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Friday, July 25 2014 @ 09:40 AM EDT

Travel and Tourism

Thousands of tourists visit Panama every year from all over the world. There's a lot of stuff to see and do here. Near Panama City the top destinations are the Panama Canal, the ruins of Old Panama, and the Colonial Casco Viejo section of Panama City. Panama has beaches on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, world-class sport fishing, scuba diving, and is a mecca for bird watchers from around the world. You can zip-line through the jungle canopy in El Valle, taste the best coffee in the world in Boquete, or snorkel around perfect coral reefs in Bocas del Toro. From cosmopolitan Panama City to sleepy little one-horse towns in the middle of nowhere, every corner of Panama has something to offer tourists and visitors. In this section of Panama-Guide.com you will find all of those articles related to tourism and travel. If you require additional information about this or any other category of information regarding the Republic of Panama please take advantage of our powerful in-house search engine. And if you still can't find what you're looking for we even take requests! Welcome aboard, and please remember to tell your friends about Panama-Guide.com, the #1 English Language Website about the Republic of Panama. Salud.
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Sunwing Airlines Introduces New Direct Flights to Playa Blanca Airport (RIH) in Panama

Travel & TourismWith effect from August 1, 2014, Sunwing Airlines will be offering year-round direct flights from Toronto to the Playa Blanca Airport (also known as Scarlett Martinez International Airport) in Panama. This winter, Sunwing will also introduce flights to Playa Blanca Airport from several Quebec gateways in 2014, including Montreal starting in November, Quebec City starting in December, and Bagotville starting February 2015.

“The Playa Blanca region is a popular destination with Sunwing travellers and these direct flights will dramatically improve our passengers’ vacation experience,” says Andrew Dawson, COO of Sunwing Travel Group. He continues to say, “There will be no more two-hour transfers from the previously used busy hub airport in Panama City. Now the majority of the resorts will be within a ten minute drive of this brand-new airport, a game changer when making holiday destination choices for our passengers.”

Sunwing Vacations is the only Canadian company to have confirmed flights to the Playa Blanca Airport and to celebrate, Sunwing landed its first flight on April 4, 2014 as part of the Playa Blanca Airport Opening Ceremony.

Sunwing Vacations offers several great resort choices in Panama and direct flights with quick transfers, making Panama a convenient vacation destination in Central America. We will be offering flights from Quebec City and Bagotville for the high season for the first time this upcoming year.

The new flights from Toronto to Playa Blanca Airport will operate weekly starting on August 1, 2014, while Montreal flights will begin November 14, 2014. A one-week vacation package to Sheraton Bijao Beach Resort, a Sunwing Smile™ resort featuring many family-friendly perks, starts from just: $595 + $345 taxes per person, based on double occupancy departing from Toronto on September, 5, 2014 thru October, 17, 2015. From Montreal, prices start at: $1295 taxes included, weekly departures starting on November 14, 2014 thru December, 12, 2014 for double occupancy. From Quebec, prices start at: $1295 taxes included, weekly departures starting on December 12, 2014 based on double occupancy. From Bagotville, prices start at: $1395 taxes included, departures on April, 3 and April 24, 2015 for double occupancy. Sunwing will also operate additional flights during the winter season from December 2014 until April 2015.

Sunwing Airlines has been offering affordable flights since 2005. Operating convenient direct flights from almost 40 cities in North America, to over 30 vacation destinations, savvy travellers choose Sunwing because of the airline’s unbeatable prices, reliability, and award winning service. Sunwing’s modern fleet of Boeing 737-800 aircrafts have helped the airline achieve an outstanding performance record for on-time departures, as well as increased fuel efficiency, contributing to the carrier’s low fares.

All Sunwing Vacations include award-winning Sunwing Airlines’ Champagne Service, which features a complimentary glass of champagne, hot towel service, Hot & Fresh Bistro meals served with a choice of wine at lunch and dinner, and complimentary in-flight entertainment, including first-run movies and a generous 20 kg free baggage allowance. For just $40 more per flight segment, travellers can upgrade to Sunwing’s Elite Plus Service™, which features advance seat selection, separate check-in at a majority of airports, advance boarding, 30 kg baggage allowance, priority baggage handling, and extra legroom seats. (Press Release)

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United Airlines to add Denver-Panama City nonstop

Travel & TourismBy Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY - United Airlines will launch a new international route from its Denver hub, announcing on Wednesday that will add nonstop flights to Panama City starting Dec. 3.

