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Panama is a prime destination for international congresses and conferences, with growth in this sub-sector of the tourism industry increasing by over 50% from 2011 to 2012. With a new international Convention Center to be completed in Amador for 2014, the country is already becoming a major player in this regard.
The connectivity offered by the Hub of the Americas at Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport is a major factor for organizers of events, be they corporate, religious or for leisure. A huge factor in tapping the Latin American convention market is the current difficulty for Latin Americans to get a visa to the United States.
Prior to 9/11, Miami was the destination of choice for Latin American conferences, conventions and events that require large meeting spaces and ample hotel rooms. But now, Panama is emerging as the place to gather, for its welcoming immigration policies. The country also offers a more central location, and less traveling time.
According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), Panama City is the safest capital in the Latin American region. This fact makes it easy to close deals on conventions, according to Juan Ramón Maduro, international event coordinator for the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP).
Incentives to close the deal
To sweeten the deal for companies, organizations and groups who would collectively visit Panama to hold a meeting or conference, the ATP offers special incentives including a welcome cocktail event, a folklore show offering up the best of Panamanian cultural expressions or tours, among other options, resulting in significant savings.
Tax break for US companies
One of the most attractive aspects of the new Trade Promotion Agreement between Panama and the United States is that US companies can claim expenses incurred from holding an international event in Panama against their US tax returns. Holding an event in Panama as opposed to other destinations like Miami or Puerto Rico can already represent significant savings, and tax breaks can be a clincher.
The ability to see such a diverse cornucopia of destinations prior to or directly following an event is one of the reasons that Panama is so attractive for conferences, conventions and leisure events. In no other country in the world can visitors enjoy two oceans and such a wide range of beach, mountain and city destinations in such a small geographical area.
Facts about Panama
LOCATION: Panama is located between Central and South America on the Isthmus of the same name. Its surface is of 75,517 square kilometers, slightly less than the surface of the State of South Carolina. The width of the Isthmus is between 80 km and 192 km.
CLIMATE: Panama has a tropical climate. Temperatures vary between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius and humidity is always high.
SEASON: There are only two seasons, the “dry” during the months of January to April and the “not so dry” from May until end of the year.
CURRENCY: The U.S. dollar. Panama’s own coins match U.S. coins in size and value, and are thus acceptable in casino slot machines.
TIPPING: Check with management if in doubt. 10% to 15% of the bill would be acceptable.
DRIVERS LICENSE: Visitors can drive up to 90 days with a foreign driving license.
HOSPITALS: Panama has a number of very up-to-date hospitals the principals being Clinica Paitilla, Clinica San Fernando, Hospital Nacional and Hospital Punta Pacífica
AMBULANCE SERVICE: Emi Panama 236-6060
ELECTRICITY: 110 volts; 60 cycles.
TIME ZONE: Eastern Stardard time. Daylight Saving Time is not observed in Panama.
Special national holidays of Panama
It is wise to be aware of Panama’s National Holidays when the whole country closes down and businesses and banks are closed.
Jan 9 – Martyr’s Day
Feb 12 – Carnival Tuesday
Nov 3 – Independence from Colombia
Nov 5 – First Cry of Independence (from Colombia) in Colon
Nov 10 – First Cry of Independence from Spain in Los Santos
Nov 28 – Independence from Spain
Dec 8 – Mothers´ Day