Panama Underscores Commitment Towards Tourism of the Future

Panama recently strengthened its commitment towards sustainable tourism by signing a new declaration—“Transformation Towards the Tourism of the Future.” Attested to by 11 ministers and high authorities of tourism, the declaration signed in Panama was made in response to the World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) call for both governments and the private sector to rethink the purposeful development of the industry as it rebounds and recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our vision of tourism is anchored in sustainability, focusing on contributing to the empowerment of communities, scientific research, the regeneration of ecosystems and local cultures,” Panama’s Minister of Tourism Ivan Eskildsen said in a press release.

The country’s 2020-2025 Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism, recognized by UNESCO as an example of innovation and sustainability, reactivates Panama’s Tourism, Conservation and Research Strategy (TCI) to highlight the country’s three core heritage pillars. These include Cultural Heritage (multifaceted culture), Green Heritage (extraordinary biodiversity) and Blue Heritage (ocean wonders). Examples include the efforts undertaken by the Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP) with local and indigenous communities to reactivate tourism in a bid to help preserve and sustain the biocultural legacy of these cultures.

In the Panama Canal watershed, one can travel upstream on the Gatun River to visit the Emberá community—one of the seven indigenous groups that live in Panama. The community welcomes visitors to understand their ancestral culture better and learn their way of life, including art, cosmovision and rituals. In Bocas del Toro, the government collaborates with coastal Afro-Antillean communities to showcase the region’s gastronomy that stems from Caribbean roots and has evolved over decades of local influence.

A project to develop and rehabilitate 1,000 kilometers (approximately 621 miles) of trails throughout the country is also underway. It focuses on integrating the local communities for the benefit they derive from the routes, besides their efforts to help maintain them.

In Coiba National Park and its surroundings, the Marine Protection Zone has been expanded through executive orders to protect and enhance marine life, positioning the country as a global Blue Leader in conservation. The park allows visitors to learn and experience sustainable living through local communities still practicing artisanal fishing and leading turtle conservation projects. Other regions of interest include the Bay of Panama and the Las Perlas Archipelago, under the observation of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, which offers a haven for migrating whales each year, further enhancing Panama’s reputation for whale watching.

In the Chiriquí Highlands, where Geisha Coffee—considered the world’s most valuable coffee—is harvested by the Ngäbe and the Buglé indigenous communities, the government has expanded its coffee circuit to include a range of tourism experiences at local farms. Under development by the ATP and the Center for Competitiveness of the Western Region (CECOMRO), the circuit currently includes 15 coffee farms with goals for 42 farms upon completion.

Other LATAM countries joining Panama in signing the declaration include Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala and Honduras. The declaration is also supported and signed by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), PROMTUR and the Jordan Tourism Board.

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