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Panama Guide

Welcome to Panama Guide
Friday, August 29 2014 @ 12:19 PM EDT

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A Stifled and Stagnant Tourism Industry

Travel & Tourism By: Capt Bill - As a former Cruise Director and officer on board 9 cruise ships, now living in Panama, I feel a compulsion to help what I view as a travesty to the growth of tourism here. Witnessing the growth of a little fishing village called Playa del Carmen (75km south of Cancun) in Mexico from 878 population in 1982 to over 300,000 and growing, I must interject some tourism wisdom here.

Panama has the potential to be one of the most desirable vacation destinations in the world if a few simple and important changes are made in the legal structure and marketing of this country.

The infrastructure is already here in Panama to handle the influx of European and North American people (the target market) desiring the tranquility and peace of a tropical destination. What is missing is tourism friendly legislation and cooperation of the airline and hotel industry to create desirable and affordable vacation packages. I use the model industry of Cancun as a comprehensive and functional integration of transportation, lodging, and marketing to facilitate healthy and sustainable growth. Now it is by far the most profitable industry in the region and the area of Riviera Maya is the fastest growing region in Mexico. Some will argue reasonably that it has too much growth in too little time, but the employment and hospitality industries continue to grow unabated and employ the native people in higher paying and more stable jobs than they would ever hope to achieve otherwise.

Fast forward to Panama now. If recent legislation is any indication, the politicians here have not a clue as to the intricate nature of a cooperative government enmeshed with forward thinking, intuitive legislators cooperating with competent tourism executives. This symbiotic relationship of government and tourism is what sets successful destinations apart from those that are hindered by corruption and incompetence. The airfares and immigration structure here are counterproductive to any large multinational conglomerate to develop an affordable middle class tourist destination competing with Cancun. It is a shame and travesty to the people of this great nation to stifle such potential and sustainable growth.

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Coclé - Your Best Destination

Travel & Tourism Ten companies based in Panama's Coclé province are collaborating to create the "Coclé Cluster" under a program sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Government of Panama. A sub-set of the "Compite Panama" initiative, non-competing business owners combine resources and cooperate to promote tourism to bring visitors and increased spending and investment in Coclé under the slogan "Coclé, Your Best Destination." The intent is to improve the competitiveness of the ten participating businesses and to increase their visibility as options and destinations for international travelers. Antonio Hincapié, the manager of Hotel Campestre, a country lodge in the mountain resort community of El Valle de Antón, "the province has great potential for bird watching and ecotourism, apart from beach-and-sun tourism, which is being developed in the area of Farallón, on the Pacific." The cluster's concept –said Lesbia Benuzzi, of Tropic Tours-- is to establish a recognizable image for the province, such as the case of Cancún, in Mexico." (more)
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Ten New Hotels Will Be Built In Panama - 3,000 Room Increase

Travel & Tourism By Roberto Quelne for La Estrella - According to estimates from the Panamanian Association of Hotels (APATEL) and the Panamanian Board of Tourism, between eight to ten new hotels will be constructed in Panama within the next three to five years, adding an additional 3,000 new rooms to the market. The hotel and hospitality sector is preparing to serve the growing number of tourists who are visiting Panama every year. In the first three months of 2007 (January to March), 389,258 tourists visited Panama, or 8.7% more than in the same period last year according to statistics from the Panamanian Institute of Tourism (IPAT). The numbers reflect only tourist hotels in Panama City which reflected an overall occupancy rate of 53.3% and an overall increase of 11.4% over 2006, and the numbers reflected were 65% from high-end hotels and 34% from secondary hotels. Jaime Campuzano, President of the Panama's Tourism Board, said the country should implement an advertising campaign to promote the country as soon as possible to promote tourism in Panama.
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Habitat for Humanity, Jungle Zip Line, and Whitewater Rafting

Travel & Tourism Hey everyone here are three great travel opportunities. These Volunteer Vacations are really a wonderful way to travel if you value: Meaningful travel experiences that don't exploit; helping those who are in need; creating true connections across cultures and getting to see the best the countries have to offer. Brief detail are below. Get in touch with me if you have any questions. Get ready to embark on a great journey. It will challenge your perceptions and allow you to discover the world around you and within you. You will work in villages to help those in need and see the country like a local, exploring the best natural, historic and cultural sites. Consider joining us on one of the following adventures this year. Panama: Service & Boquete highlands October 13 - 26 • Join a Habitat for Humanity build in Santiago. • Whitewater rafting on the Esti River or visiting an Orchid farm; Jungle Zip Line, bird watching in the jungle and a coffee plantation tour. • Clean water storage project with a local organization for an elementary school. • $1,990 + Airfare info@journeyways.org www.journeyways.org
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Carnival of Cultures brings the world to North County

Travel & Tourism By Triveni Sheshadri for the San Diego Union Tribune SAN MARCOS – Lucy Knutson has found that for many, Panama brings to mind the famous canal. Then they draw a blank. The San Marcos resident, who was born and raised in the Central American country, takes every opportunity to let her friends and neighbors know about Panama's people, their love for music and dance, the food and hospitality. “We are a very welcoming people,” she said. “My house is your house.” (Carnival of Cultures When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, Where: San Marcos Civic Center, Admission: Free, Information: (760) 744-9000) Today, Knutson and a few friends will represent their native country at San Marcos' fifth annual Carnival of Cultures. They will wear the montuna, the traditional Panamanian dress of long skirt and off-the-shoulder blouse. They will have a booth with posters, and arts and crafts. Two performers will present folk dances of the country. “We hope to promote our culture, let people know what Panama is about,” said Knutson, a volunteer with the House of Panama in Balboa Park. “We are lucky and blessed to be able to do this.” The music, dance, food and crafts of about 30 countries will be represented in the Carnival of Cultures at San Marcos Civic Center. Other attractions will include origami, face painting and international board games. Visitors who get their festival passports stamped at all booths will receive tickets to a Theater West play and handmade dolls from different countries.
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A Tribute to "Mr. Coup" Arnulfo Arias

