Home Special Guest Fernando Machado: “It is important to develop products and activities that support...

Fernando Machado: “It is important to develop products and activities that support the increase in tourists specially in times of low occupancy.”

Destinations increasingly seek to generate new experiences that attract the interest of local and foreign visitors, however, the hotel sector plays an important role in making every tourist’s stay comfortable, safe and relaxing. This vital element within tourism is the reason why in this edition de have as special guest the President of the Panamanian Hotel Association (APATEL) Fernando Machado, a professional with extensive experience in management positions in hotels of national and international prestige and with a broad vision of tourism. Panamanian. It is an honor for The Visitor – El Visitante to have exclusively the impressions of this renowned professional regarding the current situation of Tourism and hospitality in Panama.

What is the current state of the hotel industry in Panama? Both in Panama City and in the rest of the interior.

‘In 2023 Panama achieved a slightly higher number of tourists than in 2019 according to figures from the Tourism Authority. Statistics classify visitors who spend at least one night in the country as Tourists.

Approximately 329 country hotels are registered in the country according to the Tourism Authority. Of these, approximately 39% are in the province of Panama and 61% in the interior.

Apatel has occupancy statistics for a subset of hotels through collaboration with an international statistical service.

This statistic indicates that in 2023 the hotels in the sample in Panama City closed with an average of 55% occupancy. And January 2024 closed with an average of 58%.

For the interior, unfortunately the sample of hotels that participates in this statistical service is much smaller. Therefore, the general occupancy figure is not representative of the region.

Through a survey carried out directly with some hotels, we estimated that for the specific carnival date the occupancy in inland hotels, beaches and carnival areas was between 80% and 100%. We must remember that in summer and dates like this the occupancy in these hotels increases.”

How is APATEL working with destinations to support the development of the experiences offered?

“At a general level, the Tourism Authority has just launched a Manual with information for Tourist Guides, who are an important point of contact when tourists visit our country. It is an interesting initiative because this information can be valuable to other members of the tourism industry to expand knowledge about the country’s attractions.

Apatel is participating in several initiatives to support the development of human resources. We believe it is valuable to reinforce the soft skills of hotel associates, both in Panama City and in the interior. There are also initiatives that are being planned to reinforce technical skills.”

Where do tourists who stay in hotels both in the capital and in the interior come from?

“The arrival of visitors in 2023 by air (Tocumen) grew by 17%. Tourists visited us from the following regions: 37% from South America, 28% from North America, 15% from Europe, 9% from Central America and the rest from the Caribbean and Asia.

In terms of activities, both the start of the cruise port in Amador, and the different events and conferences have contributed to the occupation.

For the interior, internal tourism is of great importance.

The number of tourists entering Paso Canoa also increased by 15% in 2023.

In the interior there is a deficit of beds to accommodate tourists who seek our cultural and natural offering. How are we working to encourage the construction of more rooms by current hotels and the opening of new ones?

“As we mentioned, 61% of the hotels are located in the interior. The increase in hotels with new rooms will occur as investors consider that there is demand for them.

That is why it is important to develop products and activities that support the increase in tourists also in times of low occupancy. The interior has a higher occupancy during summer, weekends and holidays, but on other dates occupancy tends to be medium or low.”

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