In the context of this relevant event, Travel2latam spoke with Fernando Fondevilla, CEO of Promtur Panama, an organization that is responsible for the international promotion and marketing of Panama as a destination for all tourism segments and products.
What are the news that Panama has regarding infrastructure, connectivity, cruises, ports?
We continue to create the conditions to make Panama an ideal destination in this case for conferences, conventions and incentive trips. We have connectivity through the Tocumén International Airport, which is the best connected airport in the region, with about 90 flight destinations, that is, we cover South America, Central America, the Caribbean, North America, Europe and Asia with flights in a convenient and with multiple frequencies and schedules, and we fly to more cities than any other airline or through another nearby hub. In addition, we have a wide hotel offer in Panama that continues to grow, we now have luxury properties that enhance all the offer and value that Panama can have, which allows there to be business opportunities for all those looking for a hotel for different purposes. needs.
Furthermore, yesterday a new flight began to Barquisimeto in Venezuela, being the fifth city covered in Venezuela, but already the United States market which is the main issuing market for Panama where we have extensive coverage. We also have new direct Copa flights between Panama and Austin, Texas; and Panama through the offer that Copa Airlines is placing on the market. Another is the case of Iberia, which has also been adding and planning more capacity to generate more international visitors.
What is the current situation of leisure tourism and also meeting tourism?
As we know that leisure tourism is the great reactivator after the pandemic, but we are also very focused on generating traffic or international visits for tourism in the meetings industry. In that sense, in the month of June we launched two key, unprecedented initiatives for Panama, which complement the program to attract incentive events that we had already launched. Since October 2021, we launched a program to seek to attract more conferences by providing the event with an incentive in logistics, transportation, and emblematic tourist experience, that is, we help the event to be highlighted, we also manage to reduce the cost to the organizer, and the event wins added values. But also, two high-impact strategic actions that we have launched this year, one is the Ambassadors program, called Associative Leaders; There are 22 trained leaders of industry organizations to whom we are giving the tools so that they can be our extended arms to attract more international events, because they are already part of an association, an organization, and they help us transmit that message of the advantage that Panama has.
The other action or a new step that we take with respect to the meetings industry is to create the Panama Associations Hub, together with the public and private sector, all the conditions for non-governmental organizations to establish themselves in Panama as a regional office, allowing to increase that connection between that office and its associates at the world level. And when there are congresses and events in the future, all the conditions are in place so that they see Panama as their option to carry out their next congress or convention, this is a great step for Panama and Latin America, because we have done it together with ICCA; We are the only regional strategic partner for Latin America, as a gateway for knowledge, development and social and economic impact of the region.
What impact has the new convention center had?
It has implemented a series of strategies and let's say actions towards sustainability such as reducing energy consumption; They have wallpapered the entire building with reflective paper that helps it not receive as much heat, so there is less air conditioning and energy consumption. Plastic containers were eliminated, that is, if you are going to offer containers for water or coffee or general drinks, they cannot be made of plastic, only recycled material; They also made an important change in everything related to lighting, reducing the amount of lumens consumed; and several important practices are carried out that seek to make the building more efficient, always taking care of the environment so that there is less pollution and a lower impact. In general, the Convention Center has had a very positive performance, during the first years of operations, especially last year, they exceeded the goals, and with the programs to attract international events we offer the Convention Center with a capacity of up to 24,000 people, using almost 33,000 square meters in total. Just last week we already had full capacity in use with two events at the same time, so we are very motivated with the results we see and we simply have to continue promoting to keep it that way.
How have the results been in terms of the leisure area?
As of June we already had one million 300,000 visitors and we aim to have close to 2.3 million this year. So we are going in the right direction to achieve the goal, mainly the countries that have shown the most growth are the United States and Argentina in what is America, and then in Europe there was growth in Spain and Germany, the difference is that let's say in Spain and Germany the stays are longer.
But we continue working on decentralizing tourism so that they visit more and learn more about our country, thus generating the economic impact and social development to reach more places in the country. This is part of our goal and we are achieving it, for example we have seen growth in areas well known for contact with nature such as the Antón Valley in the western area of the country, Bocas del Toro which is the Caribbean has also grown and It is our archipelago with one of the most beautiful beaches.
What is the situation of cruise ships?
The cruise season began in September and runs until approximately the end of March. The port of Amador is the new cruise port that is in the capital city at the entrance to the Panama Canal in a privileged area with great views and just a few minutes away. from the city center, and is already operating with the capacity to receive two large cruise ships. We also have an attraction in what are mega yachts or micro cruises that are of course smaller scale, but they have very special itineraries that require staying longer and logically they are of an even higher socioeconomic level because they go in families and smaller groups.