Panama Unveils Sustainable Tourism Master Plan

Anatoly Gaviria Sep 22, 2020

The Panama Tourism Authority (ATP) announced its Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism 2020-2025 by the National Tourism Council, the main public-private body for the management of the tourism sector in Panama.

The five-year plan outlines ATP’s strategy for the relaunch of the country as a tourism destination, following its post-pandemic reopening on October 12.

The plan reactivates Panama’s Tourism, Conservation and Research (TCR) strategy applied in Panama over 20 years ago by ecologist Dr. Hana Ayala. The TCR Strategy positions the country’s conservation and sustainability efforts at the forefront, along with its unique nature, culture and historic offerings, capitalizing in the overall safety that Panama offers.

The updated TCR Heritage Routes strategy now features three focus areas: Cultural Heritage, Green Heritage and Blue Heritage. Comprised of 19 circuits that tell the stories of Panama, the plan was developed through thorough analysis and research conducted in multiple workshops with the help of local and international consultants, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), the academic team of the Biomuseo (Biodiversity Museum), the Ministry of Environment, and the Ministry of Culture, the Panamanian travel industry, and other key organizations.

The Heritage Routes are distinct in their offerings:

Cultural Heritage

Narrates the history of Panama as the Bridge of the World, connecting world class attractions such as Casco Antiguo (UNESCO World Heritage), the world-famous Panama Canal, the first interoceanic railway, among others. Also, the cultural circuits showcase Panama’s multicultural diversity, offering experiences across Panama’s three main cultures: its 7 living indigenous groups, its Afro-Panamanian heritage including the Congo culture (UNESCO Intangible Heritage), and its colorful Spanish colonial culture. Panama’s cultural diversity is also experienced in its gastronomy, where UNESCO has recognized Panama City as a creative city in gastronomy.

Green Heritage

with an extraordinary biodiversity: it holds more species of birds, reptiles, mammals and trees than the US and Canada together. The Green Heritage routes take the visitor across National Parks, protected areas and private reserves in Panama’s neotropical rainforest (one third of the country is protected), including experiences through the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s visitor centers, one of which is the Barro Colorado Nature Monument in the Panama Canal watershed, considered the most intensively studied tropical forest in the world.

Blue Heritage

The experiences offered across the various ecosystems in the Blue Heritage Routes, include whale-watching surrounding Coiba National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and admiring turtle conservation projects in the Pacific Ocean, as well as exploring the Caribbean turquoise waters of Bocas del Toro, recognized as a Hope Spot by Mission Blue, the initiative led by National Geographic Explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle.

Panama’s PMTS renews the country’s tourism strategy and hope for the industry’s progressive reactivation post-pandemic. The destination’s first international push for the relaunch of tourism is the Experience Panama Expo, a virtual fair taking place September 25-27, featuring local exhibitors and international buyers, which also coincides with a virtual meeting of ministers from the region.

The PMTS also includes an important component of community-based tourism, which connects with a flagship project of Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo’s administration, the Colmena (“Beehive”) Plan, which seeks to improve the development of the 300 townships with the greatest socioeconomic vulnerability in the country. Paradoxically, some of these communities have a rich natural and cultural heritage, mainly Indigenous and Afro-Panamanian communities, that can offer discerning travelers the experience of authentic living cultures, surrounded by pristine ecosystems, included within the Heritage Routes.

The five-year plan focused on the reactivation of the country’s tourism industry represents an estimated investment of $301.9 million including investments made through the Tourism Promotion Fund (PROMTUR), and financed by an approved loan with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

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