Panama continues to position itself as a unique destination to visit and it was demonstrated at FITUR. With an innovative proposal, the American country showed its full potential and we talked with Fernando Fondevila, CEO of PROMTUR Panama, to learn about the expectations and objectives for 2023.
I would like you to give me a comment on what you have experienced here at FITUR.
It is the essential appointment that should not be missed as a country, as a market organization of the destination. So Panama is present at the 43rd edition of FITUR, we are very pleased with the preliminary results. First, a little about the stand or what the Panama stand represents this year: we have worked on its construction so that it has approximately 80% recycled material or sustainable material, so it came with our Master Plan for sustainable tourism. The stand perfectly represents all of our heritage: the historical cultural heritage, the green heritage that tells the story of biodiversity and the unique nature of Panama, the blue heritage that speaks of the two oceans, the wonder of marine wealth and our beaches. paradisiacal It is interactive because surely you have had the opportunity to experience tourist visits in real time, that is what we have done differently during the three days. The fair is only open to buyers or business relationships as strategic partners, so we want them to finish incorporating Panama into their vacation catalogues.
They can interact with certified guides who have talked about the tourist area of Amador, the old town of Panama, we have finished that day of sightseeing in the Metropolitan National Park with great views of what nature is, but with the great contrast with the framework of modern buildings that has the capital city of Panama. Later, we have made visits to the western part of the country, to Chiriquí, we were in Boquete and we told the story of our Flower Fair that started and is basically a show because logically. Tour operators were shown to realize that Panama is much more than a canal, more than shopping, more than a cosmopolitan city.
We were also showing part of the Pacific Riviera. We show Portobello which is in the Panamanian Caribbean, to the north in the province of Colón and to the north of Ciudad Capital. So, starting from there, this is innovative and an immersive experience because the tour guides not only talk about the attractions that Panama has to offer, but those present can also ask the tour guides questions live. The way in which we have been marketing and promoting Panama has been very positive.
Within these tourist experiences we have reinforced a new product that is the thousand kilometers of trails, an initiative carried out by the Panama Tourism Authority and what it seeks is to align the expectations of that international visitor who seeks open spaces, who seeks transformation, who seeks a different experience from the authentic and who sometimes wants to move from the part of a cosmopolitan city to learn more about the green, blue spaces of a destination. A lot of those trails tell the story of where the Crusades passed before they had the canal, so you're experiencing nature, history, and culture. Also,
All this makes the thousand kilometers of trails very attractive and different, added to the fact that we have just inaugurated the first 30 kilometers very close to the capital in the Anton Valley, which has been established around what is an extinct crater, but which has mountains. around them that tell a lot of history. So there are 30 kilometers of trails in five trails that you can ride while enjoying great views while.
We have been promoting this during FITUR this year, so it makes it more dynamic and different from what we usually promote. We brought in 18 vendors, we have a bigger booth, and those vendors have also interacted with a number of buyers. All of them come with their packages with their tourist offer to not only make new alliances or solidify the existing ones, but now the fair is open to the general public and there is an opportunity for them to also make their sales. The possibility of an upcoming visit by Spanish European tourists has definitely materialized or that those who visit us at FITUR will see Panama, they said to themselves and buy it.
Panama as the center of the world has the opportunity to capture greater connectivity from Europe, right?
During the year 2021 and, especially in 2022, we set ourselves the task of establishing strategic alliances with airlines, online travel agencies and world-class tourism operators. In the case of this continent we currently have an alliance with Iberia, we have a promotion or cooperation alliance with Air Europa and we also have an alliance with KLM and Air France. We are cooperating and supporting the restart of operations from Frankfurt to Panama with Lufthansa, Eurowings, Discovery. So all these alliances are coming to add to the promotion or marketing platform of our tourism brand. Panama does direct marketing to the final consumer in nine established countries that are a target audience of more than 54.55% of what has historically come to our country. What alliances do is empower, accelerate the arrival of international tourists due to the fact that, obviously, the airline also uses or places its resources in its direct, indirect channels or with the operators that work to create vacation packages. Even their magazines, their on-board videos, everything that is marketing elements is dressed with what is the content of Panama that is very aligned with the tourism master plan and the priority objectives or priority destinations. It has been very positive and in Europe frequencies to Panama have already increased. In addition, we have received the pleasant news that from the month of March, the flight with Iberia will be daily. All these products, all the joint effort between the marketing organization between the different providers in Panama and the airline, are giving results and they need more seats,
What reflection do you make about 2022 and what does the planning for this year cover?
The Strategic Plan of what is the framework of the international promotion of Panama has three important components. One is the marketing platform of our Panama tourism brand where we do direct marketing in all our channels to potential travelers. We want to continue to appeal to purpose travelers or conscious travelers.
The second critical component is the Sustainable Tourism Master Plan. We have to continue making sure that the brand promise or the promise of that destination that seeks to make an emotional connection with the traveler is really delivered in terms of services and products when they are already in the country. So, that is what the Tourism Master Plan seeks, to make sure that we have the infrastructure and that there is, let's say, an alignment between hotel restaurants, tour operators and other service providers in the industry. Everything so that the brand promise that we make to the potential traveler when they are already in Panamanian territory is fulfilled.
The third is that we have designed a three-year strategic plan to promote Panama as a marketing organization. Thus, we seek to focus in a direction that allows the actions to be aligned with the other two components that we talked about and that we do not lose that north of what we must achieve as a country between the public and private sectors. That is what the strategic plan is looking for among the key indicators that we are using.
To measure, they were first of all the positioning of the tourism brand of Panama at an international level, the second thing is the economic impact generated by all direct actions and strategic alliances. Social development is also important because we are making sure that what we offer from Panama is not only a capital city that has a lot to offer, but goes far and wide across the country so that small communities that have products can also receive part of that benefit from the economic branch. We are helping them in the training part, there is a foundation in which it was created, it is a platform called a social network and what it brings is digitization to small communities. It makes them more immersed in international promotion and in some way it is a tool for these communities to benefit from the promotion that Panama is doing. What he is also looking for is to take them on board digitization so that their product can be acquired by a demanding market and that is very digital due to the pandemic.
We estimate that in 2023 the volume of visitors will grow by approximately 30% of the visitors that we had in goal for 2022, which were 1.8 million international visitors. So we would be talking, with a more optimistic scenario, of 2.4 million plus less. It is still going up, but the important thing here is the message to rescue that the trends are still very positive.
2022 was an extremely positive year for Panama, a consolidation of the tourism offer, a consistent message from its tourism brand and all the products it has to offer. We were in all the priority markets in the 24/7 modality, 365 days a year and it represented that we will reach our goal of economic impact. The economic impact goal was $1.5 billion, and we exceeded it. Another important thing to remember is that they are staying longer in Panama. We have increased the average length of stay with all these alliances and marketing platform actions, which means that they spend more time in the country, spend more and contribute to sustained social development. So, it was a year of several very positive angles because we were able to lift the restrictions we had due to covid.
Finally, we closed a significant number of large events. More than 80 events, congresses, conventions that were closed and took place between 2021, 2022 and there are others insured for the next three years. The focus during 2023 will be to continue developing Panama as an ideal center in the region for congresses, conventions, events and incentive trips. In other words, the meetings industry is going to see Panama positioning itself and working in association with large organizations.