Real tourism in Panama is visitors, not tourists

There is little doubt in the increase of people coming to Panama for short periods, but many are visitors, not tourists.

This difference is essential for property investors in the market to understand with new developments outside of city limits.

Numbers show that 40 plus percent of the number of visitors coming to Panama are cruise ship visitors. Nearly none of these visitors moves past the city limits. Tourists that come to visit Panama itself spend a small fraction of their time in the city limits, spending most of it at the many area attractions outside city limits.

Although record numbers of visitors are coming to Panama City, just a small amount of them venture into the surrounding area, lessening the overall benefit that property investors will see when developing outside of city limits.

Over the last several years, the country has created a number of incentives to lure visitors in. During 2005 and 2006, tourism funds rose more than 20 percent, with 2006 showing tourism revenue at US $841.4 million.

A law passed in 1994 was set in place to promote tourism investment in the region. This included large, lucrative tax incentives.

Accordingly, new property investments in record numbers have been seen. This includes some 35 new hotels, resorts and other attractions built through 2007. Included are the new Sheraton, Inter-Continental, Melia, and the Radisson Colon 2000. As of the end of 2007, some 1398 tourism attractions have registered in Panama and the surrounding area.

On a side note, Costa Rica, the largest tourism draw in Central and South America has seen record growth each year throughout the country. While central cities are more popular, visitors travel throughout the country as tourists, many of which are centralized near the well-known beaches here. Additionally, when reporting tourism numbers, Costa Rica does not include cruise ship passengers in statistics, Panama does.