Last week's IncentiveWorks show in Toronto was reason for the first international visit of Panama's Deputy Minister of Tourism Jennifer Champsur since she took office in early May.
The country's main focus in Canada will be geared towards the travel trade, airlines, and the meetings & incentives market to develop sales initiatives and increase visitation. Appropriate to this particular venue, Champsur noted in an interview with PAX that the country is set to open its new convention centre in late 2015, while the existing property undergoes upgrades and renovations.
Panama is gaining traction in the MICE segment, recently climbing to sixth place in the Ranking of the Americas by the International Congress and Convention Association.
Other infrastructural developments include a comprehensive subway system, the Panama Metro - one line is currently in operation and the second is set to begin service next year. In addition, an aggressive expansion of Tocumen International Airport, expected to be complete in 2016, will mean the opening of 20 new gates in two years, taking the number to 54 from the current 34.
With direct nonstop service to Panama offered by Air Canada, Copa Airlines, Sunwing and Air Transat, access between Panama and Canada has increased year-over-year, particularly from Toronto and Montreal. Notable for 2014, Sunwing has introduced flights to Scarlett Martinez International Airport in Rio Hato, giving closer connections to the beach area of the destination.
But, Champsur said, Panama is far beyond just a beach destination, boasting access to both the Pacific and Caribbean oceans, plus mountains and rainforests. Of course, Panama City is among the top attractions and the city is now celebrating 100 years since the opening of the Panama Canal with festivities taking place to mark the occasion.
Photo: Diwigdi Valiente, DMO, Panama Tourism; Andrew Ricketts, PR - Canada, Panama (VoX International); Juan Forteza, account representative - Canada (VoX International); Jennifer Champsaur, deputy minister, tourism, Panama; and Astrid Quiros de Varela, coordinator, DMO, Panama