In the News from Panama

Panama Spending $300 Million to Boost Tourism

Panama is ready to commit $300 million to promote tourism throughout the country, as part of an ambitious plan to focus on sustainable tourism. The main goal is to rework Panama’s visitor economy over the next five years to focus on “communities and the environment at the center of tourism’s future growth and benefits,” according to a comprehensive new article in Skift, a publication covering the global travel industry. 

The ambitious plan looks to highlight nature and culture-based tourism, targeting travelers who may not have considered Panama in the past.

“Now we know there’s an opportunity to attract this demand, to bring in dollars to the country, but at the same time preserving our nature and our culture with involvement of local communities and helping to improve the lives and well being of communities,” Panama’s minister of tourism, Ivan Eskildsen, told Skift.

As the article notes, tourism is still a relatively untapped resource for the country. While it has always been a popular destination, we’ve barely scratched the surface of its potential, given the country’s natural beauty. Many people around the world only think of Panama as the “country with the Canal.”

“We are a country that says we have a canal, and we’ve had a booming panama real estate industry for years and the financial services sector — tourism, it’s the first time that there’s a master plan and it’s the first time the government, with the cabinet and president, has formally approved a master plan,” Eskildsen said. “So this is the first time that tourism becomes state policy, and we’re actually moving forward with a sustainable tourism master plan.”  

Last year was supposed to be a big year for Panama tourism, “with the appointment of a new minister of tourism … and the launch of a first-ever destination marketing organization for Panama, PROMTUR.” 

“But that didn’t stop the country from playing catch up in boosting its economy and transforming its image — through tourism,” the writer points out.

Panama’s plan was developed with input from locally established non-governmental organizations, as well as international conservation groups, according to the article. The program embraces “community-based tourism” and makes 10 indigenous communities into tourism destinations.

“What is new about their approach is really trying to map biodiversity assets, community and cultural and historical assets with market and interest from the market, and I think taking a holistic approach to that, and then saying — OK, what are the barriers to entry, how do we help communities, how do we help develop tourism routes and clusters and these kinds of things,” Jamie Sweeting, president of Planeterra, told Skift. “Sometimes the market needs a bit of a helping hand.”

Panama’s new slogan for the branding platform is “Vive por mas” or “Live for More.” The new plan could be a model for the region, focusing more on the local communities and nature, Skift notes.

“Panama: Live for More” Video: