The U.S.’s “favorite connecting hub” meets the “Hub of the Americas.” On Wednesday, December 3, the first direct flight from Denver, Colorado to Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport aboard United Airlines landed, and with it a new avenue of cultural, economic and educational exchange was ushered in.
Tickets for the route have been on sale since mid-2014 with such demand that all flights in February 2015 have already sold out. The excitement over the route appears to be equally shared by Panama residents eager to vacation in a ski resort destination and Coloradans who are happy for a new tropical destination.
Vacationers are not the only ones who stand to benefit from the new connection. Merchants from both countries also have much to gain. Colorado businesses that see Central and South America as opportunities for growth will have better access to Panama’s emerging consumer markets and reap the benefits of the country’s key position regarding logistics and global trading.
To a certain extent, the commercial welcome mat has already been rolled out. CH2M Hill, the American engineering company managing the Canal expansion project, is headquartered in the Denver-Aurora Metropolitan Area.
Panama’s special commercial zoning districts and business parks, such as Panama Pacífico, may present additional options to attract more Denver-area business. Established commercial areas such as the Colón Free Zone and new storage facilities in the pipeline such as the Corozal Container Port, may also spur an increase in trade.
Educators in both nations also have high expectations as a result of the route. The American Chamber of Commerce, Panama (AMCHAM) announced details of a program in which Panamanian English language teachers will receive immersive training in Colorado schools. The teachers must commit to return to their teaching positions in Panama for a given period of time. The program will receive support from the U.S. Embassy in Panama and forms part of that agency’s diplomatic effort to improve Panama’s English-language proficiency.
In addition, Panamanian students will enjoy direct access to institutions of higher learning such as the University of Denver, the University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University Boulder.
Much is being made of the new flights and the increased number of travelers funneling back and forth. As Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock has stated, “Panama City will open the Rocky Mountain West to all of South America. Nearly 350 people a day travel between Colorado and South America. We anticipate this service will stimulate additional travel, and we already look forward to the increased tourism, cultural and business connections this new service will provide.”