In the post My new life, I chatted about how I’d ended up here, in Colombia, enthusing about the people and country in general, but why do business here?
Well… during my travels and thoughts of what the hell do I do next after a typical British upbringing and 6 years of corporate London life, I settled on the idea of opening a hostel with a view to creating a chain of hostels across Colombia. I love travel, love meeting, talking to and helping people and can be reasonably hypercritical – finding fault in the many systems and processes that we’re surrounded by and interact with on a daily basis. Many hostels are run by fellow travellers who’ve chosen to settle in some paradise, far removed from their home countries and upbringings with travel being their main qualification for running a hostel. Unfortunately, often, their enthusiasm and loving of ‘the road’ is not necessarily met with the business acumen and attention to detail necessary to create a great place to stay.
So, I decided that it’s time to put my money where my mouth is, stop bitching about the failings of other people’s efforts and get the hell on with it. And where better than Colombia? As an hispanophile, it had to be Latin America and as previously explained Colombia is my favourite place for the people, as well as all the country has to offer. Key for business though is the fact that tourism here is going mental!
I imagine that general international perception of Colombia is still that it is ‘a dangerous place’. Indeed, when I was here 8 years ago, tales of armed hold ups of buses with the occasional kidnap were common place and indeed after spending some time in ‘safe’ areas on the Caribbean coast, I flew to Ecuador, there being no way that I was prepared to bus through the country. Whereas ’1234 tourists brutally executed’ makes for a great international news headline, ‘Colombia is now safe’ is hardly news-worthy and therefore the only information that many have of this country is negative and out-of-date. You’d be better off espousing the slogan of Colombia Tourism – ‘The only risk is wanting to stay’.
And the word is spreading. It’s not just backpackers that I’m meeting – there are plenty of people coming to Colombia for a 2 or 3 week holiday maintaining that they’ll tell friends and family on their return how wonderful a place this is to visit and the numbers are there to back it up – an increase in tourist arrivals of over 10% per year is reported in official figures. This recent boom in tourism means that you need to book to get in to the best hostels – Cranky Croc operates at about 95% occupancy and during high season turns away about 25 people a day and there are plenty of places that would not get away with their shoddy service and poor facilities in a more mature backpacking market. So this place is perfect for doing my thing – the market is here and my business partner and I have the knowledge, will and passion to do it – create a fantastic backpackers’ hostel in Bogotá. I’ll write soon of the fun we’ve had finding the house we want to buy…