New Venue Expected to Boost MICE in Panama
by Cynthya Porter
Officials in Panama say the country is poised to dramatically increase the number of tradeshows and events there with the anticipated opening of the Amador Convention Center in Panama City later this year. The facility is part of a $193 million development project involving the Amador Causeway, a four-mile-long thoroughfare that separates the Panama Canal from the Pacific Ocean and contains a concentration of Panama City’s tourism attractions. Together the improvements are expected to draw millions of new visitors to Panama and position Panama City as a premier destination for the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry.
The Amador Convention Center was a necessity, government officials said, because the city’s Atlapa Convention Center has a maximum capacity of 10,500, a figure well short of the needs of many international expositions today. The new facility, which is expected to be completed in December 2018, will span 624,000 sq.ft. and include 323,000 sq.ft. of exhibition space, an outdoor amphitheater, a performing arts center, a grand ballroom, an atrium and more. The capacity will be 25,000, and tourism officials have been attending events for meeting planners around the world to attract interest in the new space. Rodolfo Del Valle, a director of sales for venue manager SMG, told investors that the expected revenues will be significant. “The Amador Convention Center will be a trigger for the Panamanian economy and it is expected that in 2019, the country will receive more than $18 million in association with the operation of this complex,” he says, noting that the figure represents revenue from only 100 meetings because the venue will not be fully operational until mid-year. Once established, the Panama Tourism Authority says it expects to host conventions and congresses with an attendance of more than 10,000 people every month.
For 2017, Panama City was ranked sixth in Latin America for the number of international meetings hosted annually, according to a report published by American Express Meetings and Events. The International Congress and Convention Association puts it in eighth place when compared to all of Latin America. Though it is a substantial improvement over previous years when Panama ranked as low as 19th, it is only a starting block for tourism officials who say they aim to put Panama on top.
Panama is uniquely positioned to become a global destination, officials say, because it is geographically located in a place that can be reached with direct flights from all of North and South America and most of Europe. With an increase in air traffic looming as a result of the new convention center, the Panamanian government is also upgrading Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport and recently invested heavily in the city’s subway system.
Those measures, as well as the convention center, are all part of the Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development 2007-2020, which was minted in 2007. Among the plan’s main objectives is to promote sustainable tourism through the improvement of facility capacity, and the Amador Convention Center project puts the country on a trajectory to achieve that goal on schedule. The accomplishment of other goals, such as to strengthen the tourism industry by infusing it with new revenue and to fairly and evenly distribute the economic benefits that come from improvements, is expected to follow.
“For more than a century, Panama has been the hub of the Americas and is the place where international commerce comes together,” says Gustavo Him, minister of the Panama Tourism Authority. “With our new convention centers, modern hotels, historic attractions and convenient air service, Panama is poised to become the destination of choice for international meetings and conventions.”
Cynthya Porter is a 70-time award-winning journalist recognized by national and international associations for her journalistic expertise in tradeshow topics, travel writing, photography, and news. She has covered the exhibition industry for seven years and, though she makes her home in the Midwest, travels the world in search of interesting stories and photographs.
This story originally appeared in the September/October issue of Exhibit City News, p. 52. For more pictures and original layout, visit http://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecnflipbook_septemberoctober_2018_o?e=16962537/64174552