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Tourism industry takes off in the provinces
The first charter flight of Sunwings Airlines coming from Toronto, Canada, landed on April 4 at the Scarlett Martinez International Airport, Río Hato, Coclé province. The first thing the bemused Northern passengers saw when they exited into Panama’s burning sunlight was no less than Panama’s president, Ricardo Martinelli, welcoming them to the country. Before they were left to get on with their holiday, they were photographed and filmed exhaustively.
The 162 passengers were received with a band playing “tipica music”, two girls wearing “polleras” (the female national dress) while other two ladies gave them bottles of water and brochures about Panama. The majority of them were going to the newly inaugurated Riu Playa Blanca, which is close to the terminal. They took the opportunity to pose with Martinelli and have their photographs taken as a memento of their vacations.
Rod Hanna, Sunwing Airlines Business Development Manager for South Western and Northern Ontario said that his company is planning to bring charter flights once a week to go to the different resorts on the Santa Clara, Farallon and Playa Blanca area. Currently his company is in conversations with Riu Playa Blanca Hotel to bring passengers from Spain, as well as Canada. Sunwing Airlines is part of the company TUI, the biggest tour operator in the world.
Juan Carlos Pino, General Manager of Tocumen S.A. said that there are other U.S. and European airlines interested in coming to Rio Hato such as Air Transat, which already flies to Tocumen International Airport.
Talking about the Enrique A. Jimenez International Airport, in Colón City, Pino said that the plans for this terminal are similar to the ones for the Scarlett Martinez. “We need more hotel projects in Colón, build more roads and we also need to re-invigorate the cruise ship business and persuade cruise lines to use the port of Colón 2000.
Pino added that the Enrique Malek International Airport, in David, Chiriqui province has two international flights a week to Costa Rica, but in the future it will receive flights from different Colombian destinations and hopefully from other international destinations. However, the area lacks sufficient hotel accommodation and the bigger airlines will not come until this problem has been resolved.
It is expected that more flights and hotels will sprout all over the country as a result of the refurbishment of the airports in the provinces, but more infrastructure and services are needed to meet the requirements of the tourism industry.