Panama, a country very rich in nature, history and culture, has once again highlighted its commitment to sustainable tourism by recently signing the new declaration “Transformation towards the tourism of the future”. With the support of 11 ministers and high authorities of the tourism sector, the declaration signed in Panama was made in response to the call of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for both governments and the private sector to reconsider the intentional development of the industry. as it resumes business and recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our vision of tourism is based on sustainability and we focus on contributing to the empowerment of communities, scientific research, the regeneration of ecosystems and local cultures,” says the Minister of Tourism of Panama, Iván Eskildsen. “Panama is proud to lead the region with ongoing initiatives to connect travelers with communities, culture and nature through improved infrastructure and access to unique experiences.”
The country’s Sustainable Tourism Master Plan 2020-2025, recognized by UNESCO as an example of innovation and sustainability, reactivates Panama’s Tourism, Conservation and Research (TCI) strategy to highlight the three fundamental pillars of the country’s heritage. These include Cultural Heritage (multifaceted culture), Green Heritage (extraordinary biodiversity), and Blue Heritage (wonders of the ocean).
Examples include the work that the Panama Tourism Authority (ATP) is carrying out with local and indigenous communities to revive tourism in various areas of the country in order to help preserve and sustain the biocultural legacy of these cultures.
In the Panama Canal watershed, you can travel up the Gatun River to visit the Emberá Community, one of the seven indigenous groups that inhabit Panama. The community welcomes visitors to better understand their ancestral culture and to learn about their way of life, including art, worldview, and rituals. In Bocas del Toro, the Government collaborates with Afro-Caribbean coastal communities to highlight the region’s unique gastronomy that originates from Caribbean roots and has evolved over decades of local influence.
A project is also underway to develop and rehabilitate 1,000km of trails across the country, with a focus on engaging local communities for the benefit they derive from the trails and their efforts to help maintain them.
“Panama offers thousands of unique immersive experiences that invite active travelers to enjoy authentic and vivid activities, and that make a difference in the country through tourism,” said Fernando Fondevila, executive director of PROMTUR Panama. “From conserving wildlife and ecosystems to promoting the growth of local communities, our approach is to appeal to the sensibility of today’s traveler for immersive engagement and a desire to return.”
In Coiba National Park and its surroundings, the marine protection zone was expanded through executive decrees to protect and improve marine life, which positioned Panama as a global Blue Leader in conservation. The park allows visitors to learn about and experience sustainable living through local communities that still practice artisanal fishing and lead turtle conservation projects. Other regions of interest include the Bay of Panama and the Las Perlas archipelago, under the supervision of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, which provides a refuge for whales that migrate each year, further enhancing Panama’s reputation for spectacular sighting of these animals.
In the Chiriquí Highlands, where the indigenous Ngäbe and Buglé communities harvest Geisha coffee, the most expensive in the world, the government has expanded its coffee circuit to include a variety of tourist experiences on local farms. Through development by the ATP and the Western Region Competitiveness Center (CECOMRO), the circuit currently includes 15 coffee farms with the goal of reaching 42 farms upon completion.
Other Latin American countries joining Panama in signing the “Transformation towards the tourism of the future” declaration include Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala and Honduras. The statement is also endorsed and signed by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), PROMTUR and the Jordan Tourism Board.