Panama aims to attract convention tourism through marketing program

The government of Panama hopes to increase tourism for conventions in its territory with the creation of the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), an entity designed to promote and develop the market for groups, conventions, and events in Panama.

Over the first half of 2013, the DMO has facilitated 52 business opportunities for national hotels, generating a total of 76,079 hotel nights. Already 52% of event organizers have chosen Panama to host their event, which could produce some $30 million in revenue for the Panamanian economy. The DMO will function like a nonprofit organization in a "public-private partnership," said Salo Shamah, General Manager of the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP).

The DMO is currently conformed by 7 ATP officials who measure the incidence of events in the country. According to their calculations, a conference attended by 100 people for 4 nights could generate U.S. $200,000, reasoning that 5 of such events could inject around U.S. $1,000,000 into the economy.

The group uses sales and marketing strategies integrated with the private tourism sector, government institutions, and the local community. Nathalie Tesone, advisor to the ATP, said the DMO assembles all the actors from public and private sectors onto the same team so as to more effectively attract and respond to the demands for these meetings from international markets.

Teamwork is the key to help clients save time and resources in their destination, and to quickly and effectively provide them with all the solutions to their needs. "With a single phone call, event organizers and international associations have access to information on every destination," declared Tesone.

Thus far in 2013 the DMO team has attended 8 international fairs specialized in this segment, where they have met with meeting planners and global groups that have a great potential to bring their events to Panama.

Experts point out that the meetings market is very diverse and Panama is taking advantage of this by offering niche markets such as religion, sports, medicine, entertainment, corporate, weddings, and others. Shamah added that Panama's geographical position, air connectivity, variety of hotel brands, and booming economy led the World Economic Forum to declare it as the top-ranking Latin American country in terms of competitiveness.

Tesone transfers this to the conventions market and noted that Panama is positioning itself internationally as a solid destination for congresses due to its easy access, thriving business community, tourist and events infrastructure, and major tourist attractions.