A solid business relationship is developing between Panama and the wealthy Middle East emirate of Dubai, which could have long term implications for Panama City’s real estate market.
Dubai is a natural partner for Panama. The fast-growing emirate is known for its industry, tourism and tall buildings, which attract a vibrant international clientele, just like Panama City. (And Panama City’s most iconic building, the sail-like Trump Ocean Club in Panama City, looks an awfully lot like Dubai’s iconic hotel, the sail-like Burj al Arab, some observers note.)
More importantly, Dubai wealth is based in large part on international trade (sister emirate Abu Dhabi controls oil fields, not Dubai). As Dubai has grown, it has focused a large chunk of its capital and resources on ports and trade. As the Panama Canal grows and more international corporations develop headquarters in Panama City, Dubai is clearly taking more interest in what is happening in Panama.
Representatives of the Dubai Investment Development Agency (Dubai FDI), an agency of the Department of Economic Development (DED), recently visited Panama City and Mexico to strengthen ties and explore new opportunities. The tour was part of the United Arab Emirates’ “growing focus on the Americas as a major source market for investment and trade into the UAE,” according to media reports in the Middle East.
“Our visit was aimed at expanding our coverage of the strategic markets across the Americas and enabling investors and businesses in Mexico and Panama to make the best use of remaining connected with the UAE, particularly Dubai,” said Fahad Al Gergawi, chief executive officer.
In Panama City, the Dubai officials focused on Panama’s role as a strategic logistics hub. “Dubai’s expanding free zones and Dubai Maritime City present further opportunities for collaboration as its flagship registry and free zones have played a lead role in making Panama the second largest economy in Central America,” Al Gergawi told reporters.
It’s certainly not a coincidence that Dubai airline Emirates Airline announced plans in August to launch the longest regularly scheduled non-stop flight in the world– 17 hours and 35 minutes; 13,821 kilometers—from Dubai to Panama City. In December, Emirates was actively promoting the route, offering discounted fares under $2,000 for the flights, which start in February.
The Panama City service is the first “gateway” flight to Central America for the airline and will use Panama City to connect travelers to more than “25 cities across the Caribbean, Central and South America with Copa Airlines,” the airline notes.
Panama City will provide “a convenient option for our passengers travelling from or through our global hub in Dubai and onward to destinations throughout Central America, the Caribbean and the northern part of South America,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline & Group, in a statement.
For Panama City real estate, Dubai is a huge untapped market. Middle East buyers and renters make up only a small percentage of the activity, at this point, but that could change. There is a large population of wealthy, active international real estate investors in Dubai—both Emirati and the other nationalities who live and work in Dubai, where 80 percent of the population are expats.
As ties grow between Dubai and Panama City, it’s only logical that traffic from the UAE will add another important source of buyers and renters in the property market. Punta Pacifica is an obvious destination, offering the type of luxury skyscraper neighborhood with top end amenities that will make Dubai’s wealthy clientele feel right at home.