Interview Lorena Fábrega, Business Development director at PROMTUR Panama
Visit Latin America: How do you anticipate the end of the crisis and the return of international tourism?
Access to the vaccine is a key factor for the return of the economic contribution that tourism represented at the global level, but this does not mean that a particular destination, like Panama, cannot enjoy its beaches in both oceans, its wild nature and its open spaces to reactivate and position itself in the short term.
Panama already has a potential date for the re-opening to international tourism, next October 12th , we are optimistic and eager to implement the actions that we have designed and developed to give confidence to visitors and offer them a holiday in extraordinary places.
According to the market research we conducted in May in target markets, travelers from neighboring countries, such as Colombia and Costa Rica, are likely to be the first to visit us. This is why the first marketing efforts are focused on the Americas continent, but we know that there is a market in Europe that is interested in our offer, an offer that we are going to make known even more.
We are working to strengthen our image with factors that differentiate Panama from other competitive destinations, such as active nature; accessibility of a wide variety of products near hotels, such as paradisiacal beaches in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the large contrast between the virgin and the tropical jungle that surround the majestic engineering structure of the Panama Canal; the easy accessibility of our country by short and direct flights and a valuable cultural, natural and gastronomic heritage to explore as well.
VLA: Last August, the reopening of international flights from Panama City was announced. What routes are resumed and what specific protocols affect passengers and airlines?
In fact, the Operations and International Interconnection Control Center (connecting flights to other destinations) was installed at Tocumen International Airport in August, this allows the entry of nationals and residents in Panama, without the need of humanitarian flights.
As part of this measure, the Panamanian airline Copa Airlines has announced the partial reactivation of its operations of 15 US and Latin American destinations covering Miami, New York, Washington, Orlando, Mexico, Cancun, San Jose-Costa Rica, Santo Domingo-Republic Dominican, Quito, Guayaquil, Sao Paulo, Santiago de Chile, Montevideo-Uruguay, Buenos Aires and Panama.
Most of the airlines operating in the country will keep Panama among their main destinations when the restrictions on arrivals and departures of international flights are lifted, that is to say from October 12. During the first weeks after reopening, they will have a daily frequency from major cities in the Americas and twice a week from other continents, then they will increase frequencies according to passengers demand.
REOPENING OF TOURIST ACTIVITIES FROM 12th of OCTOBER
Based on the evolution of COVID-19, the National Government of Panama has announced the Current Plan for the National Reopening which provides the opening of businesses and the industry as well as borders and the arrival of international tourists, from October 12th.
Tourists will be able to:
- Move freely 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (with mask and physical distancing).
- Access hotels, motels, rural inns, accommodation and complementary services.
- Access to tourism, leisure and tourist transport activities.
- Take advantage of the creative and cultural industries, music and art academies.
- Access libraries and swimming pools.
For now, other areas of interest to tourists remain without a defined opening date, such as:
- Cinemas, theaters, museums, galleries and closed-structure tourist sites.
- Sports halls, children’s entertainment venues, casinos, bars, gardens, nightclubs and others.
- Congresses, concerts, fairs, professional meetings, carnivals, parades, processions and other high-concentration activities.
Soon the Ministry of Health (MINSA) will communicate the protocols for tourists and connecting travelers in the country and will be available on the website www.visitpanama.com.
VLA: The Panama Tourism Authority recently announced the creation of the National Chamber of Indigenous Tourism (CANATURI), what will be its role and what type of actions will it take?
In July 2020, the National Chamber of Indigenous Tourism of Panama (CANATURI) was created, an organizational structure that integrates indigenous peoples formed by associations, cooperatives, businesses and communities, focused on indigenous tourism in Panama.
One of the main objectives of CANATURI is to promote the sustainable indigenous tourism sector, both locally and internationally; to strengthen and preserve the cultural and natural heritage, main aspects of the indigenous tourism, and to put pressure on the State to support the Tourism Master Plan and that its programs contribute to the improvement of indigenous tourism in Panama. You can learn more about CANATURI at our Experience Panama Expo, September 25-27. https://www.panacamara.com/experiencepanamaexpo/.
VLA: The Virtual Tourism Expo will be held from September 25th to 27th with the aim of reviving the sector. Can you tell us more how the event will take place and the content of the event?
The first virtual tourism fair “Experience Panama Expo” is an international exhibition designed to show the world what Panama has to offer, highlighting our vision of sustainable tourism, with a sector ready to participate in the economic recovery.
The commercial exchange platform is designed so that tour operators and event organizers can find out about the destination has to offer; it brings together 180 local tourism providers and a series of conferences and exchanges between experts on the natural and cultural heritage, innovation and sustainability of Panama. In addition, the meeting will also serve as a training and good practice update exercise where local participants will apply according to biosafety and sustainability certification standards.
During the Virtual Experience Panama Expo, the summit of the Ministers of Tourism of Central America and the Dominican Republic will also be held, whose main theme will be: “Natural and cultural heritage: the key to promote sustainable tourism and the development of the economy in the region ”.
One of the objectives of the fair is to energize one of the main economic sectors of the country, attracting tourists so that the entire value chain benefits: from airlines and city hotels to artisans and indigenous communities from within the country.
VLA: What message do you want to send to Panamenian and foreign tourism professionals?
Tourism is an ecosystem that involves not only the sector, but also the culture and communities themselves of the destinations. Given the needs of the rapidly recovering economy and travelers, we are working together to ensure that the general population understands the importance and impact of this industry: visitors inject money into our economy and permeate the whole value chain. For every dollar invested in destination marketing, around US $ 4 in taxes and US $ 140 in travel expenses can be collected (see Digital Forum: JMT’s Role as a Social and Economic Development Platform for the Panama https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JbNmDP0g4U&t=16s).
Panama is and will continue to be the land, air and sea hub. We will take advantage of our central geographical position, our first-rate hotel infrastructure, our convention centers and the accessibility to various tourist, natural and cultural attractions which are a short distance from the airport.
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