Panama set to reopen for domestic and international tourism in coming months

Published on : Friday, August 28, 2020

The Republic of Panama recently released their reopening plan and decided to restart international aviation and tourism activities from October 12, 2020. The plan has also been approved by the cabinet and will begin the reopening with domestic tourism on September 28. Borders will be reopened for international tourists and foreigners two weeks later on October 12. The country has observed one of the longest coronavirus lockdowns since the government suspended international commercial flights on March 22, and will be restarting activities after nearly 6 long months.

According to the reopening plan, all domestic flights, retail shops, travel agencies and operators, tour guides, restaurants and cafes with dine-in options, beaches, outdoor activities like parks and water sports as well as spas and aesthetic services will be reopening from September 28. On the other hand, international flights, tourism activities and non-essential transportation, hotels, motels, hostels and other accommodations will be restarting from October 12. As of now, no reopening date has been scheduled for gyms and fitness centres, casinos, nightclubs, discos, theatres, museums, galleries and concerts, parades and carnivals.

The government of Panama has also mentioned that the October reopening would only be possible if hospital beds showcase only 20% occupancy, the respiratory care unit is only at 15% capacity, and the death rate is under 3%. In case, the mentioned criteria as determined by the Ministry of Health are not met, the country will likely postpone the reopening date. As of now, Panama is yet to release entry requirements or information regarding the allowed countries, the need for PCR testing or any other quarantine measures. Currently, all essential travellers entering Panama requires to show a negative PCR test result taken within 48 hours before departure and mandatory 14-day quarantine on cases where no test result is provided.

Panama has also observed a strict curfew and movement restrictions that only allowed adults to go outside for two hours per day, determined by their government ID number. Though the strict protocol has come to an end, it has been replaced by a curfew running from 7:00 PM to 5:00 AM, with a complete curfews being observed on Sundays. The curfew is also expected to be lifted on September 28, alongside the domestic reopening of the country. Panama continues to have stringent mask requirements in place and has planned to keep the regulations during reopening. Any person in public spaces without a proper mask covering both nose and mouth can be detained and/or fined.

The possible restarting of commercial flights and hotels has brought a sense a relief. However, the tourism sector is seeking more details and greater clarity from the government as there is an existing uncertainty due to the lack of information on the parameters that companies are supposed to follow. Ernesto Orillac, President, Panama Tourism Chamber (Camtur) said in a press statement that there are certain doubts about the process of reopening following the announcement by the Ministry of Health.

He mentioned that after facing nearly 6 months of closure, all companies will not open on October 12. He informed that small hotels and hostels are likely to be the first to reopen while larger establishments might take longer, as they have more expenses to bear. He shared that more light would be required on information like the number of rooms that the hotels will be allowed to enable, the type of amenities will be allowed, and the procedures that would be necessary for tourist transport companies to follow.

However, talks with the government have been planned to define financing mechanisms to offer tourism companies the opportunity to have fresh capital to restart their operations. Orillac also indicated that the Inter-American Development Bank has expressed its intention to provide funds to Panamanian tourism, but clarified that not all companies will have the financial capacity to receive a loan. Additionally, the National Tourism Council (CNT) has already authorized the administrator of the Tourism Authority of Panama to propose the idea of ​​creating a bond that promotes internal tourism to the Executive.

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