In the News from Panama

Forbes: Panama Ready for Its ‘Moment’

A new article published by the prestigious Forbes magazine concludes Panama is having its “moment” on the international stage, which “could change Latin American real estate and hospitality forever.”

Real estate and travel correspondent Peter Lane Taylor explores many different aspects of Panama’s history and beauty to capture many parts of the country that others miss. 

“Few countries are more misconstrued—or more perfectly poised for a 2.0 re-invention—than Panama,” he concludes. “If you believe that ‘if you build it they will come” applies as much to capital as it does to real estate, Panama’s tipping point is approaching far faster than anyone anticipated.”

His description of flying into Panama City for the first time is classic. Many of us can relate to his reaction.

“Panama City… looks like Miami when you fly into it,” he writes. “Gleaming, glass high rises scrape at the clouds on the precipice of the Pacific Ocean.” 

Many of the buildings are home to banks, international law firms, and global corporate headquarters. “The rest,” Taylor writes. “sequester Latin America’s rich-and-famous in plush penthouses who’ve made fortunes in Venezuela, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, and Colombia in mining, textiles, and manufacturing, but long ago realized that Panama was the best place to park their money to protect it from the next unstable dictator or currency devaluation in their home countries.”

That’s a great description of Panama City. He also captures the essence of the foundation of Panam’s economy. He points to two of Panama’s critical assets that have historically positioned the country for success. The first is, of course, the Panama Canal. The second factor is that the country’s official currency is the U.S. dollar, which provides financial stability.

Where there is financial stability in emerging markets, multinational corporations tend to follow,” Taylor writes. “So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s paying attention that most of the world’s largest companies like Halliburton (energy), Mexico’s Cemex (the world’s largest cement producer), Copa Airlines (Latin America’s largest airline), Proctor & Gamble and Hyundai have found Panama to be a corporate panacea, offering a high quality of life, low taxes, and a central, strategic location with direct access to Latin America’s 400 million consumers.”

In addition, ”financial stability and first-world infrastructure” have  made it “a haven for capital flight from other Latin American countries, which in turn has inspired a series of development booms over the past two decades that’s poised Panama City and islands like Contadora and Bocas del Toro to become one of the next hottest international real estate markets in the world.”

Taylor primarily focuses on his trip to Contadora Island, which is part of the Pearl Islands archipelago. As Taylor relates, the islands, accessible by ferry from Punta Pacifica, are a relatively undiscovered gem with a rich history.

“If you could somehow fuse Aspen, Palm Beach, and the Hamptons together and stamp it with a Panamanian passport, Isla Contadora is what you’d get when it comes to a Latin American who’s who,” Taylor notes. “Outside Panama, however, few people even know this place exists.”

You can read more about his adventures on Contadora, but we can’t let it slide that he also compares Panama to Costa Rica, its primary tourism rival. While it’s sad to admit it, he correctly notes that Panama hasn’t been doing enough to compete on the international stage, given all its attributes and financial advantages.

“Compared to Costa Rica to the north, which has been Central America’s go-to for ex-pats, retirees, and adventure seekers for more than three decades thanks to great marketing, Panama so far has done a C- grade job of telling its own story,” Taylor writes. It may be cutting, but it’s true. But that also spotlights the opportunity.

“If you compared Panamá to a baseball game, Costa Rica is already in the bottom of the ninth inning,” Taylor writes, while Panama is “still in the early innings and the sky is the limit.”

Read the full article here