Protecting Parks and Empowering Communities Through Sustainable Tourism in Panama

Panama boasts some of the most diverse wildlife in Central America, including large rainforests that form a biological bridge between North and South America, and home to almost 1,000 different species of birds.  But, until recently, Panama has not actively promoted tourism in its parks and protected areas. Most of its 2.3 million annual visitors rarely venture outside Panama City, where they come for shopping and Canal related business related business.

In 2015, The Republic of Panama Government partnered with Sustainable Travel International and other key national and international stakeholders in the design and development of a first-of-its-kind national initiative to drive tourism to Panama’s protected areas and gateway communities; and improve conservation and the management of tourism in its national parks.

Sustainable Travel international led an in-depth situational analysis of the tourism development opportunities and challenges in the protected areas of Panama, facilitated stakeholder consultation and prioritization workshops, conducted an international tour operator survey and developed a strategic plan. The work resulted in the formulation of a clear Vision, Mission and Action Plan for the sustainable development of tourism in Panama’s Protected Areas.

Development of sustainability standards for the tourism sector was identified as a priority for stakeholders.  Standards provide a framework to operationalize and build capacity in sustainable tourism best practices with clear criteria and indicators, and certification as incentive for engagement. Standards also provide assurance to visitors that a tourism business is operating according to agreed-on and verified sustainability criteria.

Since February 2016, STI has been designing and implementing an integrated program of standards for the development of ecotourism in Panama. The program includes a pilot and training for auditors, consultants and ecotourism operators.

For more information, please contact Issa Torres.