Hotels, ready to take on convention tourism

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Panama will host the first annual Cocal meeting to analyze the challenges that Latin American countries face in capturing events.

Panama has the necessary hotel infrastructure to host 83% of the events and congresses held annually worldwide. Executives from the Federation of Conferences and Related Organizations of Latin America (Cocal), commented that the vast majority of international events does not exceed 1,000 participants, adding that the hotel infrastructure in the capital city is enough to accommodate almost all of these business meetings.

Pablo Weil, president of Cocal, pointed out that Panama has not captured more international events because the private sector has not come together to achieve this goal. "As it happens in many countries of the region, in Panama the private sector does not go with a single voice before the authorities to make the country host an international event," he said. In the capital city, without the capacity of the Atlapa convention center, there is enough space in the hotels to accommodate more than 10,000 people.

Hence, Elizabeth Tovar, director of Cocal, said that we should not wait for the new Amador convention center to be finished to promote the country as a destination for international events. "The most important thing is that there is communication between the private sector, that all those involved, such as associations, professionals, hotels and others, work together to achieve the venue of an event," said Tovar.

The construction of the new Amador amphitheater has an advance of more than 85%, and the contractor must deliver the work in December. The plans of the Tourism Authority of Panama is that the infrastructure of 60 thousand square meters, which will have the capacity to receive more than 25 thousand people, will be operational in the second quarter of 2019.

The work had to be ready by the end of 2014, but it was paralyzed for two years, after the original contractor left the project. On the other hand, Ana María Viscasillas, vice president of Cocal, pointed out that the American continent congress and convention tourism has an economic impact that exceeds 30 billion dollars a year.

The challenge of the countries that host congresses and conventions is to offer personalized experiences to the attendees; demonstrate the identity of the destination to get the person to extend their stay or decide to return with a vacation plan. This would be a key piece to fill the hotel rooms that have only 45% occupancy.

Meeting Panama trusts to be prepared to attend the tourists of conventions. Training, customer service and certification will be the main topics that will be addressed at the First National Meeting of the Meeting Industry, which begins today in Panama.

The president of Cocal said that the private sector decided what would be the topics that would be addressed during the meeting. Weil said that there will be presentations by international experts that will capture the experience of other destinations and what Panama should do to attract more international events.

The agenda includes meetings with the main tourism associations of the country to which the conclusions of the meeting will be reflected.