PANAMA CITY – The Panamanian government hopes that the international advertising campaign it will launch at yearend will attract tourists from the United States, Europe and South America, its main markets, Tourism Minister Gustavo Him said Tuesday.
“We have great hopes for that campaign because we’re going to move from having zero promotion to having a full campaign. The change has got to be noteworthy. We believe that next year’s going to be better than this one,” said Him during the inauguration of the 2nd Regional Hotel Industry and Tourism Conference in the Panamanian Capital.
The government last August awarded a U.S. company a $20 million contract for the country’s ad campaign to try and increase the number of annual tourists Panama welcomes from the current level of 2.4 million to 3 million.
Tourism, which contributes about 10 percent of Panama’s gross domestic product, is going through a delicate period due to the oversupply of hotel rooms, the increase in unfair competition, the lack of a government tourism policy and scanty international advertising, according to spokespeople in the sector.
The hotel sector has been very critical of the management of different Panamanian administrations and frequently speaks out in favor of greater international advertising.
“Panama has a lot to sell and very good tourist offerings, but if you don’t communicate, you don’t sell anything,” said the president of Apatel, Panama’s hotel association, Sara Pardo.
According to the latest figures from the Panamanian National Statistics and Census Institute, or INEC, hotel occupancy from January-April 2016 in Panama City was 50.7 percent, compared with 56.4 percent during the same period last year.
“We’re talking a lot about Panama having an oversupply of rooms and that’s not true. If we compare it with other countries in the region, they have even more. What’s happened is that it was thought we’d have greater tourist development and we haven’t had that. But I think that we can recover from the dropoff (in tourism),” Pardo added.
Speaking during the conference, which ends on Wednesday, will be well-known figures from the sector, including Spain’s Pere Duran, who for years headed the agency that promoted Barcelona as a tourist destination, and Uruguay’s Arnaldo Nardone, an expert in convention tourism.