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Chiriqui Province Eyed For Expansion

Tourism in Panama is booming

eTN Staff Writer  Aug 07, 2009

In the short span of the past six years, Panama's tourism arrivals have more than doubled, while tourism-based revenue has more than tripled, according to the Panama Tourism Authority. This growth, along with farsighted, tourism-friendly laws and tax incentives, has opened the floodgates for investment in the country.

These funds are being channeled back into the tourism sector by way of improving infrastructure facilities, including power plants, telecom projects, overpasses, roads, highways, and bridges. In fact, the governments of Panama and Costa Rica have announced plans to build a temporary bridge over the Sixaola River, which will eventually be converted to a permanent bridge, costing US$13.4 million and increasing the connectivity between the countries. One of the most notable improvements is the US$5.25 billion Panama Canal expansion project, which will double the canal's capacity and allow more traffic.

Recently, focus has also turned to the Enrique Malek Airport in David, the capital of the Chiriqui Province and gateway to the islands in the Gulf of Chiriqui. In early 2007, Gregorio Montecer, engineer and advisor to the director of the Civil Aeronautical Authority, unveiled a US$10 million expansion plan for the David airport to be completed by 2015. Upon the conclusion of the first phase of the project - a US$2 million investment to be completed this year - the upgrades to the runway will allow the David airport to accommodate commercial jets as large as a Boeing 737. Local developers have begun discussions among each other and with Panama's tourism authority about how to leverage these upgrades into regular international flights.

"This area has seen a vast improvement of physical, economic, and social infrastructures in recent years," said Ben Loomis, president of Amble Resorts, which is currently planning the development of a new eco resort in the Gulf of Chiriqui, the Resort at Isla Palenque. "In addition to the airport expansion, roads are being improved and new, high-quality health care facilities are being built. This expansive growth plus its incredible natural beauty makes the Gulf of Chiriqui an ideal location for our new island resort."

"After 30 years in Costa Rica's Guanacaste Province, my choice in Panama to invest would be the coastal region of the Province of Chiriqui," said Jim Procter of Panama Guru. "It already has an international airport, the sport fishing is as good as it gets on the Central American coast, and it offers westerly views with sunsets over the islands speckled around the Gulf of Chiriqui. Boutique hotels are slowly sprouting up so that's where my chunk of cash would go."

Tourism in Panama is booming
Chiriqui National Marine Park / Image via

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