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Annie Burbano, Selling Colombia

Annie Burbano, Selling Colombia

Posted by Adrian Pelaez on March 01, 2014

Annie Burbano is the face of Colombia in tourism and Technologies of Information and Communication, (TIC), and the founder of the digital brigade #TurisTIC; an initiative launched by the digital unit of the TIC ministry in Colombia. The objective of the brigade was to gather volunteers’ solutions in Twitter for the disastrous rainy season of the country in 2010.

To Annie, whose middle name is tourism, creating the team for the #TurisTIC with the help of the TIC ministry (Min TIC) was convenient because it made the gap between TIC’s and people in the tourism industry smaller. This altruist, volunteered project whose true goal was to aid people, lasted for about two years.

Tourism came to Annie’s life in Europe, where she made a spanish friend that spent her summers taking swedish and danish tourists around Menorca, and her winters taking her spanish clients to ski trips in Switzerland. Annie, thought this was the perfect job. Anyone in Annie’s situation would ask itself the same question, how can you get paid to do what you love? (Travelling).

This is how Annie Burbano changed her life’s direction and started studying tourism. Away from her loved ones who lived in Colombia, she took advantage of the technology available to stay in contact with her sisters. Social Networks came to her life to make distances shorter, and she also found that very passioning. Because of this, she started to work in a company as a Community Manager, her job was to create and manage a  spanish technologies company’s social networks accounts, and with this job, she started to get into the virtual world.

A passion that made her an icon in her area.

Annie Burban is now one of the leaders in opinions that have to do with Tourism and TICs. To her, you can’t get to know a place in three days, or a month, you need at least year to really know each destination you go to. This is why she is a big promoter of local tourism. Cities have to be lived, and sometimes as inhabitants of those cities, we ignore all they have to offer. That’s why, to a traveller, it is like a challenge to get to know a place in such a few time. Here is where technology comes in, becoming an ally, showing us a way to understand in a few days our touristic destination.

Colombians are learning how to travel

Annie says that before, it was normal to see how tourism was basically going to visit your family or staying in a different town at your aunt’s house. The tourism sector has been steadily growing. TICs have helped in the process, but their implementation has been hard. Digital culture is one of the modern challenges; using technology to our favour. Although it’s true that travellers have been in the digital world since before online shopping existed, there’s still a long way to go in this matter. Today travellers around the world base themselves in other poeple’s recommendations, and ratings of hotels, restaurants, and other attractions. This is easy to do thanks to apps such as Foursquare, Tripadvisor, Yelp and online reviews in blogs and social networks. That recommendation process is very important when it comes to decision making.

Having worked in different projects that have to do with Colombia, such as the online media campaign for Marca País, Annie Burbano highlights the fact that Colombia is starting to appear in the world’s map for tourists. A country labeled as an exotic destination, like Australia for us, demands a lot of planning from the interested visitors. Besides, touristic projects are long-run projects. Even if there is short easy trips, long trips require planning. However, just being in people’s mind is a big step already.

Colombian Brands: Colombia is passion vs. Magical Realism

According to Annie Burbano, “Colombia is passion” is targeted to us, colombians. It is a project that wants to make us feel proud of our own country. With a logo made out from a heart and a coffee bean, this campaign was totally successful in making colombians feel colombian. With a sticky slogan: “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay” the initiative achieved its objectives. The project wanted to bring patriotism to a whole new level, locally and internationally, even getting to foreigners too.

Colombia has also done a great job with companies such as Proexport. Together, they have changed people’s image about the country. And Annie Burbano has been the head of the process. With innovative strategies, she has had international journalists and bloggers come to Colombia, and made them live the “Colombia experience” so that they share their experience with their crowd. That way, they write what they think colombia really is, is different to us telling people what we think Colombia is; and honestly that makes a difference in the reader’s perspective.

Annie Burbano points out that “Colombia is the answer” and “Colombia is Magical Realism” are current projects that are putting the country in the spotlight in different areas; not only in tourism but also making it visible to investors and exporters. It is a project whose target is a crowd with connections, and no frontiers, a crowd looking for competitive markets.

At a local scale, Colombians need to know that everything is not perfect abroad, and that we can make it from here. And to foreigners, we need them to see Colombia as an strategic point in the Americas.

As to the tourism sector: “Colombia Magical Realism”, is intimately related to the literature nobel Gabriel García Márquez, he is very known in the latin american crowd, and he’s a symbol of spanish as a language. In the end, this is something that makes us proud, because even if not everybody speaks spanish, we are proud of being the cradle of one of the biggest hispanic literati.

