Panama Leaps Ahead In WEF Tourism Competitiveness Report
Saturday, March 09 2013 @ 12:28 PM UTC
Contributed by: Don Winner
With this jump Panama was described as a "rising star" in international tourism by the WEF. The country improved more than any other country in the global ranking which is published every two years.
The study analyzed the factors that make countries attractive as a destination for investment or business development in the travel and tourism sector.
At the regional level in Panama was ranked fourth behind the United States, Canada and Barbados, but beating the most experienced tourist nations like Mexico, Costa Rica, and Brazil.
The report is based on data from various public sources, international institutions working in the travel and tourism industry, and experts, as well as the results of the Executive Opinion Survey, conducted by the WEF.
The increase in the number of hotel rooms with the installation of chains with international prestige was one of the factors that drove the country, in the report which was published this year under the theme "Reducing barriers to economic growth and job creation."
Between 2010 and 2012 more than 30 new hotels were built in Panama, bringing 6,200 new hotel rooms on line throughout the country, of those 72% or 4,500 are in the capital city.
To this number another 27 hotels must be added that are being built in other parts of the province of Panama.
Among the international chains operating in the country include Hilton, Wyndham, Hard Rock and RIU, among others.
In the line of tourism infrastructure, Panama peaked at position 42 of a total of 140 countries surveyed, while in airport infrastructure the country was ranked number 16.
Other topics considered in the report to analyze the tourism competitiveness of countries are the regulatory framework for doing business and living costs. In these lines Panama was located at positions 18 and 26, respectively.
Despite achieving the most improvement in the competitiveness ranking, fate has not overcome obstacles related to the preparation of human resources, limited access to health services, and the expense to be incurred by companies because of security and violence.
The lack of experienced staff was evident with the construction of new hotels. It is estimated that there is an unfilled demand for eight thousand skilled workers, especially in operational areas such as waitresses, waiters and technicians.
Besides not having experienced staff, the tourism industry is lacking workers who speak other languages like English, German and Portuguese.
A study by the British human resources firm People 1st found that Panama needs to improve the quality of service to establish itself as a premier tourist destination.
Jesus Sierra, president of the Panamanian Association of Hotels, says the WEF report reflects the reality of the country, but adds they are working to reduce the deficit of skilled labor.
With regards to levels of security, he points out that Panama is a safe destination for tourists, and announced that this year will be held in the country the first hemispheric conference on hotel security. "Panama is a safe destination, and we seek to improve the visitor experience," he added.
European countries dominate Economic Forum report
Switzerland again took first place in the study of tourism competitiveness of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Switzerland is notable for its efficient transport system and excellent customer service. According to the WEF Switzerland has the best hotel schools in the world and much of its territory is protected, becoming an attraction for tourists.
European countries dominate the top 10 ranking, except the United States, Canada and Singapore. According to the report, the tourism sector has been strengthened by the growth of the middle class in emerging countries. (Prensa)
Editor's Comment: Panama is doing everything they can, as hard and as fast as they can, to grow and improve the tourism sector in the country. One of the easiest things to find in Panama is an example of poor customer service provided to an international visitor by someone who is working in the tourism industry. These examples are so frequent and common - they have become almost cliche. Literally everyone knows that "customer service sucks" in Panama and the companies involved in the tourism industry are holding classes and seminars to improve these deficiencies, which at times seem to be held at the core or cultural level. These kinds of habits are the hardest to change. Another problem is that in an industry which is growing at the rate seen in Panama, anyone with experience and skills can almost name their price. The hotels are stealing the best employees from one another, enticing them to jump ship with better pay, benefits, and working conditions. I see these things as growing pains, and overall there are more and more people in Panama making their daily wage thanks to a growing tourism industry, and that's a very good thing. All of the other stuff will come with time.