MEET ME IN PANAMA

Panama 2017 | TOURISM | FOCUS: MICE TOURISM

With the opening of Amador Convention Center, along with several new marketing initiatives, Panama seeks to be the leading meetings and conventions destination in the Americas.

Tourism has long been one of Panama's priorities and with the explosion of the meeting, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) industry around the world, Panama stands in great stead in large part due to its geographical positioning. The country is dubbed the hub of the Americas and has a great logistical position, with direct flights to the US, Europe, and other destinations. The latest Global Meetings & Event Forecast prepared by American Express Meeting & Events ranks Panama City third among Latin American cities in terms of hosting meetings and events, just behind Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in first place and Cancún, Mexico, in second place. As part of efforts to capitalize on Panama's privileged geographical location between the two Americas, both the government and the private sector have been investing heavily in the business and conferences tourism segment to further develop this booming segment.

Panama City currently has in its portfolio Atlapa Convention Center, which can accommodate 10,500 attendees for medium-sized international conventions, conferences, and events, which is much lower than the needs of the MICE market. The city has, therefore, taken key steps and is in the midst of upgrading and improving its infrastructure in a bid to better serve the MICE sector. The Panama Tourism Authority (ATP), following its Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development 2007-2020, is working together with the private sector to promote Panama as a key destination for both leisure travel as well as for MICE at important fairs and congresses around the world such as FITUR in Madrid, ITB in Berlin, IMEX in Germany, and WTM in Dubai.
In 2016, the budget managed by the ATP was USD91.925 billion. The most significant project has been the construction of the Amador Convention Center (CCA), considered the largest in the country and region. Built at a cost of USD193.7 million, the building has a total area of 58,000sqm, of which approximately 30,000sqm has been set aside for an exhibition hall, conference facilities, and a banquet hall. The complex will also have a grand plaza, outdoor amphitheater, and 1,500-seat performing arts theater with balcony and box seating. The center can accommodate up to a maximum of 25,000 people and will feature a parking area with room for 1,700 vehicles. The opening of the CCA is scheduled for 2018, and the center will help Panama become one of the leading business hubs in Latin America, as will the expansion of Tocumen International Airport. As a result of the promotional efforts of the ATP at fairs around the world for the new convention center, companies from Europe and the US have shown great interest in using its facilities as the site for their major events. Among the advantages of the CCA are its proximity to main areas in the city as well as its redesign. With the opening of the CCA, the ATP expects to hold conventions and congresses every month attended by over 10,000 people.
In addition, the ATP and the Panama Chamber of Tourism (CAMTUR) have joined forces to set up an agency, the Panama Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is dedicated to promoting Panama as a MICE destination and will replace the previous institution responsible for both resources and responsibilities. Despite the efforts, there are still certain limitations that must be addressed in order to serve this sector properly, such as the demand for trained personnel in the segment. Another big challenge for the organization of larger events is the limited number beds in Panama City, of which there are a total of 24,000, which could impede the growth of the MICE sector in the country.