It is also expected that visitor entries at Tocumen International Airport will increase due to the interest expressed by new airlines in establishing direct flights to Panama. Ernesto Orillac, deputy administrator of the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP), indicated that a cruise ship that sails during the entire year of 2013 from the port of Colón 2000 will be a decisive factor in attracting more tourists.
The official is referring to the operations of the Spanish shipping company Pullmantur, which starting in April will extend its embarkments from the home port on the Atlantic coast throughout 2013. The company will use its largest ship, the Monarch, which boards 2,752 passengers. “The peculiarity of those cruise passengers who board in Colón is that they decide to visit other parts of Panama City, which injects a significant flow of foreign currency into the economy,” Orillac indicated.
The strategy in 2013 will focus on the Latin American market, with a greater emphasis on countries in the southern continent, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Colombia. Last year, South America established itself as the region that contributed the most visitors to Panamanian tourism, with the arrival of over 700,000 tourists. According to official reports, in 2012 Brazilian and Ecuadorian tourist arrivals grew by 30%, compared with figures from 2011. Orillac noted that their strongest efforts will be directed towards those destinations with the highest availability of seats, like Chile.
Meanwhile, destinations like Colombia and Brazil will send an increased number of passengers on charter flights. One of the ideas is to replicate the model used in Europe, where they hired public relations firms to promote Panamanian tourist destinations. Promotion in the Mexican market will also be revitalized, given the increased frequencies of flights on Copa Airlines to that country. This year's budget for promotion, which includes funds for the international campaign, is up to $14 million dollars.
Business owners argue that the main challenge for 2013 is the same as it was last year: to raise hotel occupancy levels. Despite a 6% growth in tourist arrivals in 2012, it was not enough to fill the rooms that had been created over the last couple years. To do so, the plan is to try to attract more conferences and conventions in the country, which managed to keep the hotel occupancy levels from sinking further in 2012. Last year, more than 70 international events were held in the country, generating a significant flow of visitors.