Shamah and a representative of the international company HPC-Contrata-P&V, S.A. Consortium signed the contract for construction of this project, considered the most important presidential campaign promise to be fulfilled within the tourism sector.
The building work, which will require an investment of $193.7 million dollars, will permit the arrival of a massive volume of visitors coming from international markets, and will position Panama as the most competitive event center in Latin America.
The new convention center will be located in Amador, a major center for tourist development, right next to Gehry's upcoming museum. It will be multi-use and will have the capacity for events with up to 20,000 people. The center will feature a theater, exhibit hall and other attractions, and it will be equipped with cutting edge technology.
With the aim of increasing the country's tourism attractions, a few months ago the ATP began to position Panama as a destination for events and conferences. They also launched the promotion of free events at the Atlapa Convention Center, which has generated over 100,000 hotel nights for the tourism sector.
"The goal is to manage to sell some 400,000 nights in hotel rooms by the end of 2014," said Shamah.
The Atlapa for Free promotion assisted in landing 62 conferences in 2011, and 70 more are already confirmed for 2012. This initiative has also been influential in succeeding in passing the country's total of two million tourists last year, a goal that was not projected to be met until 2014, reported Shamah.
During the conference held to render accounts, the ATP administrator mentioned some of the campaigns, programs and initiatives that have earned Panama the recognition of topping the New York Times' list of the hottest destinations in 2012.
The ATP has developed innovative strategies, such as free tourist insurance (valid for a period of 30 days upon the tourist's arrival in Panama), participation in international fairs, campaigns to promote domestic tourism, alliances with private enterprise and sponsorship of sporting events that generate revenue and tourism for the country.
Large events to promote tourism have been held recently, such as the City Carnival 2012, which featured the participation of 800,000 people and attracted 20,000 tourists. Other events include the Parade of a Thousand Polleras, 1st Afrofestival of Panama, Iron Man 2012, International Film Festival and the Festival of All Festivals, which turned the city of Chitré into a cultural center of dances and traditions.
Stop Over, the campaign to attract passengers in transit to stay in Panama, has also been a success, said Shamah. Through this promotion, there has been a 35% increase in travelers who stay over since the program's launch in May of 2011.
Additional initiatives, such as the elimination of the requirement to hold a tourist card to enter Panama, improvements in local and international connectivity and an increase in the number of commercial and charter flights from Europe, Asia, North and South America, have permitted the tourism sector to maintain above 2 digit growth rates and to have an annual increase in tourist spending, which last year reached nearly $2 billion dollars ($1,928,000,000).
As such, the president of the National Tourism Council, Jaime Campuzano, who was also present at the conference, recognized the successful management of the ATP and praised the joint work that this institution has developed with private enterprise.
The Minister Shamah was accompanied at the conference by the Deputy Administrator Ernesto Orillac, the Secretary General Gabriela Antelo, the Director of Planning Yadira Gonzalez and the Chair of the Carnival 2013 Support Committee María del Carmen Ríos, among other managers and staff of the institution.