IF YOU ARE looking for a hotel room in Panama you will be in for a pleasant surprise with room rates plummeting as hotel occupancy falls 10.8 percent.
The Tourism Authority of Panama has revealed that the occupancy rate of hotels in the first eight months of the year was 47.8 percent, an unhealthy situation for the industry and 10.8 percent lower than that reported during the same period of 2015.
In the capital city there are more than 18,000 hotel rooms, of which some 5,000 were built between 2009 and 2013.
The increase in rooms combined with a decrease in visitors has led to the higher vacancy rates.
As of August, Panama had received 1.7 million visitors, a decline of 1 percent from the same period last year, partly brought on by currency devaluation in Colombia and a drastic decline in visitors from Brazil, beset with its own problems.
Faced with these challenges and pressured by the increase in private apartments offered as public accommodations without the regulatory permits, and with apartment owners paying no taxes on their illegal activities, hotels have moved to reduce their rates.
It is estimated that the average price in the capital city has fallen by more than 30 percent, and a room that three years was rented at $150 can today be rented for less than $100, and bargains abound.
To counter the decline, hotels have slashed services offered to guests, such as free internet and free breakfast.
A brighter piece of news for the national economy is that tourist spending has increased, topping just over $3 billion in the first eight months of the year, an increase of $126 million from the same period in 2015.
But the days when finding a hotel room in Panama city was a challenge, are long gone, along with the sometimes gouging prices.