Years ago, business was different for the capital's hotels, since visitors preferred to travel to the interior and enjoy the provincial style of celebrating the King Momo festival. But a strategy of the government and private enterprise to jointly organize Carnival in the capital, hoping to turn Panama City into an attractive site for tourists and residents during this holiday season, has succeeded in changing the urban outlook.
The new strategy has not taken away occupants from hotel establishments in the interior, which are brimming with guests, but rather has managed to attract new visitors from promotions of the city Carnival by the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP) in several American and European countries, reported Edgar Bonfante, from the ATP. Luis Correa, Food, Beverages and Operations Director of Hotel El Panama, commented that “Carnival in the capital has notably improved, as shown by a 10% increase per year in hotel occupancy in the capital,” citing the hotel he represents as an example, which has increased its business during this season from 79% to 83% over the last three years.
He underscored that hotels in the interior are packed with clients attracted by the deals offered by most places, such as the all-included plan. According to figures from the ATP, some $7,252,832 dollars have been invested in the last three years for the parties of King Momo, with this year having the highest expenditure, at nearly $2,750,000 dollars. Sara Pardo, general manager of the hotel Westin Panama, confirmed that many people always travel to the country's provinces to enjoy a family vacation and spend time at Carnival together as a family.
“During Carnival season, the hotel industry in the country's interior will receive a large number of visitors, because there is a high demand, leading to a high occupancy rate of over 90%,” Pardo estimated. Pardo, a former president of the Panamanian Hotel Association (APATEL), considers that “over the last few years there has been a huge increase in the hotel sector, but regardless of high room availability there are still opportunities to further exploit the business, because the tourist market demands more hotels, especially on the provincial beaches.”
There are now 655 lodging establishments operating in the country, with a total of 23,343 rooms, compared to the 21,067 that existed in 2011, and there are yet applications for new buildings in 2013, according to the ATP. Jesús Sierra Victoria, president of APATEL, said that the industry maintains a steady growth in both tourist arrivals and investment in infrastructure and event halls in compliance with international standards, as is the case with Sheraton Panama Hotel & Convention Center, El Panama and The Bristol, to give just a few examples.