By Anne Dimon
Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, has much to offer meeting and incentive travel planners considering a Caribbean destination that’s more than sand and surf: A fascinating history, ancient monuments within a 500-year-old walled city, a large cruise port, modern infrastructure, luxury hotels, offshore islands and, despite misperceptions, a safe and secure environment.
Of the city’s many unique indoor and outdoor venues – including ramparts, monasteries and colonial homes – one of the most striking is the Castle San Felipe de Barajas, the largest fortress in the Americas.
On top of that, many new developments are in the works. Within the next three years, the current inventory of 5,000-plus hotel rooms is expected to grow by 3,000.
Here’s what’s new:
Opened in October, the newest property is the 30-room luxury boutique Casa San Augustine, located within the historic walled city.
Rafael Núñez International Airport is investing $57-million USD on an expansion and will have the capacity to receive 4-million passengers by 2020.
During the past two years, the centrally-located Cartagena de Indias Convention Centre has spent $5-million USD in upgrades, including new audiovisual, air conditioning, lighting and security systems, plus new decor, furnishings and an on-site food and beverage (f&b) department.
The 280-room InterContinental Cartagena, located in the oceanfront Bocagrande district, will be part of a 215,000-sq.-ft. mixed-used development that includes a casino, upscale shops, f&b outlets, spa and more than 16,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Also in Bocagrande, Hyatt will, in 2015, open its first Colombia hotel. The 250-room Hyatt Regency Cartagena, located within a new mixed-use development, will house a 7,500-sq.-ft. ballroom, spa, fitness centre, outdoor pool, business centre and f&b outlets.
In June, Las Americas Resort opened a 279-room tower, plus a tri-themed restaurant and now offers a total of 500 rooms, plus an expanded convention centre.
Planned to open next spring is the 233-room Radisson Cartagena Ocean Pavillion Hotel, located 10 minutes from the old city.
Scheduled to open in 2014, the 278-room Cartagena Marriott Hotel will feature a fine-dining restaurant, spa, fitness centre and more than 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Air Canada offers service from Toronto to Bogota several times per week, with connections to Cartagena via Star Alliance partner Avianca.