The carrier plans daily service on the route from November through August and will reduce the schedule to five flights a week during September and October. United will use 118-seat Boeing 737-700 jets on the route, which still must be approved by regulators. The aircraft are configured with 12 business-class seats, 40 in Economy Plus and 66 in regular coach.

The new route would connect United's Denver hub to the Panama City hub of United's fast-growing Star Alliance partner Copa Airlines. Copa, which has dramatically expanded its U.S. footprint during the past few years, bills its Panama City base as the "Hub of the Americas."

The Panama City route follows United's highly anticipated launch last June of a route between Tokyo and Denver .

"Following the success of our Denver-Tokyo flight, our new service to Panama City will link our Denver business and leisure travelers to the business and finance capital of Central America and open the door to other new, international destinations through our partner airlines," Steve Jaquith, United's managing director of the Denver hub, says in a statement.

"Just as Tokyo opened a gateway to Asia, Panama City will open the Rocky Mountain West to all of South America," Denver Mayor Michael Hancock adds in a statement from Denver International.

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First Charter Flight Full Of Canadian Tourists Lands At Rio Hato

Travel & TourismBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - The first Sunwing Airlines charter flight carrying 176 Canadian tourists from Toronto arrived at the Scarlett Martinez International Airport at Rio Hato today, and they were met by a delegation of Panamanian politicians who were there to celebrate the inauguration of the new facility.

The Boeing 737-800 landed this morning at about 10:50 am, and they were received by the President of Panama Ricardo Martinelli.

Martinelli said after much coordination, they managed to bring this first charter flight Rio Hato, marking the beginning of many more to come.

"We have been informed, that with the arrival of this first flight in the coming months they are expecting to bring in one flight per week, and as the demand increases the number of flights could increase to four flights per week for next season," he said.

Martinelli said this area of the country will benefit from the arrival of these tourists, because this is a very privileged region with great potential.

He said "I am very happy we built this airport in Rio Hato because first you have to create the infrastructure, and then bring the tourists."

The Panamanian president also said more hotels are planned for the area, which will draw more tourists and more charter flights. (Press Release)

Editor's Comment: And, there's another big infrastructure project completed by the Martinelli administration, just in time for the election on 4 May. There's no mistaking the timing - there is exactly one more month to go. They probably have a big board in their "war room" with a list of large projects to open, ribbon cut, and inaugurate on a daily basis between now and election day. They are hammering home the primary message, that they have built more crap than anyone else in the history of the country.

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Public Ministry to launch campaign against sex tourism

Travel & TourismStarting next week the Public Ministry will launch a campaign to prevent sex tourism and child pornography, said Eiselys Vásquez, of the National Commission for the Prevention of Crimes of Sexual Exploitation.

He explained the initiative seeks to alert visitors that sexual intercourse with minors in Panama is a crime - subject to 15 years in prison for violators. The same goes for the distribution of child pornography. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Sexual tourism is one thing, child pornography is another. In Panama it's common for foreign women to come in from Colombia or the Dominican Republic, to prostitute themselves - mostly to other foreigners, especially gringos. The Panamanian government has traditionally looked the other way, because they like the tourism traffic. And generally speaking, they really don't care all that much because most of the prostitutes are not Panamanian women, although there are a fair number of them as well. For the most part, the only time they "crack down" on the women is when they want to try to squeeze them for bribes.

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Panama, Among The 11 Places To Go In 2014

Travel & TourismCNN issued an article called “11 places to go in 2014,” where Panama is mentioned in the list as one of the destinations to go to in 2014.

The journalist Tamara Hilton recommends Panama as a favorite destination to visit. She mentioned the Panama Canal’s 100-year anniversary in August, but said this was certainly not a top five reason for visiting the country in 2014.

