Remarks by Nancy Hanna, Chair, American Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee.Sept. 9, 2010
Buenas Tardes. I am especially pleased once again to have Mr. Shamah here- our highly active and highly effective tourism minister. Hardly a week goes by when I don’t hear about some new thing you have done to make tourism happen.
I’m really excited about today’s program - Let me especially mention Panama’s handicrafts queen Agnes Santomeno of Reprosa- who has raised our souvenirs to a world class level, and Andrew Coate’s debut today of La Ruta Verde- the most exciting eco-project I have ever seen..
Today before our very eyes Panama is transforming itself to meet its historic destiny- to be the capital of the Americas. Panama’s destiny was first recognized by Simon Bolívar who called the first hemispheric conference- the Congress of Panama in 1826.
Fast forwarding to 911- 911 speeded up Panama’s destiny. Until 911, Miami was the de-facto capital of the Americas-both Latin America and the Caribbean- you know- the place you all liked to go for meetings, to shop, to have fun and take that side trip to Orlando.
911 ended Miami as the capital of the Americas. Why? Because companies in Latin America could not get visas to the USA for their people to attend meetings with consistency. If they needed to send 10 people to a training- they maybe 6 got visas. ( Just one example- Our own president of Amcham Don Elder was in Miami, with Caterpillar when could not get visas for trainings in the US- He recommended that Caterpillar set up a region HQ and training center in Panama- that training center which will need 12,000 hotel nights a year, just broke ground last month)
Panama has is now fulfilling its destiny to be the business capital of the Americas with its strategically central location, the most modern and safe capital city in the region, direct flights to more than 60 destinations and a long history as a business center and crossroads.
In line with Panama’s destiny, President Martinelli has the goal to make Panama the best place in Latin America to do business. Plans include a large convention center on Panama Bay between Casco Viejo and Amador. Due to the incentives of Law 41. More than 100 companies including such giants as Proctor and Gamble and Samsung set up their headquarters in Panama
So naturally, today most of our tourists are businessmen and that’s good.
But there is another Panama- one that is blessed with extraordinary natural attractions- “so beautiful you could cry” rainforests, islands, oceans and mountains with a flor and fauna that is one of the richest in the world and we have the Smithsonian to prove it!
In tourism, our greatest challenge is to balance the business growth, with actions to preserve the priceless treasure of Panama’s nature- not only for tourists to enjoy, but for the long term health and happiness of future generations. Amcham is committed both business development and the preservation of nature.
Enjoy today- let’s learn and let’s work together for both successful and sustainable tourism.