Pereira – Why buy real estate in Colombia´s coffee region now
HalloCasa conducted the third interview with Benita Glück, the founder and managing partner of CafeteraTours, a travel agency based in Pereira, Colombia. CafeteraTours offers both individual trips and group travels. Benita will also talk about real estate investments in Pereira, Colombia.
HalloCasa: “Good morning, Ms Glück. We are happy to host you to talk with us about your story and how you ended up creating your own business in Colombia. Could you tell us how everything started?”
Benita Glück: “Thank you very much for having me. I am happy to give you an interview and to tell you about my story with all my impressions and experiences in Colombia. Introducing myself, I am originally from East Germany in Thuringia and moved to West Germany in 1989. I settled in the Hohenloh region around Crailsheim. There, I stayed for around a decade. Conducting my formation to become a formal healing practitioner I moved to Ulm in Germany. Then, I went directly to Colombia.”
About the motivation to immigrate to Colombia
HalloCasa: “That sounds like a fast decision. How did it happen that you are emigrated to Colombia?”
Benita Glück: “I’ve always dreamed to live in a country which would fit my personal temperament. Germany´s legal and administrative processes can restrict the way to start a business pretty much. For each small venture you have to provide countless studies and certificates in order to finally realize that your request does not fulfill general requirements to end up without the possibility to start your own business.
So, I was looking for a destination which would help me unfold my joy towards life and my vision of how to live a fulfilling life. When evaluating all my options, I defined that it should be a country that has an incredible variety with a lot of opportunities, is crisscrossed by lush vegetation and a year-round tropical climate. I know, it was a bold dream with high requirements. Then, after several years in my office job, combined with high hurdles to become self-employed as an alternative practitioner, I realized it was the time for something new. And I found it: the country where I could realize my dreams, my personal ideas, and my vision of a fulfilling life.”
HalloCasa: “It is very interesting to hear you talking. The way you describe your goals and the Colombian landscape makes one feel sitting next to you somewhere in Colombia beneath some parrots. Coming to your business now: for foreigners who do not know Colombia, where are the most touristic areas and why should you go to Pereira?”
Tourism in Colombia
Benita Glück: “Well, to give you an idea, Colombia offers an incredible amount of attractions with respect to nature, art, culture and archaeological treasures. If you only count its 56 national parks and protected nature reserves, one can imagine the enormous potential for tourism. Colombia unites actually a continent in itself. Due to that complexity and variety, it is rather difficult to reduce this country to a few touristic centers. Nevertheless, there are clearly the following hot spots to mention:
- Bogotá and the surroundings with the salt cathedral in Zipaquirá and the town itself and the colonial town of Villa de Leyva.
- Santander and its surroundings with the Chicamocha Canyon, the wonderful colonial villageBarichara and San Gil with its vast possibility of outdoor activities.
- The Coffee Region with its scenic diversity, the famous and very pretty villages, the variety of excursions and sports.
- Colombia´s south with the famous archaeological site San Agustín, Tierradentro and the “white” city of Popayán.
- The Caribbean coast with Cartagena de Indias, the Parque Tayrona and the Guajira desert.
- The Amazon jungle with the indigenous cultures.
- The Pacific Coast with the natural paradises Nuquí and Bahia Solano.
I could name many more regions and sights that are touristic attractions and not well known and which I personally regard as “natural pearls”, as for example the Orinoco Region. Furthermore, places and landscapes that radiate an incomparable charm and authenticity and reflect the true Colombia, are further “tourist treasures”.”
HalloCasa: “With all these options across Colombia, why did you decide to settle in Pereira? What is so special about the region?” (Read our interview about tourism in Mompox here!)
Tourism in Pereira, Colombia
Benita Glück: “Pereira is a very attractive city. It is centrally located in the Coffee Region and has an infrastructure that is absolutely comparable to a European city. It is both a business and a trade city. Interesting to mention might be the transport connection with the international airport, which is being expanded under high-pressure at the moment.
Furthermore, the city has great medical care with modern hospitals, several universities, with the UTP being the leader with currently about 18,000 students. With respect to free-time activities, Pereira offers a vast amount of art and cultural events, modern shopping centers and everything you need to get entertained, if desired.
In addition, Pereira is surrounded by a beautiful landscape and has a year-round summery warm climate. Its inhabitants are warm, very open and helpful.”
HalloCasa: “Very interesting, since Pereira is not well known among foreigners. How did you get the idea to start a travel agency?”
Benita Glück: “As already mentioned, I had dreams and visions. I have always had the dream to make my hobby to my profession in the field of natural medicine, music, travelling, exotic cultures, all that coupled with a bit of adventure. So, the fact that Colombia is still an uncovered territory on the tourist map and that there is so much to discover here, I started the travel agency. According to my philosophy you can build individual and ecological tourist offerings here while also involving and sustaining the various existing cultures and traditions while maintaining and fostering the environment.”