A viral project

Colombia’s videos can be found in youtube just by typing in the sentence “Colombia is Magical Realism”. You can find different short videos that show the different perspectives about all of the different Colombian regions; they are high quality videos that have impressed internet users.

Business Tourism

Due to the increase in travellers that come to our country on business trips, the term Business Tourism has gotten famous, and because of this kind of tourism, Bogota has now more visits from foreigners than Cartagena.

Annie Burbano did some research to find out that business travellers depend on official recommendations from the hotel they’re staying at, or the people they’re meeting in their business, to see where to go in the city they’re staying in for those few days. Because of security reasons, some people are still scared because of our contemporaneous history, full of violent times. Internet research will always lead to the standard touristic places, for example when talking about Bogota, this places would be: The Salt Cathedral, “La Candelaria”, 93 st. Park, “Usaquen”, and the “Monserrate” hill. 

7 natural destinations in Bogota

Another of Annie’s initiatives, is to let people know that there are more things to do in our cities. The people from Bogota, don’t feel like they own the city. “We always take our visitors to the same 3 streets, the same 3 museums” says Annie. There are natural treasures, hidden places to discover, and many restaurants that can pleasantly surprise us.

Quebrada La Vieja, Quebrada Las Delicias, Los humedales, La Conejera, Parque Simon Bolivar, among others. It is about showing tourists that you can find a cascade 5 minutes away from Bogota, these are things that you can only find about on the internet, and if you are looking for this type of alternative plans, the best option is to do some online research.

To our advantage, foreigners do more research about the places they’re going to and about their destinations. Even it it is hard to change people’s idea about Colombia being really warm, people should know that if they’re coming to Bogota, it’s are going to be cold.

Kindness vs. Client Orientation

To Annie Burbano, Bogota and Colombia’s challenge is to improve customer service. There is a difference between kindness and good customer service. A smile doesn't solve many problems. We need client orientation, we need to understand clients and serve them. Staff is generally not prepared or empowered to solve any issue and that is one of the big challenges we have in every sector related to tourism.

The Pacific Alliance

Everything that breaks barriers of permits and visas is an advantage to us, as travellers and as hosts. Annie Burbano invites us to think in South America, and Latin america as a whole. Today airplane ticket prices are not helping. Budgets aren’t enough, an ideal situation would be being able to compete with other countries, but all of us as a block. Our countries are all very similar, and it’s not easy to say we’re better than others when being so similar. It is necessary to identify cultural differences such as music, gastronomy, weather and others. For example, one of Colombia’s hooks is that in allows people to experience many different weathers in a same country: there is cold, hot, beach, mountains, deserts, jungles, forests, snow, etc.

Our FTA has advantages and disadvantages, but tourism has benefited from it. Being able to have a valid document to travel to different countries gives us big opportunities in emerging economies, besides we share languages with these countries, and we are all very similar.

TurisTIC nowadays

Annie Burbano leads an eleven people team, and is talking about an emerging team in Argentina. Barriers are being broken down and she is faithful to a globalized world, like a block. Her movement, now a company, is know for its ability to give destinations an identity, and for giving information in all matters related to tourism. It also advices projects wanting to create a touristic place or product by understanding what makes each place different, and why that place is better in those things it has in common with others. Moreover, she also supports digital entrepreneurs in events such as the “Hackaton of affordable tourism” or the “National meeting of traveling bloggers”. This events help creating spaces such as Experience Lab for technology providers, that can give solutions to hotels, chambers of commerce, city halls, etc.

The point here, according to Annie, is experimenting with small hotels and giving them the advantages and disadvantages of digital tools, so that they can help people in the hotel business make decisions in the technology field. I understand that not everything suits everybody, and there is great supply. We want to show how digital culture can help those who engage in those projects to be successful.

Annie Burbano believes in and loves Colombia. She acknowledges it as a multicultural destination with enormous possibilities, she says it’s not a place to come see, but to come live. A salsa show, more than seeing it, is dancing it. As in for the hosts, she knows we are learning and we want tourists to come and take a piece of our country in their hearts.

“Travelling is making dreams come true, and even though it is a considerable expense, it is the best one we can do. What you learn on a trip, there is no way of comparing that to any academical knowledge”-Annie Burbano

You can find any in twitter @AnnieBurbano

or in her personal blog: or at her company’s website

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