Coronavirus in Colombia: in conversation with Elvira

The South American gem of Colombia is slowly emerging from the grips of coronavirus. We spoke to Elvira at Metropolitan Touring Colombia to learn more.
Plaza Santa Teresa square in the centre of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. Photo: Matyas Rehak/Shutterstock
Plaza Santa Teresa square in the centre of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. Photo: Matyas Rehak/Shutterstock

South America’s most recent travel offering to swagger onto the world stage, Colombia’s popularity has soared over the past decade. Cobblestone colonial towns, blissful beaches and verdant jungles are the main draws here, while raucous festivals and colourful wildlife complete the picture. To gain more insight into how Colombia is dealing with coronavirus, and what travel to the country might look like for the rest of the year, we spoke to Elvira at Metropolitan Touring Colombia.      

Elvira/Metropolitan Touring Colombia. Photo: private archive

Chatting with Elvira

Q: What does your normal daily life look like at the moment?

A: Without a doubt, our daily routine has changed dramatically. In Colombia, we recently completed three months of quarantine. Until today, I have been at home with my family, working from home, homeschooling my two kids and exploring different activities that we can still do during lockdown. It has definitely been a time of reflection and self-analysis, where we have been able to appreciate the simplest moments of life and care about our loved ones.

Q: What is your outlook for travellers hoping to return to Colombia? Will there be new ways of travelling in the country?

A: The Colombian government has been working extensively on health protocols based on those that have already been issued by the WHO. These will be implemented domestically at first, and will be reinforced once we start receiving international travellers in the upcoming months. 

I believe that our customers will focus more on personalized and private experiences in order to avoid large crowds. We think people will be looking for more nature and wellness activities, as well as tourism that focusses more on local communities. It will change how we relate to each other, which for us Colombians is going to be difficult to get used to since we love to hug people and offer a warm welcome to our visitors. 

More than finding new ways of travelling in the country, I think coronavirus will change the way we interact with eachother and how we experience travel. 

View of The Rock El Penol near the town of Guatape, Antioquia in Colombia. Photo: sunsinger/Shutterstock

Q: Medellin has emerged as a pioneer during the Covid-19 pandemic – and not just in Latin America – with just ten cases requiring hospitalization and five weeks since a single death. Do you think this, together with the app that was created (which connects poverty-stricken residents with food and money), could mean that Colombia could be one of the first countries to receive international travel again?

A:  In Colombia, we started preparing long before the virus reached our country. We saw the magnitude of the situation and, almost immediately, the government began to inform us of the first measures that we should start considering – such as as washing our hands frequently and keeping a fair distance between one another.

In fact, Colombia was one of the first countries in South America to implement measures when there were just a handful of cases. It is for this reason that we have carried out a long and slow reopening process that has been successful up until this day based on our low mortality rate.

Medellín has definitely been a role model to all cities in Colombia: there was impressive citizen support and collaboration to all the implemented health protocols. This led them to be pioneers in how to overcome the pandemic and we are proud that they have been internationally recognized for their efforts.

We have had a long and slow recovery process, but we can see that it has paid off. In fact, the government has given us hope that we might be able to receive foreign visitors from September. We are eager and happy to be able to receive international visitors again and do what we love doing most – showing Colombia to the world.

Cabo San Juan beach, Tayrona Natural National Park, Colombia. Photo: Fotos593/Shutterstock

Q: Are there any positive news emerging from Colombia that you can share with us?

A: There is always good news to share! For the fourth time, Colombia took first place in the global bird-watching competition at Global Big Day, organized by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. This time it was done virtually, but more than 1,440 species were captured, surpassing countries such as Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. 

Q: What are you looking forward to the most in the upcoming weeks?

A: Prevention measures have recently become more flexible and we will be able to carry out more activities outside our homes. I finally see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I can see how little by little we will be able to incorporate more activities into our daily routine. 

Oh! And a few weeks ago, they announced that due to the consequences of the pandemic, drive-in cinemas are going to return to Colombia in July. I definitely want to try that out!

Q: Do you have any recommendations on how to bring that Colombian feeling and spirit to our homes while we're unable to travel there in person?

A: I think the best way to explore Colombia without travelling is through music and dance. We are the land of the never-ending rhythms, that vary from the Caribbean to the Pacific, stopping in the Andes and the plains, and finally enjoying the sounds of the Amazon. Here’s a playlist on Spotify to get you started!