Starting a travel agency in Pereira, Colombia
HalloCasa: “That sounds very ideological and like an approach which is less common in Europe or the United States. Talking about drawbacks: what were the biggest obstacles you faced when founding the travel agency?”
Benita Glück: “Fortunately, there was only one: the ignorance of the Colombian authorities. However, that was 6 years ago. Today things are very different in Pereira. The consultations for starting a company have become more professional, the information and brochures provided are absolutely well-founded. Additionally, authorities are very open and helpful, especially towards foreign company founders.”
HalloCasa: “What business error would you not make again in retrospect?”
Benita Glück: “The fact that before immigrating to Colombia I had previously prepared myself for one entire year. In particular, I was studying a lot about Colombia, reading a lot of reports, newspapers and everything I could obtain in order to be ready for a new culture. During this time I met my Colombian friend, Alexa, who has become a very good partner and advisor during the time of the foundation in Pereira. With her and my husband everything went according to plan. I started small, concentrated on the essentials and never lost my goal for the travel agency out of sight. If you asked me today, I would do it exactly like that again.”
HalloCasa: “Ok, very interesting. So, you say, that having contact to someone in Colombia beforehand helps a lot. This gives us, HalloCasa, confidence that our idea to connect Colombians with foreigners before investing here, has potential. Digging a little into the topic of networking, how did you experience the possibility to network with other business owners in Colombia?”
Benita Glück: “I have made very good experiences with respect to networking. Cafeteratours offers individual tours to all over Colombia. In order to ensure this professionally, we have built incrementally a small team of network partners which supports and accompanies our guests outstandingly in each of the various destinations. The network consists to 90% of Colombian partners and to 10% of German partners. Here, I can look back on a very constant, absolutely reliable and very good cooperation. Therefore, they deserve a very special thanks at this point! With their support and commitment we could extend our Cafeteratours-vacation portfolio perfectly.”
HalloCasa: “Great, we are very happy for you that everything has been going so smoothly! Now, having looked back, let´s take us a glance at the future: where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?”
Developments in Colombia
Benita Glück: “Well, as you know, Colombia is an emerging, incredibly fast developing country, where the agenda changes daily. Therefore, it is difficult to take a longer-term look at the future. However, there is one thing I have planned: establishing CafeteraTours more towards the Spanish- and the English-speaking market. It gives me a lot of fun to provide the service to tourists from Spain, the US. and Canada, especially to be personally with the guests here in the Coffee Region.
One thing which does not coincide with my philosophy is to conduct tours where quantity overrides quality. Every vacation should be something special and individual, to the same extent as Colombia is an individual and special destination. I would like to continue this with a gentle, ecological style of tourism in Colombia. There is no bigger gratitude for me to see my guests being satisfied with the quality provided and being able to relax to the fullest during their holiday. There are a lot of guests who have already booked their second time with us. This shows us that our our philosophy is the way to go.”
HalloCasa: “What are the biggest differences to Europe, the United States, or other (western) countries with respect to Colombia as a tourist destination?”
Benita Glück: “In my opinion, the most striking points are definitely the originality of the tropical nature, the warmth of its people, and the ability to improvise when unexpected things occur (energy shutdown, bad weather conditions), without to mention the obvious cultural and mentality differences. Another difference is that Colombia´s tourism is not very well established yet and cannot be compared to Europe or other destinations. Therefore, a lot of foreigners, who seek an untouched region, come to experience exactly this difference. It gives them a certain sense of freedom and adventure.”
Trends in the tourism industry in Colombia
HalloCasa: “That´s true, Colombia is so unique because it is so exotic. What do you think how long that will still last and what do you see as the trends in the tourism industry?”
Benita Glück: “Clearly the holiday packages and mass tourism will establish itself in Colombia. This concerns in particular the tourist centers, such as the Caribbean coast with Cartagena, Santa Marta, Parque Tayrona, the Coffee Region with Salento and the Valle de Cocora, and finally the South with San Agustín and Popayan. At the same time the individual tourism will grow and will play a bigger part in Colombia, especially with respect to active outdoor travel. The reason for that is simple, Colombia has a vast size with a huge diversity. Its unique topography serves as a perfect destination for active and individual tourism. You don´t need to leave Colombia to experience all seasons, climates, and landscapes. Special areas like active sports travels, such as cycling, are occupying its space in Colombia´s tourism landscape.
