As Colombia becomes the must-visit destination of 2019, boutique hotel Cannúa shares why sustainability is key

By Michelle Johnson | 11 Mar 2019 | Travel

CEO and co-founder Nathan Rodgers tells Tempus about Cannúa's holistic approach to community and biodiversity

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* Just 90 minutes from cultural capital Medellín, 18-room mountainside property Cannúa is the perfect base from which to explore

For 50 years, Colombia has been largely off limits thanks to a civil war that only officially ended in 2016. But now the country – including the once-infamous capital Bogóta – is being tipped as the next hot travel destination, thanks to the biodiverse country’s incredible venture into sustainability and eco-tourism that is making headlines worldwide.

Colombia is on course to be one of the world’s first – and best – sustainable tourism hubs – in 2018, Colombia launched a Partnership for Sustainable Growth with the UK to help tackle climate change, and expanded its official conservation policy to protect 109,000 sq miles of untouched Amazon Rainforest. As a result, a plethora of new eco-friendly lodges and guided safaris have become available, including new boutique hotel Cannúa.

The Colombian Amazon is home to a world record 1,826 species of birds, rare orchids, mammals, insects and more, making it an alluring escape for nature lovers, and just 90 minutes from cultural capital Medellín, 18-room mountainside property Cannúa is the perfect base from which to explore.

Opening in April, sustainability-focused Cannúa is located in the protected forests of Antioquia, and promises to provide it guests with the ultimate in authentic local experiences – whether you're interested in local crafts or exploring nature. Here, Cannúa CEO and co-founder Nathan Rodgers tells Tempus why businesses like his are committed to sharing – and protecting – Colombia's unique natural resources.

How are Colombia’s preservation policies impacting the growth of its luxury tourism market?
Colombia’s efforts to protect natural areas such as the Amazon Rainforest will absolutely help attract luxury tourism from abroad, in addition to preserving the incredible biodiversity of species that live in those areas and protecting the country’s natural heritage for future generations of Colombians. Although luxury tourism is still nascent in Colombia, there are plenty of other countries around the world that foreign visitors value specifically because of their amazing environmental offerings. When done responsibly, this kind of tourism can provide strong incentives to conserve fragile natural environments, because it proves there’s more value in preserving them than in clear-cutting them for other uses. This, in turn, positively impacts local communities and economies. That’s been Cannúa’s goal from the very start.

Until now, Colombia has been fairly off-limits to UK travellers, particularly in the luxury sector. How do you see this changing in 2019?
Each year, new luxury and innovative products are opening in Colombia. Hotels like Cannúa are changing the perception of travel in Colombia and demonstrating that it is a destination that has so much to offer to high-end travellers. The peace process has helped open up destinations outside of the main cities and the Caribbean coast. As more tourists come to Colombia and help spread the word about its incredible cultural, gastronomic, and natural diversity, the image of the country will continue improve. Colombia is also becoming more connected to the rest of the world, from joining the OECD to becoming a NATO Global Partner in 2018. Colombia also recently announced a partnership with the UK to promote sustainable growth, and 2019 should see these trends continue. Hopefully, UK travellers will see destinations like Cannúa as reason to come visit this incredible country. >>

Related: Back in vogue: this year's most surprising luxury travel destinations

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* Cannúa CEO Nathan Rodgers tells Tempus why businesses like his are committed to sharing – and protecting – Colombia's unique natural resources

How do you work within your community and the surrounding environment to create a unique but authentic experience for your guests?
From the beginning, we have been committed to a holistic approach to sustainability in every aspect of Cannúa’s development, from its design and building principles to its social responsibility as an employer, neighbour, and tourism representative of the Department of Antioquia and of Colombia as a whole. We are dedicated to supporting responsible tourism and at the same time creating unforgettable guest experiences. We are working to conserve and regenerate native species on our 11-hectare property. For example, we recently completed an inventory of flora and fauna and have identified over 80 bird species that call our forest home and that we can’t wait for guests to meet.

We are also dedicated to the creation of economic and employment opportunities for the surrounding community. We currently offer English lessons to some of our neighbours and have hosted workshops related to farming and permaculture practices and waste management. We are planning to provide guests with opportunities to visit local ‘fincas’ [farms] and experience the warmth and charm of the incredible people of Colombia first-hand.

How do you hope Cannúa will further Colombia's blooming tourist economy?
While ecotourism and cultural tourism are a growing part of Colombia’s touristic landscape, Cannúa is providing a touristic rarity: an upscale retreat which showcases rural Colombia as a safe adventure destination just waiting to be discovered. It will be the first boutique hotel of its kind in Colombia, one with sustainability and permaculture as part of its DNA from the very start. It's designed with comfort in mind, and focused on offering guests transformative experiences that connect them to the traditions, culture and nature of Colombia. Located on a protected mountainside property in a temperate zone in one of the world’s top flower-producing regions, guests will have the opportunity to learn how permaculture supports environmental regeneration, see where the food they eat is grown, and learn about Colombian culture on a deeper, more authentic level. As a retreat which attracts travellers to explore outside Colombia’s main cities, Cannúa is also bolstering the economies of rural communities, as rural residents can be gainfully employed without having to relocate, as is the current practice.

By prioritizing the environmental, economic and social strengths of Colombia in its very identity, it’s our hope that Cannúa will become an example of corporate responsibility and sustainability practices for other tourism businesses in Colombia.

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* Opening in April, Cannúa is located in the protected forests of Antioquia