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A couple of articles on tourism in Panama and its contribution to our booming economy caught my eye.

Projected $2.5 billion from tourism in 2013

Tourism is expected to generate more than $2.5 billion for the Panamanian economy in 2013, the Panama Tourism Authority, or ATP, said.

“The revenues from tourism during 2013 are going to be above $2.5 billion. In tourist visits, I think we’re (at) 875,000 tourists, up to now, and estimates are that 2013 will close on the order of 2.2 million,” according to Salomon Shamah of the Panama Tourism Authority.

Panama’s geographic and economic positioning and the large investments to modernize and promote the country have allowed the tourist industry to experience “important growth,” he said.

Shamah added that this has helped make the isthmus into a “convention hub” and one of the “safest (tourist destinations) in the world.”

He said that air connectivity is the secret of success for any tourism business, given that tourists only arrive by plane, and the country is investing in maintaining and improving its air connections.

Panama has more than 16 direct flights daily from North America, more than 80 from the Caribbean, Central America and South America, and daily direct flights from Europe.

Regarding business tourism, Shamah said that the new Convention Center should be ready by the end of 2014 or the first quarter of 2015, and revenue projections in this sector are $40.5 million in 2013 from a total of 180 conventions, compared with 120 in 2012.

Panama continues expanding its role as the Hub of the Americas

Tocumen S.A. has released a new image [above] of how the Tocumen International Airport will look in 2016. The design of the Southern Concourse, to be built by the Brazilian construction giant Norberto Odebrecht, resembles that of a stealth jet, part of the United States’ “invisible” super-fighter fleet.

As the regional air hub grows, it is taking a first-world turn. Some $60 million were spent on the new Northern Concourse, which brought 12 more gates to Tocumen. In comparison, the Southern Concourse will cost $674 million, but will integrate a new highway from the Southern Corridor (Corredor Sur) to the airport, a new control tower and 8,000 square meters of duty free shopping.

When it is finished, Tocumen will boast 54 gates and be able to handle 18 million passengers, according to a statement. [THE VISITOR]

Panama’s Copa Airline flying high!

Panama’s Copa Airlines has been named the “Best Airline of Central America and the Caribbean,” by the aviation research company Sky Trax. It also received the award for the “Airline with the Best Cabin and Airport Personnel in Central America and the Caribbean” which recognizes the good customer service it offers not only in the planes, but also at airports.
The “World Airline Awards” are considered the most prestigious of the industry and they are a global reference of excellence in airlines. Skytrax obtain these results through a survey in which millions of passengers of different nationalities are interviewed in some 14 regions of the world. This study evaluates the travel experience and measures 35 aspects of customer satisfaction. More than 200 airlines, from the smallest to the biggest are evaluated in this survey which takes 10 months to completed.

And Air France, partner with KLM, has just announced direct flights from Paris to Panama City. Already KLM is doing well with almost daily flights direct from Amsterdam. Now if we could only get direct flights to the US from David!

Now . . . get this!  Sportfishing Adds $97 million to Panama’s Economy and could reach $776 million

A report released today by The Billfish Foundation (TBF) reveals that sportfishing has been a major factor in attracting tourists to Panama providing a valuable fishing-based economic lift to the country. In 2011 (most recent data), 86,250 visitors fished in Panama. Those anglers and the rest of their travel companions spent $97 million on charter boats, fuel, food, lodging, and other related expenses. The number of anglers visiting Panama has doubled from 2001 to 2011 and the surge could only be the beginning, provided that fishing remains great and consumers are made aware of it. For every U.S. angler that has visited the country, eight more are interested in Panama as a fishing destination. If each interested angler was enticed into visiting, it could translate into an additional $776 million for the Panamanian economy. The study, entitled “Sportfishing in Panama: A Natural Economic Gold Mine,” was conducted by Southwick Associates with critical on-the-ground support from Vista Group-Panama, OCEARCH, and TBF Scientist Dr. Russell Nelson, and was funded by Panamanian government agency SENACYT.

Sportfishing tourism annually provides Panama with:

• $97 million new dollars via spending by visiting anglers.
• $170.4 million in total retail and business-to-business sales within Panama.
• 9,503 Panamanian jobs.
• an increase in Gross Domestic Product of US $48.4 million.

“This boom in tourism in Panama is really no surprise. Panama’s wonderful climate, natural beauty, and amazing beaches alone are major attractions, but one in four tourists that fished visited Panama JUST to fish,” said Ellen Peel, the President of TBF. “It is paramount, though, that governmental agencies continue to focus on implementing responsible management and conservation measures for marine fisheries and continue to restrain foreign purse seine and local longline vessels for the benefit of billfish and all species. If managed correctly, Panama’s sportfishing sector will become an even bigger cash-cow for Panama’s tourism economy.“

The survey asked U.S. anglers why they choose to fish in some countries but not others. Beyond the excellent fishing, Panama scored high among surveyed anglers regarding the reasonable cost of travel, safety, and availability of quality charter boats. In fact, 87 percent of the anglers surveyed were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their trips. This bodes extremely well for Panama tourism because 68.5 percent of people choose a vacation destination based on friends or family recommendations. Because people leaving Panama have such a high rate of satisfaction, word-of-mouth between friends and family will drive even more people to the country.

“For every 10 sportfishing visitors to Panama, another Panamanian job is supported,” Peel said. “But to continue to add to these jobs, Panama needs to maintain top notch fishing, which requires an abundance of fish in the water that comes from good management and strong, well-enforced fisheries regulations. Anglers reported they favor fishing destinations that tightly and effectively control commercial and recreational harvests. Panama needs to communicate that they are on board with these tourism-driving factors.”
Ms. Peel went on to add, “This study emphasizes that, if Panama wants to grow sportfishing tourism, improvements to Panama’s infrastructure and services must be made based on fishery science and strong economic and conservation policies. By looking at the experience in other countries, poorly planned and managed fisheries will lead to less employment, not more.”

So if you’d like to check out fishing in Panama for yourself get in touch with one of my neighbors in Boca Chica!

Gone Fishing Panama

Panama Big Game Fishing

Read the entire Billfish Report

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