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Robust Tourism Growth in Latin America and Panama

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Panama City is home to a growing number of international banks and multinational companies whose Latin American headquarters have relocated there. (Photo: Maria Luisa Gutierrez)
Panama City is home to a growing number of international banks and multinational companies whose Latin American headquarters have relocated there. (Photo: Maria Luisa Gutierrez)


  • Travel study predicts online travel marketplace in Latin America to double gross billings to $5 billion in next two years
  • Mexico, Brazil and Peru a hub for international companies
  • Panama City gets a new 198-room Holiday Inn

There may be a global economic slowdown but you would not know it in Latin America, particularly in the online travel marketplace (OTAs) where a new study from travel research authority PhoCusWright predicts OTAs will double their gross billings to $5 billion in the next two years.

As OTAs thrive, the area’s growing importance to business is also reflected in stepped-up investment from the travel industry. US-based airlines - such as American, Continental and Delta - are launching new routes to compete with local airlines. Some American airlines are merging with Latin American-based lines to compete even more effectively.

Hogg Robinson Group: 14 Regional Partners

The new routes are in part a response to growing corporate travel to the region, according to the Hogg Robinson Group (HRG), a corporate travel services company. To meet this growing demand, HRG has also appointed two new partners in Bolivia and Panama. HRG has had representation in Latin America since the early 1990s and now has 14 Partners in the region: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Uruguay and Panama.

Companies are increasingly consolidating operations in Latin America to become more efficient. “Latin America has weathered the global financial crisis and, as the market begins to recover, our clients are expressing their desire to grow in the region and consolidate,” said Peter Vargas, Senior Vice President of HRG North America.

Two of the most significant countries in the region are Brazil and Mexico. They are the 8th and 14th largest world economies, according to the International Monetary Fund. Many corporations, such as aircraft manufacturer Embraer and healthcare giant Baxter, have selected Sao Paulo and Mexico City as their consolidated Latin American hubs for corporate travel management.

The Peruvian capital of Lima is also becoming a hub for business travel consolidation. Its convenient location and stable economy make it attractive as a relocation site.

Panama City Draws Banks, Multinational Companies

Panama City has a reputation as home to a growing number of international banks and multinational enterprises whose Latin American headquarters have relocated there. To help meet growing business trends, Intercontinental Hotels Group announced it has signed a franchise agreement to bring a new, 12-story, 198-room Holiday Inn Express Hotel to the heart of one of Panama's most recognized business and financial districts, known as “Calle 50.”

The hotel will be located within walking distance to Calle Uruguay, one of Panama's trendiest zones for restaurants and entertainment. The hotel's location will also be within easy access to the city's Tocumen International Airport.

Set to open in July of 2012, the hotel will be owned and managed by Latin American Hospitality Management Inc., a division of Grupo Agrisal, under a license agreement with Intercontinental Hotels. The Holiday Inn Express Panama City will be Intercontinental Hotels Group's 24th hotel in Central America. The hotel operator already has four hotels in Panama, with a fifth under construction.

The new property will showcase all elements of Holiday Inn’s recently completed $1 billion global relaunch. First announced four years ago, the relaunch program creates a more contemporary brand image to focus on: arrival and welcome services, guestroom and guest bath comfort, and redesigned logo and signage.

Once open, amenities at the new Holiday Inn Express Panama City will include a business center, swimming pool, gymn, two parking levels and guest laundry facilities.

Key Statistics – Tourism in Panama (source: Comptoller General of the Republic of Panama)

  • Panama’s strong tourist growth during the first quarter of this year was 9.7% more than the same period in 2010, according to the country’s Comptroller General of the Republic.
  • Cruise ship passenger traffic in March was 15% more than last year during the same time period.
  • In the first quarter, tourists spend $488 million in Panama or $49 million more than the same period in 2010.

By David Wilkening for
David Wilkening is a former newspaperman who worked in Chicago, Detroit and Orlando. He now specializes in travel and real-estate business writing.

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