Sustainability is economic, social, and environmental. All three, all the time — that’s the future of successful destinations.

Where to start? Well, actions speak louder than words, so let’s start there and let’s start with Panama.

As destinations worldwide consider their role and function regarding sustainability, Panama took a bold step forward in October 2021 by rebranding around a sustainable master plan based on the nexus of tourism, conservation, and research that UNESCO recognized as truly innovative. 

Sustainability, regeneration, and conservation are not just cool buzzwords or a hot positioning statement for Panama. The journey to a comprehensive sustainable tourism strategy and brand began decades ago with Panama's Ministry of Environment and the Panama Tourism Authority.

Panama faces the same challenges that almost all destinations face or have faced at some time or another:

  • It has an abundance of resources but a scarcity of online bookable products 
  • Lodging is unbalanced territorially, with 57% of the rooms in the country's capital city
  • Hotel occupancy rates are worryingly low at 45% and in decline
  • It has a history of disorderly development based on a lack of defined standards and plans

In that context, Panama's sustainability rebrand is not just an ‘addition to the plan’ or a series of lofty proclamations. Instead, it’s a key tool in creating ongoing social, economic, and environmental regeneration and growth. 

Realizing success for the Panamanian sustainability model will rely heavily on engaging and attracting travelers who not only rise to the sustainability challenge, but also commit to helping Panama achieve its goals by leaving legacy value on the ground in the country for stakeholders and citizens alike.

Sharing Panama with the world, engaging travelers who share the same values, and using tourism as a force for good falls to my friend and peer, Woodrow Oldford. He’s a fellow Canadian and one of the best marketing philosopher-practitioners with whom I have worked.

Woodrow is the Chief Marketing Officer at Promtur Panama. Previously, he served as the vice president of global marketing at Banff & Lake Louise Tourism in Canada, and before that was head of creative services and digital operations at the international airline, WestJet.