Panama will offer tourist packages for its “coffee circuit” to be launched in 2019

The Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP) announced that it will launch a coffee circuit in various places in the western province of Chiriquí, the main producer of the best specialty coffee beans to promote it as their new tourist product in the country.

“This project seeks to highlight the value of the grain that is produced in this region and position it as a Destination Brand, with a
seal of quality,” said the administrator of the ATP, Gustavo Him, during the third edition of the National Convention of Tourism (Conatur).

The initiative executed in partnership with the Ministry of Environment (MiAmbiente), the Chamber of Tourism of Chiriquí and the Center for Competitiveness Foundation of the Western Region, will be officially presented in January 2019 with promotional packages.

Him said that these packages will include special fees, hotels and tour operators that will take care of the excursion through the farms.

Also, this project aims to accompany the owners of farms for coffee production, to try to incorporate them into tourism activities and
take advantage of it. In this sense, the entity trains site guides, teaches tourism, gives courses of culture, tourism animation on farms
and digital marketing.

The coffee circuit will cover the farms of the districts of Boquete, Tierra Altas and Renacimiento, land that produces vegetables, legumes, flowers, milk and mostly coffee.

The director of Tourism highlighted that these areas concentrate a great variety of landscapes, adventures, biodiversity, scheduled
events and high quality services.

“The product we are developing is a touristic circuit where the national and foreign tourists can live the experience of visiting
coffee farms and witness the whole process: sowing, packaging, tasting the product, but especially having that direct contact with the peasant who carries out this work,” he said.

In recent years, the aromatic coffee has positioned itself as one of the most important agricultural products of the Panamanian highlands, since it has exotic varieties of grain such as geisha, the jewel of the coffee crown.

In 2016, coffee represented 0.6 percent of total food exports, increasing to 1.2 percent by 2017, according to official figures.


Portobelo, the abandoned jewel of the Panamanian Caribbean, sees light at the end of the tunnel

Portobelo is one of the places with the longest history in Panama and also one of the most abandoned. It was the land of pirates and conquerors and has been forgotten for years, although the announcement of a millionaire restoration plan has restored its neighbors’ hope.

“They have always turned their backs on us and the saddest thing of all is that Portobelo is a gold mine, but we have to exploit it touristically,” said Rafael González, a young man who manages a small and improvised parking lot at the entrance of the town and that in his spare time he also works as a boatman.

Nestled on the shores of the Caribbean Sea in a homonymous bay and guarded by three forts, Portobelo was one of the most important American ports during the colonial era, through which most of the riches that Spain embarked towards Europe from the conquest of America passed. 

“In this bay the first battle between the English and Spanish troops (1739) won by the famous officer (Edward) Vernon took place. Portobelo Road, London street, is named for this contest,” said Lourdes Gutiérrez, coordinator of a foundation that seeks to make visible the cultural richness of the town.

“The rest of the pirate (Francis) Drake also rests in these waters and the English come every so often to try to recover them. There are sunken galleons and the crabs keep taking coins,” she added.

That splendid and effervescent past contrasts with the current desolation. The stray dogs loiter in the square, the children play among the mountains of garbage and the pipes empty their black waters in the streets, while abandoned sailboats sink in the bay and the lush jungle eats the forts.

In fact, colonial fortifications were included in 2012 on the List of World Heritage in Danger of the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (Unesco).

“I have almost no grandchildren left, everyone has gone to the city; there is very little to do and living is not comfortable, we do not have any drinking water, but well, let’s see how that plan works,” said Elsa Molinar, a 70-year old native of this town located 100 kilometers north of the capital.

The architect of the National Institute of Culture (INAC) Javier Edwards told Acan-Efe that the current state of the town is a consequence of the scarce budget that governments have historically allocated to culture and the “deficient actions” of local authorities.

Gutiérrez, of the Bahía Portobelo Foundation, said, however, that neglect essentially responds to the prevailing racism of the Panamanian ruling classes: “Panama is a very racist society and has never wanted the development of the Caribbean, where the majority of the Afro-descendant population is located”.

Calle Portobelo
      Calle de Portobelo / EFE

The plan that has made the residents of Portobelo begin to see some light at the end of the tunnel is a $107-million loan approved by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) for the preservation of Panama’s cultural and natural heritage.

The architect of the INAC explained that part of these funds will be used mainly to restore the forts and the building where formerly was the Customs Office, which will “boost” domestic and foreign tourism and attract investment.

Portobelo is also the epicenter of a unique culture in the world developed by African slaves to make fun of the conquerors in the colonial era and is called “Congo”.

The rhythms, dances and crafts of the Congo are so rich and unique that Unesco will evaluate next December if it declares them intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

“If you come to interview me at the beginning of the year when the plan was not 

announced, I would have told you a lot about our abandonment, but right now we are excited and hopeful,” the coordinator of the foundation said.

María M.Mur / EFE

What are top ten cities to go in the world?

According to the latest Global Destination Cities Index, the international destinations with the highest concentration of visitors traveling for relaxation and leisure is Punta Cana

Punta Cana leads the list of top ten cities where more than 90 percent of overnight visitor travel in 2017 was for purposes beyond business—such as vacation or family visits. The list includes several lesser-known destinations that cater to eco-tourists, history buffs, beach goers and adventure seekers.

With cultures uniquely their own but with a common focus on relaxation and fun, the top 10 cities include:

  1. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  2. Cusco, Peru (98%)
  3. Djerba, Tunisia (97.7%)
  4. Riviera Maya, Mexico (97.5%)
  5. Palma de Mallorca, Spain (97.2%)
  6. Cancun, Mexico (96.8%)
  7. Bali, Indonesia (96.7%)
  8. Panama City, Panama (96.3%)
  9. Orlando, United States (94.1%)
  10. Phuket, Thailand (93%)

International travel continues to grow at an incredible rate, transforming local economies and enabling people to broaden their horizons—whether they travel for work or for play.

Source: Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index