Cruises buoyed by 23% growth

Within the first eight months of the year 164,932 cruise passengers sailed into Panama, 30,492 more than in the same period in 2012, according to the latest report of the Comptroller General.

The document reveals that the ports are poised to recover from a setback in 2012, when two ships altered their route due to fuel costs, with the start of the cruise season that runs through April 2014.

In this year alone the Colón2000 port will receive 120 cruises, on par with the previous season. From December 2013 to January 2014, the port will receive 54 cruise ships, 27 each month. Travel agencies operating in Panama expect a greater influx of travelers during this season.

In this regard, Iris Díaz, Commercial Director of Panama Best Travel, commented that the cruise business is very profitable, and Panama's potential can be exploited to favor the economy. "We have yet to do more, as Panamanian families can be offered good options," said Díaz.

New Tours Agency commercial manager Silia Pedroza shares her view and argues that cruises are not just for vacation; they are chosen also for weddings, renewal of vows, the Latino version of Sweet Sixteen parties, and conventions.

ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES

Some of the boats bound for the Caribbean pulling out of Colón onFridays and Sundays are Pullmantour's Monarch, Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas, and Celebrity's Equinox. On their tour they will visit the ports of Cartagena, Aruba, La Guaira, Curaçao, and Colón.

Cruises from other parts of the continent will also pull into Colón, suchas Holland America's Zuiderdam, including a crossing of the Panama Canal in its tour, and the Infinity and Millenium of Celebrity Cruises.

Passengers on Island Cruises by Princess Cruises and the Zuiderdam, both sailing from Fort Lauderdale in the United States, will disembark at Amador, another important Panamanian port.

POINTS OF VIEW

Ernesto Orillac, Vice Minister of the Panama Tourism Authority, confirmed that port activity will soon intensify with the arrival of large-capacity ships.

According to Orillac, last year's figures were affected by the strategies of certain shipping lines that faced "long routes at a time of rising fuel costs, coupled with a drop in tours bought by Latin American travelers, who make up the bulk of revenue for these businesses".

Indeed, Alfredo Singh, associate business manager of Columbia Tours, asserts that cruises provide an interesting direct and indirect injection into the country's economy. "Tourists who see the sights and go shopping benefit various sectors, and in turn, many Panamanians," said Singh.

Source: www.laestrella.com.pa