Ernesto Reina, president of the Panamanian Association of Travel and Tourism Agencies (APAVIT), reports that the COTAL is reestablishing itself after a period of relative inactivity, to the point that no congress was held last year.
This year's COTAL Congress will stray from their traditional conference plan. Apart from the exhibitions, there will be no open fair like in previous years and it will be somewhat smaller. Each participating country will have a stand and a culinary exhibition, which will be the main change to give the event a bit of a makeover.
Reina has noted much enthusiasm to attend from Argentina, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Mexico, the latter country also interested in not only hosting but also presiding over the next COTAL Congress. Panama has nominated Michell de Guisado, who comes from a family closely linked to the organization, to represent the country and be treasurer of the board.
The Panama Tourism Authority has utterly backed the Congress. "The minister personally gave his support," said Reina, referring to Salomón Shamah's strong belief in congresses and conventions as a means to promote the country abroad.
Regarding tourism development in Panama, we asked Ernesto Reina what has been done and what is left to do. Happily tourism has grown greatly in the country and is on the right track, he responded, thanks to the positive and attractive promotional efforts that have been made internationally; nevertheless, they lack well-trained and courteous staff within the tourist sector. "Our big problem is with personnel in Panama who do not know two languages", Reinastressed, and called on the current government and future administrations to ensure that English is taught in the schools as an ongoing subject.
"It would be good for them to plan how to include topics related to tourism in middle and high schools in our country, in order to begin to prepare them for all the tourism in development. If we are promoting Panama as a destination for congresses and conventions, what we lack is the staff ", he said.
Last October 12th APAVIT held its annual congress in a local beach hotel. Panamanian travel agencies shared their various destinations and products, and one member explained what they offer to clients. The international speaker who closed the congress this year was the Venezuelan Renzo Castillo, who Reinaconsiders a very pleasant and enthusiastic person. "Folks left happy, satisfied, and with new ideas to offer their customers," he concluded.