Home Special Guest Jose Manuel Bern: “The combination between traditional real estate sector and...

Jose Manuel Bern: “The combination between traditional real estate sector and the tourism sectors is generating great business opportunities”

The real estate industry is one of the most important economic drivers in Panama, and a fundamental basis for the expansion of tourism throughout the country. It is for this reason that in this edition we have as special guest one of the most important leaders in the real estate sector and vice president of Empresas Bern. Graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology as a civil engineer, Jose Manuel Bern has dedicated to restructuring the businesses of Empresas Bern real estate empire founded by his father Herman Bern in the 1970s and which today is positioned as the leading real estate company in the country. In this exclusive interview our special guest talks about the current state of real estate in Panama and how it has been growing hand in hand with tourism nationwide.

What is the current situation of the Real Estate industry in Panama and how is it projected?
“The real estate industry has always been one of the most important sectors of our economy, with a very high multiplier factor, for every dollar invested in construction, that dollar becomes like three dollars in the economy when it circulates, between payment of labor, the purchase of materials, especially those manufactured in Panama. All that money is injected into the economy, however, it has gone through a period of slowdown, the pandemic hit us very hard and Panama’s recovery has been a little slower than elsewhere. I feel that the lockdowns had a lot to do with being completely frozen for a long period of time. But it is also true that it is a very thriving industry and it adapts quickly to the needs of the home sector, which is a basic need of all human beings. We do feel that it is currently being activated rapidly and although it is true that in recent years, and what I mention is my opinion, is that public works from government has been decreasing, being one of the pillars of construction. In the private sector we have seen that there has been a rebound, after having had a few years with excess inventory in some sectors of the industry. We in particular are seeing a lot of investment from abroad, when people are looking to invest in dollars, Panama is a very good option. That will continue to move us forward, the prospects are very good for the next five years, the truth is that the new government looks good and I think this will quickly impact construction.”

How is tourism redefining Real Estate in Panama and what new businesses is it attracting?
“The pandemic definitely accelerated the process that was already happening, issues such as the shared economy and the use of platforms like Airbnb are a reality. We see in the very particular case of Panama and its hotel offer, we do not see major new constructions of hotels in Panama City where the market is fairly well covered in terms of rooms, but there is an increasingly growing demand for more apartment-type units since travelers are making more long-term decisions, instead of staying three days it stays for a week. There is a combination between the purely traditional real estate sector and the tourism sector, which generates a great opportunity for development. This is because you are not force to use the property and the time when you are not there. using it you can rent it on a platform like Airbnb or booking.”

Outside Panama City, what is the area with the greatest potential for real estate development and why?
“Boquete has a lot of potential to be a very important hub by having an airport nearby with an infrastructure that can receive international flights. The David airport can become what we see in the Liberia airport in Costa Rica, where they have more international flights than in San Jose City itself. Boquete has access to the sea, the mountains and coffee, it has an ideal climate, as well as its quality of life and great culinary offer. For all this, it seems to me that Boquete can reach. to be an international destination where you can reach easily and directly.”

How is real estate in Panama is adapting to the concept of sustainable tourism?
“It is something that the market itself is dictating, people are aware of their “Carbon Foot Print”, that they are affecting the environment so much with consumption. The issue of recycling water, the materials you use in construction, that gives you points so to speak in the mind of the consumer, and one looks for those points. For many tourists it is important to know that the wood used is recycled and sustainably produced, or that you use local ingredients for the preparation of the food. It demands for you not to forget about the environment because it is not cool, and for that today it includes the whole issue of sustainability. Even tourists use their visit as an opportunity to do social work. It is part of the enjoyment that many tourists have when visiting a place that they say “I’m not just coming to consume, I’m coming to leave something favorable behind in the community I am visiting.” People are much more aware of that than we were 10 years ago.”

Photos courtesy: Jose Manuel Bern- Empresas Bern.

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