The city of Santa Marta will get a new international airport to handle a growing number of tourists. ©Ildi Papp/

(Relaxnews) – On August 4 Juan Manual Santos, the president of Colombia, announced the construction of a new international airport in the colonial city of Santa Marta, one of the most popular beach destinations on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

According to the national newspaper El Tiempo, the main aim of the project is to consolidate the city as an international tourist destination. The project includes demolishing the current building.

As reported by the newspaper El Espectador back in May, the first designs for the airport have already been presented to the government. According to the blueprints, the new 14,200 square meter (152,847 square foot) airport will be double the size of the current one and will include four new airport gates that will cope with the city’s growing tourism industry.

The new design will also have bigger waiting rooms. Construction is expected to start early in 2013 and will be completed within 18 months. The project is slated to cost around $21 million.

The city of Santa Marta mixes colonial style with modern beach resorts in its three bays. Tourists can sample Caribbean beaches as well as historic landmarks such as the Hacienda where Simon Bolivar died. Travelers to Santa Marta also visit Tayrona National Park as well as the archeological pre-Hispanic city Ciudad Perdida, founded in around 800 BC and re-discovered in 1972.

Tourism in Colombia has been growing steadily over the past five years. In 2011 alone the number of tourists arriving to the country increased by 7.3 percent to a total of 1.5 million. Arrivals to the coastal city of Santa Marta increased by 5.8 in 2011.