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Research Report Sheds New Light on Economic Impacts of Tourism in Colombia

June 22, 2016 Statistics & Trends No Comments Email Email

Against the backdrop of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Medellin, MasterCard released a new analysis of foreign tourist spending in Colombia based on research conducted in collaboration with the Center for International Development at Harvard University (CID). The analysis reveals rare insights on the economic benefits of tourism, and the role of payment acceptance in driving more inclusive growth.


“More than 80% of foreign tourist spending in Colombia is concentrated in just five destinations,” said Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, Chief Economist for the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth, and the report’s author.  “This means many small local businesses around the country could be missing out on the benefits of a growing tourism sector.”

The new analysis found that the five main cities in the country where international visitors spend the most are Bogota (39%),

Cucuta (18.2%), Cartagena (9.6%), Medellin (8.3%) and Cali (6%). Furthermore, more than half of foreign tourist card spend in Colombia is to get cash from ATMs, compared to only 28% in Netherlands, the other country studied.

The findings are a reflection of the low acceptance of electronic payments persisting throughout the MSME sector in Colombia.  Foreign tourists are more likely to spend money where making payments is convenient and secure. Enabling greater acceptance of electronic payments outside of the main urban areas and beyond larger merchants could help spread the economic benefits of tourism more equitably throughout the country.

“To realize the full potential of tourism for inclusive growth, foreign visitors need to be enticed to venture beyond the few centers where they congregate, traveling far and wide across the country,” added Hedrick-Wong.

These unique insights were made possible by the first-ever MasterCard data grant to researchers at Harvard’s Center for International Development (CID). The data grant is allowing CID researchers to gain a real-world view into several aspects of tourism – an important industry that provides greater job opportunities and boosts overall national income.

The MasterCard grant is derived from an anonymized and aggregated data set of credit and debit card transactions that CID will use only for agreed research objectives and will maintain securely and confidentially. The information is not individually identifiable, and all data is subject to standard university protections.

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