This post is also available in: Spanish
Strategies to safeguard the adventure tourists
By Marijulia Pujol Lloyd
Adventure tourism is increasing in Panama, especially in the provinces of Chiriqui and Bocas del Toro. However, after the tragic deaths of two Dutch tourists, the number of visitors to the Boquete area has diminished. Although, there was no indication of foul play, the reputation of this idyllic area has suffered. The Tourism Chamber of Boquete has taken steps to assure travelers that the place is safe.
Jorge Tovar, president of the Tourism Chamber of Boquete, said to The Visitor that their main concern at the moment is to prevent future accidents through plans to create awareness directed at hotels, hostels, guides and travelers that come to the area looking for adventure, all with the help of the mayor’s office.
“The first thing we are doing is putting signs along the main hiking trails like “El Pianista” where the Dutch girls disappeared, as well as putting forth a series of recommendations and a list of recognized guides, who have experience walking through the area,” said Tovar.
Boquete is a small town on the Caldera River, in the green mountain highlands of Panama, in western-most Chiriquí Province, about 60 kilometers (37 mi). from the border with Costa Rica. Because of its altitude, some 1,200 meters (3,900 ft) above sea level, its climate is cooler than that of the lowlands. Its scenic location, temperature, and natural environment make it popular with Panamanians and attracts tourists from all over the world.
“Perhaps the most important advice is not to leave the paths, because one can easily become disoriented and lost.” He added that all of Boquete’s hotels and hostels will have leaflets showing the principal paths along with other information that can be useful to the independent traveler.
Referring to the Civil National Protection System (SINAPROC for its initials in Spanish), Tovar said that a decree exists restricting tourist access to the national parks without certified guides. It also prohibits foreign-born guides from operating there, because they do not know the area well. Nobody enforces these guidelines for lack of personnel.
Tovar added that the main problem is their lack of sophisticated search and rescue equipment, which makes matter worse when a tragedy happens. However, he believes that what occurred to the Dutch girls could have happened at any national park in the world, but that lessons have been garnered from it.
The Boquete Tourism Chamber is planning to improve the town’s image by participating in the 2014 Tourism Fair and in a “health week” they are organizing in August. On Thursday, July 17, the Panamanian Association of Company Executives (APEDE) will hold a forum on tourism, FOTUR 2014, in la Hacienda Los Molinos in Boquete, in which the new Panama Tourism Administrator, Jesús Sierra Victoria, will participate.
The main aim of the forum is to find ways to develop Chiriqui as a tourist destination focusing on the improvements that can be made in the Paso Canoas customs area along with other topics.
Tovar concluded by saying that these sorts of initiatives will help increase tourism to Boquete.