Panama Tourism’s New Top Boss, Salome Shamah
Today I had a very positive meeting with Salome Shamah, Panama’s new Minister of Tourism (ATP). Also in attendance were Adolfo Linares (head of Panama Chamber of Commerce), Rolando Pereira (Aeroperlas) and Jose Goldner (Pedasi area investor). The subject of the sit-down was to discuss the need for a subsidized flight route to Pedasi. So far, we’ve had a tough time garnering unconditional support from Azuero area investors to help back the effort.
The Azuero Investors group have in hand a deal that would see them sharing the financial losses with Aeroperlas of a 12-seat, Friday/Monday flight to Pedasi for a trial period of six months. The flights are scheduled to begin in February and can be purchased now online at www.aeroperlas.com. Going into the meeting, it was our hope to make the deal for Azuero investors a no-brainer via some guaranteed financial and/or marketing support from the Panama Tourism Authority.
I was pleasantly surprised at Mr. Shama’s openness to assist Pedasi during the meeting. After a significant amount of back and forth between the various parties, the ATP agreed not only to provide promotion for the flight, but also to assist with a portion of the subsidy required to get the route off the ground. We left the meeting with a tentative deal and some respective to-do items to complete. I was shocked!
It is my hope as a travel agent and hotelier in Panama that this may be the beginning of something far bigger than Pedasi alone. Panama has a network of airstrips throughout the country that are not being utlized. Take a look at these flight maps of neighboring Colombia and Costa Rica. It is my firm belief that for Panama to truly compete as a top-tier vacation destination, the powers that be need to connect its central provinces with rest of the country. Some of Panama’s finest tourism raw materials are located in the mountains of Cocle, East and Western Azuero and the Pacific beaches of Veraguas. Currently, it is so difficult to access these regions that very few tourists are lucky enough to wander there.
Colombia has a very thorough domestic flight network
Costa Rica has an impressive number of domestic routes to remote tourism destinations
Panama Flights Today
Panama’s current domestic routes ignore the entire center of the country
Panama Domestic Flights, Year 2012?
If Panama could connect the country’s “heartland” via an expanded network of domestic routes, it would open up exciting new destinations for travelers, business people and residents
Adolfo Linares of the Panama Chamber of Commerce (and law firm Tapia, Linares & Alfaro) was also been very helpful in offering support to promote the region through the Chamber and also assist the budding Pedasi Chamber in getting organized. I’d like to thank both Adolfo and Salome for being instrumental in getting this project moving, as well as Rolando Pereiria of Aeroperlas for his patience throughout this process.
Now its up to the Azuero Investors to raise the capital to launch the flight and ensure that prospective visitors know that it’s available. This could be the tipping point for the Eastern Azuero’s tourism growth and moreover, a pilot program that can be mirrored throughout Panama. If all goes to plan, I believe that this effort can serve as a demonstration of private and public enterprise working together, as well as foreign and local business community organizing for the common good.
Salome Shamah photo borrowed from Panama-Guide.com
|Written by Casey Halloran|
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