Based on hotel size, those with over 100 rooms were 61% full, while hotels with less than 100 rooms available registered 54% occupancy. These occupancy levels were recorded even as 2,086,007 visitors entered the country from January to December 2012, 4.1% more than in the same period the previous year, which represents 81,992 additional visitors, according to the ATP.
In 2012 the hotel industry reported a $433 million investment nationwide, of which $408 million were in the capital city, indicates the operation records report that the ATP submitted last year to a total of 58 hotel establishments in the country. The biggest investments were made by Hard Rock Hotel ($214 million) and Westin Playa Bonita ($100 million).
“The greatest impact is in the capital city, where 5,600 rooms were added from 2012 to 2013. The city had 11,780 rooms in 2011, and is projected to have 17,392 rooms by the end of 2013,” pointed out the president of the Panamanian Hotel Association (APATEL), Jesús Sierra Victoria. He added that the hotel market in Panama is in a boom period of growth and investment. A number of already established hotels have made investments in infrastructure and meeting rooms in line with international standards, as done by The Bristol, Sheraton Panama and El Panama, to mention just a few examples.
Sierra emphasized that investment in new lodging establishments in the country has further strengthened the supply of hotels and the number of rooms for visitors. They include the Double Tree by Hilton Panama, with 213 rooms, Ocean Trump Hotel (Punta Pacifica), with 368 rooms, Westin Hotel & Resorts (Costa del Este), with 193 rooms, Fashion Tower, with 284 rooms, Aloft (next to Sheraton Panama), with 300 rooms, and Panama Bay Hotel & Casino (next to Century 21 Commercial Plaza), with 300 rooms. He assures that expectations for hotels on beach areas are also favorable. For example, Westin and Playa Blanca plan to have almost 500 rooms, and Decameron and Playa Blanca look to expand upon their existing facilities. Among the hotel projects on the Pacific are Sheraton Bijao, Riu Playa Blanca, JW Marriot, Marriot Casa Mar, Bristol Buenaventura, Ibiza Chic Hotels Playa Corona, Playa Blanca Resort, Town Center Suites and the Wyndham Grand Playa Blanca of the RG chain. Finally, the company Lagomar Properties Inc. has plans to build a resort at El Higo in San Carlos.
The president of the Panama Chamber of Tourism (CAMTUR), Anneth Cárdenas, warns that there is actually an oversupply of hotels, meaning that the supply is outpacing the demand. “Tourism is growing, but still not enough for the number of hotels that exist and that are being built, because there is currently an excess of approximately 3,000 rooms,” she stated. Cárdenas explained that at one point tourist arrivals to Panama began to increase and there were not sufficient rooms, which stimulated the construction of new hotels and the expansion of existing ones, but now the situation has been reversed.
CAMTUR hopes that the promotional campaigns being carried out by the government and private enterprise will increase tourist arrivals and thus help to boost hotel occupancy. At the same time, they also hope that the construction of new hotels begins to slow down a bit. The deputy administrator of the ATP, Ernesto Orillac, says that hotel projects are mushrooming, in particular in the capital city, where standouts include the major hotel chains like Warldorf and Hilton on Balboa Avenue.
The interior of the country has not been left behind, especially in Pedasí, Boquete, Gulf of Chiriquí and the province of Bocas del Toro, and an increase in tourism is expected to follow construction of the new airport in Río Hato. This summer, considered the high season, hotels have reported a 60% occupancy rate, but they are quite optimistic for the good results that should be brought by promotions of Panama as a destination in various exhibitions, events and international media. The manager of the Sheraton Hotel, Leopold Liakopulus, stated that they have invested $35 million to renovate this hotel, and another $100 million to build the new Aloft hotel, of the Starwood chain. His recommendation is to place more emphasis on attracting convention tourism, as he considers that this segment bring in a significant numbers of tourists. The president of the Bern Group, Herman Bern, highlighted that the new The Westin Panama on Costa del Este was built with a $40 million investment and features 198 rooms.