Within the framework of the event specialized in meeting tourism, IMEX Frankfurt 2023, Travel2latam had the opportunity to talk with Fernando Fondevila President of Promtur, Tourism Promotion Entity of Panama, about the post-pandemic recovery, world of events and conventions, goals for next years, connectivity and emerging markets.
What is the state of tourism in Panama, after one more year leaving the pandemic behind?
From Tourism Panama we close 2022 with very positive news. We take specific indicators from our region, and one of them is the positioning of the tourism brand "Panama, Live for More", which continues to advance in the face of a highly competitive market and we present growth of interest from the segments that most seek a destination like Panama. Therefore, by the year 2025 we hope to occupy the fourth position in the ranking of cities in other countries with which we compete in terms of tourism branding. "Panamá, Vive por más", has been launched for a little less than two years with an innovative program that tells the culture, history, biodiversity and authentic nature of Panama and that connects with the values of conscious travelers, who seek self-discovery and transformation. .
The other and no less important indicator is the economic impact of all the actions we carry out, that is, the strategic alliances with airlines, global tour operators, online travel agencies, and also the actions of the Recruitment Program of International Events within the industry of meetings, congresses, conventions and incentives. We had set a goal that all these actions and alliances would generate a direct economic impact of 1.5 trillion dollars and we managed to exceed it by 21% at 1.8 trillion dollars, so it was a very positive year in that sense.
Have they reached the 2019 numbers or are they still working towards it?
To a large extent this should be a year of full recovery, however, almost all the main tourism indicators were achieved in 2022 compared to 2019. The goal of international visitors was 1.8 million and we achieved 1 million 945 thousand, so we went above the goal, so this year we expect between 2.4 and 2.2 million international visitors.
In addition, regarding the important management that Promtur does, evaluated by the tourism industry in Panama, we set a goal of 70% and achieved 73% satisfaction from the industry. Therefore, by 2025 we seek to reach at least 75%.
Who makes up that fan of the industry?
Hotels, tour operators, travel agencies and tour guides, that is, we invite the entire value chain to evaluate Promtur's management, which somehow benefits all of us in the country. That is why the database is quite broad and includes the tourism industry and also other private sector industries, which somehow connect with tourism promotion and can evaluate Promtur's management.
Are there new strategic alliances implemented from Promtur?
From Panama we are preparing for the 2023-2024 high season and obviously we are very active and attentive generating and seeking strategic alliances. We are currently implementing and also continuing alliances that we had already implemented between 2021 and 2022, and we are focusing on those that have generated the greatest return for management and the country.
Regarding the use of meetings, we have made a specific change, and we have a Directorate solely dedicated to the meetings industry. Therefore, this working group seeks to touch the associative and corporate segments to rescue the best number of international events to Panama and also, we keep the International Incentive and Recruitment Program active.
Last year we closed with 83 events that we had managed to capture so that they were held for the first time in Panama, with more than 34 thousand visitors who came to the country as a result of those events, with an average stay of 4 or 5 days, and obviously the tourist who If you come to the country for a meeting, you also want to know the leisure tourism part after attending the event, so beyond coming to hold a congress or convention, the visitor can learn about and enjoy other cultural, historical, and natural attributes of Panama. .
What are the main markets for Panama?
Yes, we remain focused on a promotion in nine countries that represent the historical 54% of our visitors: United States, Canada, Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, France and Germany. The universe of conscious travelers in these nine countries is more than 500 million, and they are people who connect with our sustainable tourism strategy, with Panama as a destination for self-discovery and regenerative tourism.
What do you consider new emerging markets?
Regarding emerging markets, the meetings tourism industry is giving us the opportunity to touch some markets that we probably had not been actively promoting, we have achieved a unique alliance that leads us to be one of the leaders in conventions and associative congresses, being the only partner for the Latin American region. So that opens the space for us beyond those nine countries and takes us globally.
Today we are at IMEX Frankfurt and obviously Europe represents an important emerging market for Panama, beyond Spain, France and Germany there are other countries that are showing more and more interest such as the Netherlands and Italy, and even Germany has a great opportunity for development in the destination Panama. We are also well connected, since we have flights from several airlines with multiple frequencies to Panama and that makes it even more accessible for leisure and business tourism.
Has connectivity in terms of airlines grown?
In 2022 we achieved 93% of the air capacity of 2019, so it can already be said that it is recovered, and so far this year there are new routes that are being opened. We are going to have flights to other cities in the United States such as Austin and Baltimore that are now connected with a single flight to Panama. In addition, Europe continues to be a market where airlines that were already flying are adding capacity. For example, this year Iberia arranged a daily flight between Madrid and Panama, connecting with the rest of Europe. KLM maintains a daily flight, Air France also increased capacity and finally we have Turkish Airlines, which is the airline with the most frequencies, since it increased the weekly frequencies to Panama to 10.
Regarding building infrastructure, are there new projects in terms of hotels and tourism?
There are two new hotels in the old town, one is the La Compañía hotel, from the Hyatt chain, and in December the Sofitel Legend was inaugurated, in a historic building in the old town that has more than 100 years of history. a property that obviously goes to a specific market niche, but also presents the opportunity for incentive trips and other types of meetings to take place right there. Sofitel Legend is located right next to the National Theater of Panama and has a view of the entire Bay, the old part and also the cosmopolitan city.