Hilton said there are many other reasons to travel to Panama such as the volcanoes, rainforests, coffee plantations and beautiful beaches on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. (Estrella)

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Tourists Are Visiting Panama To Take Advantage Of Black Friday

Travel & TourismThe administrator of the Tourism Authority, Salomón Shamah, said a large amount of tourists came to Panama from different parts of Latin America to take advantage of the discounts on “Black Friday.”

The activity carried out together with Copa Airlines, according to Shamah, has increased in a 12% in contrast with previous years.

The administrator said every month they create different activities to motivate travelers to come to the country.

He said “Black Friday” might soon turn into “Black Week,” starting on Monday and ending on Sunday.

Approximately 30 thousand tourists might arrive in the next few days to take advantage of the different discounts at several stores in the city. (TVN)

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The Tourism Authority Has Started A Campaign Against Illegal Rentals

Travel & TourismThe Tourism Authority of Panama is putting up fliers around the Tocumen International Airport informing tourists that renting out apartments for less than 45 days in Panama is illegal.

These announcements will be placed at information desks in the ATP at the Tocumen International Airport, and at the taxi services desks.

The second step will be putting up banners and videos on other places frequently transited by tourists who enter the country through this airport.

The announcements are published with a specific logo stating that illegal rentals are banned by Law 80 from 8 November 2012.

The ATP is still studying this offense to design an efficient strategy to control it.

The Tocumen Airport is the main entrance to the country in the tourism sector. A total of 1,016,241 visitors have entered the country between January and August, representing an increase of 1.7% and 16,590 more tourists than in the same previous period. (Critica)

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New study confirms trend of growing tourism to Central America

Travel & Tourism SITCA, (the Secretariat of Central American Tourism Integration), together with the tourism authorities of the seven Central American countries - Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama - have conducted a study on the evolution of the tourism sector in the region over the past twelve years (2000-2012) and made a positive forecast of expected 6.1% growth for this year based on the results.

The study shows that, in the period between 2000 and 2012, tourism to Central America has grown by 122.8% from 4.23 million visitors in 2000 to 9.39 visitors in 2012, an annual increase of 7% on average.

The American continent is the main source of visitors to the region. Domestic tourism from within the region accounts for 40% of the total whereas North America brings between 35% and 40% of visitors. Europe and South America represent 10% of the total.

Costa Rica and Guatemala are the countries that received the highest number of visitors, but it is Nicaragua and Panama the ones that have registered the biggest growth in the period covered by the study, moving from 5th and 6th position (in terms of the total number of visitors received) to 4th and 3rd respectively.

The average spend by tourists has also grown considerably over the last twelve years, mainly thanks to an increase in the amount of products consumed, moving from an average spend per person of US$700 in 2000 to US$1016 in 2012.

FORECAST FOR 2013 - Based on the results of the study, it is expected that the number of visitors will increase by 6.1% this year compared to last year, with an expected total of 9.96 million visitors. According to this forecast, Costa Rica and Guatemala will be the two countries that will receive the highest number of visitors, with around 2 million each.

For 2013, the average spend per tourist is expected to reach US$1016.63, compared to US$1016.18 in 2012. Tourism revenue is expected to be highest in Panama and lowest in Nicaragua.

The data revealed by SITCA shows that the tourism sector in Central America is becoming a main source of revenue for all seven countries and a true motor for the economic growth of the region. (www.incentivetravel.co.uk)

Editor's Comment: Tourism has increased sharply in Panama over the time period covered by this report, mostly thanks to the implementation of the Torrijos-Carter treaty, the departure of the US military from Panama, and the return of democracy to Panama. In the 80's and 90's most Americans associated Panama with the dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega, and no one really saw or thought of Panama as a potential destination for tourism. Once democracy returned to Panama it took more than a decade for some infrastructure to be built (like the Decameron resort, for example) that would be of a quality to draw tourists to Panama. These days Panama sees more than 2 million tourists per year, which is not bad for a relatively small country with a population of 3.5 million. Those people leave behind a whole lot of money - making even more of an incentive to build even more infrastructure. There is now a "glut" of hotel rooms in Panama City, and developers are reaching out to build new resorts in places like the upper coast of the province of Colon, past Portobelo and out on the Caribbean - which is actually a much better beach than anything on the Pacific side. Anyway, more tourists and tourism dollars for Panama is a good thing. And we're now halfway through September. Once the temperatures start dropping up North, then people start to turn their attentions towards the South, and to seek out destinations where they can thaw out and avoid the snow and ice...

