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Where Nature and Relaxation MeetSeptember 1, 2008 By: Joe Pike Home-Based Travel Agent
Here is what home-based agents need to know when their clients express an interest in Panama
The Republic of Panama is in the center of the Western Hemisphere, bordering the Caribbean Sea and east of the Republic of Colombia. To the south is the Pacific Ocean and to the west is the Republic of Costa Rica. Panama, in fact, is the link between Central America and South America and could be a great spot for a perfect five-day getaway or the starting point of a two- to three-week Latin American adventure.
The 330-room El Panama (www.elpanama.com) is in the heart of the country's banking district on the main avenue of Panama City. Recently renovated, it's the prime location for clients looking to do some shopping and dining, as it is in walking distance from some of the destination's best shops and restaurants.
The Country Inn & Suites (www.countryinns.com) is a budget-friendly option for your clients; it offers great rooms at an affordable price. It is located at the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal at Fort Amador and has 159 rooms that all include balconies.
Clients who prefer boutique hotels should enjoy Hotel De Ville (www.devillehotel.com.pa). This intimate property only has 33 rooms, all with king-size beds, and—like El Panama—is only a few minutes from the city's main avenue, Calle 50. For a deluxe hotel, we recommend Intercontinental Miramar (www.miramarpanama.com), a 25-story glass tower that overlooks the Bay of Panama and has 202 rooms.
If your clients are more beach- oriented, we recommend one of the following properties: Royal Decameron (www.decameron.com), which has 600 rooms and sits on Playa Blanca, about 50 miles west of Panama City; Coronado Golf & Beach Resort (www.coronadoresort.com) on Playa Coronado is perhaps the best of Panama's beach resorts, with 78 suites, its own golf course, tennis courts and a spa; and Intercontinental Playa Bonita Resort & Spa ( www.playabonitapanama.com), 30 minutes from Panama City, is perfect for clients looking for a deluxe beach resort: it has 300 rooms, five pools and three restaurants.
Perhaps Panama's most luxurious hotel is the Panamonte Inn & Spa (www.panamonte.com) in Boquete. The city of Boquete is called the "City of Eternal Spring" and is where some of the best coffee in the world is grown. Whitewater rafting, bird watching and horseback riding are available here as well.
The 16 guest rooms at the Panamonte Inn & Spa include the recently renovated El Fresal cabin, which is perfect for families or groups. Other rooms include Standard, Superior, Garden Cabins and a Honeymoon Suite.
In the Works
There are many new hotels either already under construction or in the planning phases, but perhaps most notable is the anticipated addition of SuperClubs (www.superclubs.com). SuperClubs broke ground late last year on a Breezes Panama in Playa Blanca, and it will be the first resort situated on the country's southern Pacific coast. In addition to the more than 300 suites and rooms, the resort will also feature 110 villas. It is slated to open in early 2009, and we're told that agents may be able to book the property by as early as spring of next year.
The Grace Bay Club ( www.gracebayclub.com) in Turks and Caicos made a major announcement this summer in which the luxury brand unveiled plans for a major expansion, including new properties in the Caribbean and in Costa Rica, which would be its first-ever in Central America. Grace Bay Club representatives told Home-Based Travel Agent that if the Costa Rica property is successful, the company will look into Panama and other Latin America destinations, such as Argentina and Belize.
In July, Orient-Express Hotels (www.orient-express.com), which operates luxury hotels, restaurants, passenger trains and river cruises, entered into a 50/50 strategic partnership with Miami-based The Related Group to develop hotels and residences initially in Miami's South Beach, Cartagena and Panama City. The mixed-use projects will include hotel, residential and commercial components. Initial projects are planned to open within three years. They include a hotel on Avenida Balboa in Panama City.
The best flights to Panama are via Continental Airlines (www.continental.com), Delta Air Lines (www.delta.com) and Copa Airlines (www.copaair.com). Continental and Copa have daily, nonstop flights to Panama City out of Newark International Airport in New Jersey. Those flights take a little more than five hours. Delta flies out of New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Two recommended operators are Ancon Expeditions of Panama (www.anconexpeditions.com) and Panama Marine Adventures (www.pmatours.net). Home-based agents should contact Ancon for packages and deals at 011-507-269-9415 or [email protected], and Panama Marine Adventures at 011-507-226-8917 or [email protected] or [email protected] . Signature Travel Network recommended Panama Travel Experts. This is Signature's destination specialist for Panama and assists in the company's shore excursions, unique itineraries, FIT requests and more. Home-based agents can call Panama Travel Expert representatives Paul McBride, Franz Garcia or Geovanny Comparaz at 866-637-8871. —JP
Did You Know?
Here are some additional facts about Panama, according to the official tourism site, www.visitpanama.com:
About 56 percent of Panama's population is made up of 15- to 59-year-olds.
- 2. The official language is Spanish. However, many Panamanians speak English.
- 3. Panamanian currency is equivalent in size and value to the U.S. dollar.
- 4. Weather in Panama is mostly tropical and uniform throughout the year. The average temperature is about 80 degrees F.
- 5. Most Panamanians are Roman Catholic. However, due to the diversity in the country, you can find many houses of worship.
- 6. Visitors can drive up to 90 days with a foreign license.