Panama targeting tourists further afield

Gustavo Him

1,343Views 6Comments Posted 28/04/2018

Economic and political factors have impacted the flow of tourists to Panama from traditional supply centers in Latin America and the country is looking to China, Canada, the United States and Europe to plug the gap.

In January and February  Panama , a destination for shopping, beaches, and congresses, received some 484,006 people, while in 2017 they were 492,096, a fall of 1.6 percent, according to preliminary figures.

The decline has been blamed on lower arrivals from Colombia and Venezuela.

Gustavo Him administrator of the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP), told Acan-Efe news agency that the decrease in travelers from Colombia and Venezuela is due in largely to the depreciation of the Colombian peso against the dollar -which makes Panama more expensive- and political issues in the case of Venezuela.

He reasoned that one of the reasons for the loss of travelers could be that last October the  Panamanian Government included Venezuela in the list of countries whose citizens require a  stamped visa stamped to enter.

In 2017  some 218,920 Colombians and 213,062 Venezuelans entered Panama through  Tocumen International Airport.

"Venezuela was the second most important country for visitors (...) we are not receiving around 60,000 people in these three months, "said  Him.

[Panama’s recent diplomatic spat with Venezuela, leading to the shutting down of Copa Airlines flights, will not have improved the flow].

Given this situation, Panama has chosen to target other visitors with greater purchasing power.

He commented that there are great expectations with the new diplomatic relationship with China and that the goal this year is to attract some 50,000 nationals of the Asian country and 150,000 in 2019.

It is a great challenge for Panama taking into account that in 2017 22,000 Chinese people arrived in the country, a tiny number compared to the more than 100 million who travel abroad every year in search of culture, shopping, and gastronomic experiences.

Him said that one of the ATP strategies is the construction of a cruise port at the entrance in  Amador, on the banks of the Panama Canal. whose

The $165 million development is in the hands of a Chinese-Belgian consortium and is expected to be ready by the end of 2019.

"We want to sell the route" Ocean to Ocean "to the cruise ships he said.

Tourism represents around 10 percent of Panama's gross domestic product (GDP). In 2017, some 2.5 million visitors entered, generating income of  $4.45.billion, 5.5% more than the previous year