Natiponal Geographic places the selected information on the website, researching, verifying and locating each map point, placing text and photos, securing photo rights, and editing text.
  • Launch and Distribution/Dissemination The website is launched with local partners and National Geographic and promoted to targeted travel markets.


  • Creation of a National Geographic co-branded website that provides information on local, authentic tourism businesses, sites and attractions in the region
  • Strategic business plan and marketing strategy to guide the long-term sustainability of the program
  • Establishment of a Geotourism Stewardship Council of local tourism representatives to guide and sustain the program aver the long-term


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“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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