Over 849, 499 people visited Panama during the first five months of 2011, providing $ 769 million to the national economy.
This is an increase of 12%. The numbers of visitors that arrived through ports via cruise ships, through the border at Paso Canoas and through airports, provided an additional $69 million compared to same period last year.
These figures, according to the Panamanian Tourism Authority, should go a long way towards the ambitious goal of attracting more than 2 million tourists this year. Over $6 million has been set aside for international marketing campaigns to help reach this goal.
Despite these encouraging figures, many wonder if the proposed objective can actually be achieved by the end of 2011.
Experts in the tourism sector see this number as high, and although they recognize that it will be a difficult goal to achieve, they say that it is not impossible.
Annette Cárdenas, President of the Chamber of Tourism (CAMTUR), said that there was an increase in the number of people entering Panama, numbers which are being distributed amongst the new hotel facilities in the domestic market.
It was thought that the goal of reaching 2 million visitors was aggressive; however, it can be achieved through advertising, trade fairs and conventions which are thought to be significant factors in the early numbers this year.
He stated that an important factor was an increase in the number of seats available on flights coming into the country, on both new and existing routes.
"The number of rooms in hotels is already increasing and that, of course, is increasing in number of seats available to the tourists," he said.
Ernesto Orillac, Adviser to the ATP tour, said that the country is well on track to achieving the desired results.
He added that last year, tourist spending amounted to 2.5 trillion dollars and that, this year, the number is expected to grow to 2.7 trillion dollars.
He indicated that factors such as an increase in the number of congresses and conventions, aided by the global campaign, agreements with airlines, and direct charters to South America, as well as the growth in European visitors, expansion, and the improvement in the American economy will all help to achieve the objectives.
He added that negotiations for conferences and conventions between July and October, and events with large numbers of passengers, owe much to Panama’s position.
He indicated that, during September, an activity addressing climate change, which will bring together some 5 thousand people, will precede a conference which will be held in Kyoto, Japan.
The Expoturismo fair should also be noted as a key event.
Autor: Diamar Díaz Nieto