Travel & Tourism If you are in Panama chances are good that eventually you will drive past the statue erected in tribute to Dr. Arnulfo Arias Madrid, who was elected President of Panama on three occasions but never served a full term. He was deposed by military coup d'État in 1941, 1951, and 1968. He started a political movement that has evolved into the present day Panameñista Party. During WWII Arias express sympathy with the Axis powers and fascism and at one point he used the swastika as a symbol. The coup that removed him from power in 1941 was backed by the United States, and some of the stories behind the original "Mission Impossible" program had their roots in Panama. Arias died in Miami in 1988 and his former wife Mireya Moscoso was elected the first female President of Panama on 2 May 1999. She had the statue to her late husband built in the former Canal Zone, on the former site of the notorious DENI building that was destroyed by the United States during the Just Cause invasion, across the street from the YMCA building. Once the PRD assumed power the statue has been neglected, the light bulbs have burned out, and the water pumps fail to run on the fountain. This photo aptly expresses what Arias thinks of the United States, what the PRD thinks of Arias, and what the birds think of the statue. In any case, at least now you know what you're looking at. Salud.
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PC, Taboga, Western Panama 2007

Travel & Tourism By Jake - I try to go back to Panama once a year. I married when I was at Kobbe (Howard) many years ago, and my first daughter was born while I was off the coast of Nic in '79. She hadn't visited in a while and she needed to update her cedula, (ID card). We stayed with relatives in Chapala, near Arraijan, which is the first town you'll come to on the interamericana highway after passing the turnoffs to Howard and the old Marine Barracks. The relatives call me “Yake” or Jake, because they have difficulty in saying “Timothy,” my real first name. Also because I taught survival, and killing Jake the Snake became Jake by my solider buddies. It just kinda stuck and I haven’t tried to change it. My wife's cousin "Curro" drove us around and was our traveling companion. Curro drives one of those typical white vans with a sliding right door. Late one afternoon the Tourism Police waved us over. What they saw was a Panamanian driver in a common white van driving a bunch of gringos around. My wife has a lighter tone of skin when she's away from Panama, and then me, Mr. Gringo from WAY up north in the states, my two daughters, and son-in-law. Also in the van we had a couple of other adult cousins we had picked up who lived in Arraijan. The tourism police thought that Curro was trying to make a little money on the side as an undocumented tourist driver. (more...)
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Crossing a continent in 57 minutes on the Panama Railroad

Travel & Tourism By Franz Smets for the German Press Agency - Panama City- Every day after 5 p.m. thousands of cars snake from Colon, on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, to Panama City, on the Pacific. Many people who work in the Colon Free Trade Zone or at one of the big container terminals prefer to live in the Panamian capital. So they shuttle the 80 kilometres, on the country's only toll road, between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. People have always used the Isthmus of Panama, the narrowest part of North America, to get from one ocean to the other - first on foot, then on horseback and with horse-drawn carriages. A railway line was completed in 1855, allowing the transit of bulkier goods from ships on one side to ships on the other. Much of the line, the original Panama Railroad, is now underwater. The big seafaring ships sail over it as they proceed through the Panama Canal and Lake Gatun, which was created by damming the Chagres River. The 19th century headquarters of the Panama Railroad, which directed interoceanic rail traffic across the Isthmus of Panama (then governed by Bolivia), were in a building that today is the Hotel Washington. The fastest and most convenient route linking San Francisco and New York in those days was via Panama. (more)
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Holland America Line Debuts New Full-Transit Cruises and Itineraries for 2008

Travel & Tourism SEATTLE, Feb. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Holland America Line offers 30 canal sailings in 2008 including new full-transit cruises though the Panama Canal, exotic new 13- to 26-day Inca Discovery sailings, and new spring and fall departures from Tampa to highlight its 2008 canal itineraries. The premium cruise line features 13 trans-canal voyages on seven ships in 2008, plus 17 "Sunfarer" sailings -- including four for the first time on the Vista-class ms Zuiderdam -- that combine Panama Canal cruising with Caribbean exploration. These 30 cruises offer extraordinary variety with itineraries ranging from 10 to 36 days and ports of call encompassing four exciting regions: the Mexican Riviera, Central America, South America and Caribbean. Itineraries are designed to provide opportunity to experience a broad mix of history, culture, wildlife, adventure and relaxing beaches. "The 40-mile Panama Canal is one of the most remarkable engineering feats in the world, and Holland America Line has designed these cruises to maximize the full-transit experience," said Richard D. Meadows, CTC, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs. "As part of our Explorations Speaker Series, a Panama Canal historian provides guests with fascinating insights on the canal's history, development and operation as their ship rises, then lowers, 85 feet through six giant locks. This is truly an experience of a lifetime." (more)
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Looking for a divemaster for Panama...

Travel & Tourism By Capt Scott - Hi All, Just finally finished the new boat and am now looking for a good divemaster or divemaster intern. I've been very privileged in the past and worked with some great divemasters, which I also consider myself one of these. There are many persons out there carrying the divemaster or higher card, but not everyone makes a good divemaster. I'm looking for someone that is good with the customers. Also, so far, it's just me and a Panamanian Captain working in this organization. Skills that would be beneficial would be: web, marketing, video and photography. In other words, when not diving, I need help getting this thing moving. Things are very slow to start with, and the pay will be small in the beginning, but as things grow, all will get better. Anyone interested??? Capn' Scott Dive Coiba and the Pacific Coast of Panama scuba-charters.com
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