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San Blas: One Island For Every Day

Travel & Tourism

The newspaper El Espectador from Colombia published information on San Blas. In the note they talk about the incredible potential of the island and how it has been highly exploited through tourism.

The article says the following:

Between the sky, the sea and the sand from San Blas, there is a timeless paradise, drawn between corals and infinite blue waters. Each island receives its visitors with majestic landscapes ideal for holidays, adventure and art.

The archipelago of San Blas is located in the northern coast of the country, to the east of the Panama Canal. 49 of its islands belong to the Guna indigenous people who have their own authorities and laws since 1925. 78 years later they keep their culture pristine, giving the opportunity to tourists to know their simple lifestyle and enjoy the experience of spending a night in a “bohio” (small hut).

The beaches surrounded by coral reefs, some of them the oldest in the world, are perfect for snorkeling, diving and kayak. In the heart of the indigenous community, women, who wear jewelry garnished with geometric patterns of bright colors, long skirts, gold rings in their nose and necklaces, sell the visitors blouses made with “molas;” pieces of colorful fabric that outweigh and reflect the worldview of the Gunas and their spiritual lives.

Besides the fabrics, the economy of the island fully depends on fishing and selling coconut. In the Guna region, there are many touristic destinations, most of them focused on ecotourism (part of them in Carti and in the region of Ailigandi). Even though San Blas is a hot destination, whoever wants to visit the archipelago must be authorized by the leader of the tribe before they spend a night at the place.

Among the most visited islands are Achutupu, Kagantupu, Yandup and Coco Blanco, perfect for sunbathing and appreciating majestic formations of coral reefs and a wide variety of fish. Besides, you have the option of touring with the fishing boats from Colon to have your breath taken away by the landscapes.

Annually, approximately 100 thousand tourists come to this place from all around the world who want to experience how is it to live in the past but in the present, enjoying the nature of each and every island and enjoy the perfect environment for contemplation and meditation.

Weather
Hot; temperatures are relatively high (87 ºF) and slightly change over the year.

Area code
+507

How to get there
You can get there in 30 minutes by flying through Air Panama, who takes you from the Marcos A. Gelabert Airport in Albrook, until El Porvenir island in the region.

Where to sleep
Ukuptupu huts, five minutes away from the El Porvenir airport in San Blas.
www.ukuptupu.com
Kuanidup huts, located in the area of Rio Sidra in the islands of San Blas, they are one hour away (travelling by sea) from El Porvenir.
www.kuanidup.com

Don’t miss
The Isla Tigre fair from October 7 to October 10, to commemorate the moment when the Gunas revealed against the Panamanian authorities. They do crafts, agricultural and touristic samples.

What to eat
Lobster with rice and coconut with chicken in marinade, served cold.

Plans
You must go to Isla Naciente to do snorkeling or diving.
Visit Isla Caledonia to know about the culture and dances of the Gunas.
Enjoy the beaches and relax while you are in contact with nature. (Critica)

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Hundreds Of Tourists Stuck In The Border With Costa Rica

Travel & TourismHundreds of tourists wishing to enter or leave Panama through its border with Costa Rica were very upset due to the poor conditions they face to have their documents stamped to enter or exit the country.

Tourists from different nationalities said they had to wait over seven hours until they were assisted, because there are only two officers working and the system kept going down all the time.

"The system is down," is what they were saying every minute, said Jazmin Castillo, foreign from Costa Rica who was very upset for having to wait so long.

"There are no restrooms, they have us packed like animals in these long lines, with a very poor customer service and lack of staff to speed up the process,” said Ana Lorena Madrigal, a Costa Rican woman who said she was waiting since five o'clock on Saturday.

Another U.S. citizen said she was “very angry, upset and impatient," and said she is leaving Panama with a bad impression.

The only members of the staff present at the place were the two officials providing the service, who said they are not authorized to give statements.

They did say they had problems with the Internet and the long lines were due to the amount of people going in and out from Panama on Saturday to go on different trips. (TVN)

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