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PANAMA - Tourism

Fernando Fondevila

CEO, Promtur Panama

Bio

Fernando Fondevila has 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, his last position being regional commercial manager for North America. He has led the successful launch of more than 15 new destinations working directly with strategic partners such as various tourism authorities such as ATP, Visit USA, CPTM-Mexico, Visit Tampa and St. Petersburg, Visit Orlando, among others.

"We focus on the business events industry, capitalizing on Panama’s suitability for congresses, conventions, and incentive travel."
PROMTUR is targeting 2.3 million international visitors in 2023, with a focus on efficiency and sustainability, key markets, optimizing air connectivity, and appealing to discerning travelers.
What has been PROMTUR’s strategy to grow its tourism figures to reach 2019 numbers?
Panama is currently on track to achieve its 2023 goal of 2.3 million international visitors, including those staying overnight for leisure or business. This figure includes excursionists, such as day-trippers or cruise guests, as well as those connecting through Tocumen International Airport, who may explore local attractions before continuing their journeys. We are extremely proud of our progress, though there is still more work to be done. Panama lacked a destination marketing organization until three years ago, coinciding with the launch of our 2021 campaign. Aligned with a sustainable tourism plan, developed with the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP) and local industry leaders, PROMTUR has consistently promoted Panama internationally. We target nine countries—the US, Canada, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, France, and Germany—focusing on markets representing over 50% of our historic international arrivals. Our strategy prioritizes efficiency in allocated funds, recognizing that 48% of visitors come from over 100 countries. Air connectivity is crucial, and the selected nine countries offer optimal non-stop flights from various cities, contributing to increased capacity. Overall, we are witnessing sustained growth in air capacity from these key countries. We are targeting a specific demographic of international guests according to our Master Sustainable Tourism Plan, namely discerning travelers aged 35-65. With the capacity for multiple trips annually and substantial disposable incomes, they stay longer, engage more, and spend generously. This audience seeks cultural and global novelties, while also prioritizing resource conservation. Their impact extends beyond the economic aspect, fostering social development and contributing to our country’s betterment. From these nine countries, we have the potential to attract over 500 million individuals who align with these values and can positively influence our nation.
How does Panama promote tourism through branding, alliances, and business events?

The tourism industry is actively implementing this slogan across sectors, a development commended in President Laurentino Cortizo’s strategic plan. This brand, created from scratch in eight months, represents a comprehensive, long-term international tourism promotion and brand. Launched in 2021, it includes a 24/7 digital marketing platform targeting discerning travelers, aligning their values with our offerings. Our international promotion has three pillars. First is our tourism brand and brand platform, targeting consumers. Second is strategic alliances with airlines, online travel agencies, and global tour operators and leveraging their channels to inspire travelers to consider Panama. These alliances significantly contributed to our economic impact in 2022, and this trend is set to continue, with 17 alliances in place during 2022, they significantly contributed to our economic impact, and this trend is set to continue. Third, we focus on the business events industry, capitalizing on Panama’s suitability for congresses, conventions, and incentive travel. With excellent connectivity, 20,000 hotel rooms in the capital plus 10,000 more across the country, and nearby tourist attractions, Panama offers a unique blend of business and leisure. The country’s infrastructure, unparallel air connectivity, the largest convention center in the region and status as a dollarized economy, coupled with its role as home to many multi-regional organizations, make it an ideal location for hosting meetings and events. Activities pre and post events are a key draw for organizers. In 2021, our destination marketing organization introduced an incentive program to attract more events. We provide comprehensive support to elevate the quality of events through iconic tourism experiences, logistical assistance, and additional services complemented by the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO). This collaborative effort ensures that events receive the highest level of support and customer service, contributing to their overall success. This not only brings more events to Panama but also benefits our community and industry, contributing to social development. Since the program’s launch, we have secured 145 events for 2021-2026, with an estimated impact of USD165 million. Recognizing that around 40% of business event attendees return for leisure, this initiative achieves dual objectives.

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