Especially for cycling, I see great tourism opportunities. In Colombia, a large cycling fan base exists for which adequate packages can be offered in a very unique way. Simply imagine you join a tour with desert landscape on one day, crossing snowy mountains the next day, and passing crocodiles the third day. Which other country could offer that? Moreover, the fact that Colombia has been a “Biker Nation” for several years now, can be seen by the amount and variety of already existing bike routes throughout the country leading through breathtaking landscapes.
The third trend I see is the ecotourism which will play an important touristic role in the future. Again, Colombia has sufficient potential. Last week, we have started a partnership with the owner of an eco-finca. Soon, we will have another new and attractive program for nature lovers and recreation seekers. The question remains: who thinks of himself having already discovered all exotic treasures of the nature? Who has heard of the incredibly healthy Inca nut “Sacha Inchi” or the cleansing effect of the “Moringa Tea”?
The fourth trend I see is another niche sector such as horseback riding trips in Colombia. People being interested in this activity will meet their expectations in Los Llanos. It´s an area situated to the east of Bogotá and Villavicencio. It stretches towards the east and has vast tropical grasslands. Due to strong rainy seasons, it has not been an adequate area for farming and has therefore mostly been used for cattle. However, this area is perfectly suitable for horses and therefore horses and “llaneros” have an immemorial culture and tradition. In this region, tourists can already book various horseback riding tours. This offering will expand in the international niche markets as well.”
HalloCasa: ”Thank you very much for these details. For those being more interested, recently, a documentary about Colombia´s nature started in the Colombian cinemas:
Touching upon concerns potential tourists might have: how do you judge the security situation in Colombia? To what should foreigners pay attention to the most?” (Also interesting, our interview about Cartagena)
Benita Glück: “The security situation in Colombia has improved continuously in recent years and has now reached a very good level. However, there are still regions which should be avoided. These regions are known and constitute impenetrable jungle areas and have very little infrastructure. Obviously, such areas will not be found in our portfolio. Basically, I don´t offer travel trips to risky zones. Apart from that, everyone should take basic precautions in order to avoid petty crime, such as theft, especially in the tourist centers. If you do that, you definitely will enjoy a carefree holiday.”
HalloCasa: “Ok, so considering a parent now reading this article and got interested to travel to Colombia, are there offerings for (exotic) family vacations in Colombia? Do you offer such a kind of vacation?”
Benita Glück: “There has been a trend of increasing family vacations for several years now. Especially since last year, more and more families tend to spend their holidays in Colombia. The reason is simple: there is an amount of unknown things to discover. Especially children have been very enthusiastic to discover elements which they had never seen before in their lives. Therefore, we have been offering family vacations for about 3 years now, which has also been very well received. The next guest which we host will arrive tomorrow and will be a family of four people from Southern Germany.”
Real estate investment opportunities in Colombia
HalloCasa: ”Now, leaving the topic of vacation: where do you see investment opportunities in Colombia?” (Read more about that topic in our interview about Bogotá)
Benita Glück: “Main drivers and industries in Colombia are the following: agriculture and manufacturing, services and tourism, freight forwarding and logistics, oil & gas production, and mining. Concerning investment opportunities, I cannot give you a detailed answer. I think it is always the best to consult the respective area of interest directly.”
HalloCasa: “Ok, with respect to real estate in Colombia and particularly in Pereira, what do you see as opportunities and trends?”
Benita Glück: “As already mentioned, Pereira is very popular, especially due to the many advantages it possesses. The potential is especially based on its excellent infrastructure and also on its coffee production and the related businesses. It is the largest trading center for the retail and wholesale trade in the coffee region and the 5th most important city in Colombia. Moreover, it offers great conditions for international trade and manufacturing. In my opinion, it offers ideal conditions for investment. Pereira will continue to grow and so it is really obvious, that you will obtain a good return on your investment if you purchase real estate or land in Pereira.”
HalloCasa: “Great, now we are coming to our last two questions which we like to ask our interview guests in general. The first one is: if you could change one thing in Colombia, what would it be?”
Benita Glück: “What I would implement here is a high-quality, free educational system for everyone. I would guarantee free education both on the job and in school.”
HalloCasa: “Ok, and the second question is: If you could introduce one thing from Colombia to other countries, what would it be?”
Benita Glück: “Oh, limiting that answer to only one thing is a very tough decision. Obviously, I would like to introduce many things in other countries. Yet, since I have to nail it down to one answer then I would say the warmth and joy of life of the Colombian people with its solidarity and helpfulness, and tolerance towards each other.”
HalloCasa: ”Benita, thank you so much for this interview. We have learned a lot about Pereira and have realized that we have to come visit this town. We wish you all the best tomorrow with your new guests! How can readers contact you?”
Benita Glück: “Readers can contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or via our webseite www.cafeteratours.com . Thank you very much for having me and for your wishes!”