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As part of last week’s Earth Day celebrations, the government of Panama launched its new strategy to develop sustainable ecotourism, which includes an application for smartphones that directs tourists entering protected forest areas throughout the country. The program, known as the “Iniciativa Turismo Verde” (Green Tourism Initiative), is a joint venture of the Ministry of Environment, the Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP) and the National Institute of Culture (INAC).
For President Juan Carlos Varela, “tourism in general and eco-tourism in particular are keys to the country’s economic development.” The new program has a budget of $3 million allocated for the remainder of the year destined for the construction of facilities in protected areas including visitor centers, campgrounds, bike paths, picnic areas and clinics.
Mirei Endara, the Environment Minister, describes the initiative as a model of green tourism that makes use of sustainable architecture and clean technology of which the new smartphone application is a part. Known as “Ecotur Panama,” the app works with Android-powered cell phones to provide comprehensive information about the country’s protected wildlife areas. The app also features an alert system that can be engaged in the event someone finds themselves lost in the woods.
The “Green Tourism Initiative” will begin in the areas of Coiba, Santa Fe, Volcán Barú, Isla Iguana, Camino de Cruces, Darién, Portobelo National Park and the Campana National Park. The Ecotur application can be downloaded for free for both Android and IOS platforms.