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Tourism in the Republic of Panama kept its growth during 2005 and 2006. Between January and November 2006, the country was visited by 992,000 tourists and excursionists, 15% more than in 2005, according to the report of the General Comptroller of the Republic. Expenditures made by the tourists during this period reached US$841.4 million, 20.1% more than in 2005.

In 1994, Panama passed Law No. 8 – still the most modern and comprehensive law for the promotion of tourism investment in Latin America and the Caribbean. In so-called Special Tourism Zones, Law 8 offers incentives such as 100% exemption from income tax, real estate tax, import duties for construction materials and equipment, and other taxes.

Tourism in Panama City has a very interesting tourism offer. Between January and November in 2006, the percentage of the global occupation had an increase of 53.9%, registering an increase of 10.2% over 2005. The 65.11% is for the first rate hotels and 35.3% for those of of the second category.

The hotel supply has significantly increased both in the capital as in the main cities in the countryside. Different hotel chains, such as Miramar Intercontinental, Marriott, Courtyard Marriott, Radisson Decápolis, Decameron, Country Inn, Gamboa Rain Forest Resort, The Bristol, Four Points Sheraton, Sheraton Hotel & Convention Center, Crowne Plaza Panama, Veneto Hotel & Casino, Inter-Continental Playa Bonita and Avalon Grand Panama were built in Panama City and Hotel Meliá Panama Canal in the province of Colon. To these hotels, we add important investments in improvements made by local hotels like El Panamá Convention Center & Casino, El Ejecutivo, Hotel Riande Continental, Riande Aeropuerto Hotel & Resort, Hotel Riande Granada, Coronado Country Club Resort, Canopy Tower, Camping Resort, Paitilla Inn and Soloy. There were improvements in the Washington Hotel in Colon.

Some of the multi-million dollar investment opportunities include:

* The development of major intermodal transportation and logistics centers at Colon and at the Howard/Farfan complex on the Pacific, including the construction of a new container port at Farfan.
* Ship owners services, servicing of vessels, ship repair and maintenance, container repair, intermodal cargo services.
* The future construction of the third set of locks, which will include the necessity for additional water resources, expanded hydroelectric power generation, the expansion of the entrances to the Canal and the deepening of Gatun Lake and Culebra Cut.
* Contracts related to the Panama Canal operation (provisions, equipment, material, construction, consulting etc.) that reached $135 million in 2001, not including purchases of $22 million.
* Provision of concessionary services to the ports (power, water, fuel, material, food, banking services, telecommunications, maintenance and repair, dredging) estimated at between $47 and $60 million annually).
* Services to passengers and crewmembers transiting the Canal, which in 2000 numbered 255,571 and 458,134 respectively.
* Services to smaller ships, such as yachts and motor cruisers, which totaled 1,748 in 2001.
* The relocation of approximately 8 to 10 thousand persons, as a result of Canal expansion, requiring housing and infrastructure.
* Cruise ship reception and tourism.
* Others

In terms of related air transport opportunities, Tocumen International Airport should be developed as an international and regional hub for both passenger traffic and cargo; the former Howard airforce base should become an aviation industrial center, making use of its modern airport facilities; and construction of the cargo airport at France Field in the Atlantic must be completed.
The country has 1,398 tourism attractions currently registered, from which 1,005 representing 71.9% are natural sites and 393 representing 28.1% are cultural and historic expressions.

Also, Panama presents many attractions for the investors of other countries:

* A dolarizad economy
* Political stability
* Legal security
* Tax incentives
* Airport hub
* A United States lifestyle
* Absence of hurricanes, tsunamis, etc.
* A bilingual population (in its majority)
* International attractions like the Panama Canal, with more than ninety years, exotic flora and fauna.
* Prestigious law, auditing and consulting firms.
* More than 100 multinational companies

Panama's Tourism Development Master plan has delimited the National Tourism Space, based on the location and importance of the attractions, achieving the decentralization in nine Tourism Zones, 20 Tourism Centers and other units convenient or apt for tourism development, For this purpose, equipping these nine zones is scheduled to obtain the development of different regions in the countryside.

Panama Cruises

One of the tourism sectors that has experienced a recent growth is cruise ship activity. Panama has developed the proper infrastructure to accommodate this industry, including two ports in the Atlantic side of the Canal, Colon 2000 and one in the Pacific entrance, Amador Cruise Ship Port.

Two (2) brand new cruise passenger terminals have been built on the Atlantic and Pacific entrances of the Panama Canal representing in investment of US$100MM and opening more opportunities for cruises and mega-yachts docking in Panama for services and pleasure.

Annually some 300 thousand persons arrive in cruise ships to Panamanian ports. During high season there is a growth between 2 and 3%. It is estimated that in the cruise season 2007-2008, there will arrive at least 287 thousand 650 tourists in 192 cruise ships, leaving at least 40 million dollars to the Panamanian economy.

Shopping for tourists is just getting better with the opening of three (3) new mega shopping malls at a cost of US$100MM each one, Albrook Mall, Multicentro Mall and Multiplaza Pacific Mall. There are also other shopping malls like Los Pueblos, Los Andes and El Dorado.
 

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