The Business Year

Fernando Fondevila

PANAMA - Tourism

Fernando Fondevila

CEO, PROMTUR

Bio

More than 25 years of experience in the tourism sector. Before joining PROMTUR Panama, he worked for Copa Airlines in different positions in the commercial area, highlighting the last position held as Regional Commercial Manager for North America, our main target market. He has led the successful launch of more than 15 new destinations working directly with strategic partners such as various tourism authorities (ATP, Visit USA, CPTM-Mexico, Visit Tampa and St. Petersburg, Visit Orlando, among others).

“Our goal is to generate an economic impact of USD1.5 billion by the end of the year.”

Fernando Fondevila, CEO of PROMTUR, on tourism in Panama, international promotion, and growth targets for the year.

What is your perspective on the tourism sector in Panama and what new trends are you observing in the sector in this context of tourism reactivation?

Fernando Fondevila: Global trends for this 2022, in terms of travelers’ behavior, suggest that they are more comfortable with the reopening of international travel, so they are more willing to explore destinations capable of providing the best and authentic experiences, opening very positive expectations for our country. According to the UNWTO, the Caribbean and Central America are two regions that demonstrated one of the fastest recoveries towards 2019 levels, as in July, arrivals approached pre-pandemic figures in the Caribbean with -5% and in Central America with -8%. The UNWTO secretary highlighted Panama as a destination that has grown a lot, he also described it as a region of the future where there is a lot of potential to invest, attract more innovation and education. According to official data (ATP, Migration, INEC), from January to July 2022, Panama has received 1,016,407 visitors.

How would you assess the performance of PROMTUR since you started operations in 2019?

Fernando Fondevila: The performance of the DMO has been extraordinary. We have come a long way, in a very short time and in a highly challenging context such as the COVID-19 pandemic. A key achievement has undoubtedly been the development of the country’s new tourism brand, a fundamental milestone for the consistent positioning of the country in our key markets. Anchored on the “Live for more” concept, the new brand connects Panama and its tourism offerings with a market of more than 500 million people. We are becoming more visible every day thanks to the development of our tourism brand – Panama, Vive por Más – which allows us to connect with travelers, showcasing the country as a stimulating and authentic destination. We continue to attract the attention of global media outlets such as Conde Nast Traveller, Forbes, Travel & Leisure, Smithsonian Magazine, Skift, CNN Brazil and Travel Leader Network. Panama has received nominations for global industry awards, one of which is the recent nomination as “Most Desired Emerging Destination” at the Wanderlust Travel Awards, given to the top stars of the global travel industry.

What initiatives is PROMTUR launching to promote Panama as a key tourism destination?

As a DMO, we promote Panama as a tourist destination in an agile, continuous and consistent manner, based on our brand platform Panama Vive por Más, as well as the data analysis we collect through our Business Intelligence Management. From our marketing area we work with an “Always on” format that allows us to have a constant international promotion of the destination.These efforts are enhanced through strategic alliances with airlines, online travel agencies and global tour operators. These negotiations allow us to collaborate with international industry leaders to promote and market our destination, communicating a shared value proposition that strengthens us mutually. For us, it is fundamental that the country’s promotion management is carried out in an integral manner, covering all segments of tourism (vacation/meeting industry). That is why another pillar of our strategy has been our Incentive Plan and International Events Attraction Program. Through these initiatives we have managed to confirm 83 confirmed international events for Panama from 2021 to 2024. The meetings industry generates a dynamic of great value for our industry and the country, as it has a very high economic spillover that permeates the entire value chain of services, with an impact three times greater than that generated by the average daily expenditure of vacation tourists.

In which areas of Panama do you see more potential regarding tourism and in what international countries are you promoting Panama as a destination?

Fernando Fondevila: The beauty of Panama is that it always has more to offer the traveler because of the abundance that results from the convergence of both its natural and cultural riches.  It implies the notion that, even though you thought you knew everything about Panama, there is always more to see, more to do and more to experience. There is a world of possibilities awaiting travellers at every turn, multiple facets of Panama that are authentic and equally representative of the country, yet completely different and unexpected. In Panama you can find in one destination modernity and an active cosmopolitan life, but also ancient cultures with a rich tradition. We are home to countless species, lush jungles, more than three thousand kilometers of paradisiacal beaches and more than 1,500 islands. It is a hub of biodiversity and exceptional culture, which is beautifully reflected in the three heritages that make up our tourism offer: the Green Heritage, made up of our biodiversity and unique nature, the Blue Heritage, two oceans, marine life and paradisiacal beaches, and the Cultural Heritage, nourished by our melting pot of races, culture and history. International promotion and marketing actions are focused on the markets defined in the ATP’s Sustainable Tourism Master Plan, namely: United States, Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, Colombia, Argentina, Canada and Costa Rica, markets with the greatest potential for tourism growth in our country.

What incentives is PROMTUR offering to international events?

Fernando Fondevila: We have an Incentive Plan for associative and corporate groups that offers, among other added values, experiences and tourist benefits in local services and emblematic places of the country, as well as the support of PROMTUR for the promotion of the event. All these incentives for event organizers are consumable in Panama for the benefit of local communities. Through this Incentive Plan and our Event Attraction Program, a total of 83 world-class international events have been confirmed for Panama (from 2021 to 2024). Panama has been selected to host important events that reinforce its positioning as an ideal site for the development of the meetings and conventions industry. Among them, the World Robotics Olympics 2023, an event that is expected to be attended by more than 5,000 people, and that in addition to boosting tourism, will promote the exchange of knowledge in science and technology among young people from various countries. On the other hand, the country will once again be the epicenter of the MICE industry, with FIEXPO Latin America, one of the most important events in the meetings tourism industry. FIEXPO selected Panama as its venue for the 2022, 2023 and 2024 editions.

Taking into consideration that in CONATUR you presented that you have reached 8% of your target so far, what are PROMTUR’s main goals set for the rest of the year and 2023?

Fernando Fondevila: Our goal is to generate an economic impact of USD1.5 billion by the end of the year. PROMTUR’s ambition for 2025 is based on three objectives: a brand objective, a demand objective and an engagement objective. Our brand objective is for Panama to rank in the top four of its competitive group by 2025. If Panama aspires to be the top choice as a sustainable destination, then delivering a strong brand presence in the marketplace is vitally important. From a demand perspective, we strive to contribute an incremental economic impact of USD1.7 billion in Panama, benefiting those who are directly and indirectly affected by our activities. Our third objective is to improve industry satisfaction. We need our tourism industry to see PROMTUR as an ally to increase promotion and sales, obtaining greater brand exposure, longer stays and satisfied visitors.

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