El Dorado international: a work in progress ….
Bogotá is a city transformed. Once included in the travelling itinerary of only the most daring of backpackers the Colombian capital is fast becoming one of Latin America’s trendiest urban tourist destinations. Thanks to vastly improved security, inward investment and a clean up campaign this enormous city of almost nine million people has never seemed so welcoming. Bogotá’s tempting cafés, colonial architecture, thriving nightlife and relaxing parks are just a few of the city’s many pleasing distractions.Like many other international airports in Latin America Bogotá’s El Dorado international, is busy playing catch up with the growing city it serves. Bursting at the seams with nearly 17 million passengers a year, the ageing airport is struggling to cope with rocketing traffic growth. The biggest gripes travellers have of the Colombian gateway are general congestion, long queues and numerous security searches.
Happily, a $650 million (£419 million) rescue plan is well underway. Substantial improvements to the existing main international terminal, which was opened way back in 1959, have already been made. Moreover, a brand new 16-gate terminal (Terminal 2) opened in November 2012 with new stores from Chanel, Burberry and Bvlgari and Tous Jewellers to follow. The modernised international terminal will be a new national terminal for domestic and regional flights. The smaller ‘Air Bridge’ terminal, which is currently used exclusively by national flag carrier Avianca, is set to be demolished. All the building work should be finished by 2014 when El Dorado international will effectively be a completely new airport.
El Dorado already has an above average selection of stores and all the designer brands you would expect to see at a large international airport. However, travellers should be aware that the main concentration of souvenir shops, gift stores, restaurants and cafés are located pre-security. After immigration there is only a limited choice of dining options and the obligatory duty-free stores.
Now if you are on the hunt for a decent souvenir, you could do worse than buy some Colombian coffee, but make sure it is the real deal. Genuine Colombian coffee is made exclusively from Arabica coffee beans, which thrive in the country’s high altitudes, and are widely considered to be of the finest quality by coffee experts. Relatively low in caffeine and acidity, Colombian coffee is wonderfully rich and aromatic.
Other popular souvenir buys from Colombia include relatively inexpensive leather handbags, shoes and wallets, silver jewellery, beautifully decorated pottery and handmade ethnic clothing.
Once you have cleared the tedious immigration process at El Dorado you are free to browse the main Attenza duty-free store, which at over 500 square metres has almost doubled in size since the renovation work at the airport began in 2007. Fashion is very much to the fore in the product mix with top-end leather goods brands such as Lancel, Furla and Longchamp allocated prominent displays. There is a surprisingly good selection of electronics here too with Nintendo, Sony and Bose given their own wall displays.Fragrances and cosmetics are given pride of place in the store, however, and a dizzying array of brands is given shelf space. The line up includes Kenneth Cole, Cartier, Gucci, Prada, Givenchy, Fendi, Clinique, Yves St. Laurent and Lancôme. The eco-conscious, socially aware UK beauty brand The Body Shop also has a dedicated in-store display.
Blended Scotch whisky is the mainstay of the shop’s liquor offer: Buchanan’s, Old Parr, Something Special, Johnnie Walker and of course, Chivas Regal are the big brands in this part of the world. Alternatively, Colombian rums are a pretty cheap option, but are outshone in terms of quality by award-winning regional brands such as Nicaragua’s Flor de Caña and Guatemala’s Ron Botran, which are both stocked by Attenza.
The main point of shopping interest in El Dorado’s smaller Puente Aéreo (Air Bridge), which is used solely by Avianca for regional and domestic flights, is the main duty-free store called Aviancastore. The product selection includes fragrances, cosmetics, liquor, tobacco, jewellery, watches, toys and electronics. The fantastic Venezuelan rum brand Santa Teresa at $38 (£24.50) a bottle and the Jericho Dead Sea Cosmetics Spa Kit at $130 (£83.80) and the tins of chocolate-covered blueberries at $13 (£8.40) are what caught our eye. Take a full look at what the shop has to offer at www.aviancadutyfree.com to see what takes your fancy.
El Dorado international is about to embark on a whole new chapter of its history, which will surely lead to a much-improved, all-round experience for any air traveller using the Colombian gateway. Retail will be undoubtedly be part of that makeover so we say: “Bring it on!”