Last week, Kalu Yala’s business team attended an economic development conference in Panama City entitled
«Panama, where the worlds meets»
The conference was held by the Americas’ society and council of the Americas. The information collected will be extremely valuable not only for Kalu Yala, but for our individual global awareness as well. Different guests spoke on various topics. Mainly the subject stayed on the booming Panamanian economy (fastest growing economy of the continent). Also discussed were impacts this sudden growth has had on everyday citizens, foreign investors and on what policies should be instated in order to continue into sustained growth.
What interested us the most was a discussion entitled:
« Tourism : Growth perspectives for this sector »
Panama is becoming a popular destination for many reasons. The country has largely the same appeal as it’s neighbor to the North, Costa Rica. This includes beautiful landscapes, mountains, volcanoes, two oceans, rainforest and much more. However, Panama possesses better infrastructures, lower prices and use of the American dollar which makes it far easier for tourists to frequent the country. According to the numbers presented, there will be more tourists coming to Panama within the next two years than to Costa Rica in that same time period. (estimated as more than 2 million tourists a year) The Panamanian government is actively pursuing a plan to continue this trend by investing a lot of money in promoting tourism within the country
“In order to support this growth, the government decided to create incentives to encourage development of touristic activities and facilities in the whole country, and slow down touristic projects in Panama City”
In fact, upon entering the capital, you will see skyscrapers growing like mushrooms. Many of them are hotels, additionally, the number of hotel rooms available are 150% higher than the average amount of tourists arriving each day. So, a new law is in line to be introduced, law 8 is designed to slow down Panama City development and increase incentives to develop the rest of the country. Ley 8 (Legislación de Incentivos para el Desarrollo Turístico en la República de Panamá ).
Unfortunately, many of these incentives for the countryside are done to encourage big projects such as new roads, airports and big resorts (even if small ecological projects will also born, hostels or fondas for example). To illustrate this, they talked about turning the archipelago of Bocas del Toro into a kind of Panamanian Cancun. Needless to say, the conference never discussed the deep ecological impact that this type of development would have on an area that many consider one of the most beautiful parts of Panama.