Panama’s growing tourism business is about to get another shot of adrenaline. The Tourism Ministry has announced plans to debut a new $20 million campaign by the end of the year to promote Panama.
The campaign will focus on the United States, Europe and South America, Tourism Minister Gustavo Him told attendees of the 2nd Regional Hotel Industry and Tourism Conference in Panama City. All the regions will be hearing from Panama for the first time in many months, after a series of issues dampened Panama’s promotional efforts.
“We have great hopes for that campaign because we’re going to move from having zero promotion to having a full campaign,” Him told the conference, according to media reports. “The change has got to be noteworthy. We believe that next year’s going to be better than this one.”
A contract was awarded to a U.S. company in August, after months of discussion and complaints about lack of action to promote tourism. The campaign’s goal is to boost visitors from a healthy 2.4 million tourists a year to 3 million.
The hotel industry will be particularly grateful for the new campaign. A surge in new construction has resulted in a glut of hotel rooms. That means bargain room rates for travelers, but occupancy rates have fallen to close to 50 percent.
“Panama has a lot to sell and very good tourist offerings, but if you don’t communicate, you don’t sell anything,” said Sara Pardo, the president of Apatel, Panama’s hotel association, according to coverage in the Costa Rica Star.
Pardo disputes that there is an oversupply of rooms. The hotel industry was simply responding to promises that the government would continue to promote tourism in the future. “What’s happened is that it was thought we’d have greater tourist development and we haven’t had that,” she said. “But I think that we can recover from the dropoff.”
Demand has remained strong, despite the lack of formal promotion. Any bump in official tourism promotion will certainly be equally good news for the real estate industry. Tourism is always a leading indicators of sales. More tourism means more people exploring Panama and falling in love with the beauty and economic opportunity.