These countries have long focused on sustainable tourism, and eco-friendly meetings and incentives are more integral than ever to their growth strategies.
With well-being and sustainability no longer an afterthought for meeting planners, destinations blessed with an inherent offer that taps into these themes are taking full advantage. Central America is experienced in welcoming international MICE events, with stars like Panama and Costa Rica leading the way.
Both share similar assets that appeal to international meeting planners in search of alternative venues for green events: excellent connectivity, advanced infrastructure, highly qualified and trained industry professionals, tax deductible status for meetings and events, cultural diversity, and a wide array of natural attractions and activities, all leading to a stellar combination of experiences for meetings and incentives.
The Panama Tourism Authority recently approved a five-year Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism (PMTS by its acronym in Spanish), an initiative that is designed to conserve nature and diversify rural economies through the development of the outdoor recreation industry and green tourism in protected areas.
This is a plus for meeting planners, who will be able to incorporate authentic experiences that benefit local communities and the surrounding environment into their programs.
The PMTS ties into the push for the reactivation of the country’s MICE segment by PROMTUR Panama—the destination’s DMO—, the Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP), and the Panamanian Association of Professionals in Conferences, Exhibits, and Events (APPCE), which have come together to aggressively promote the destination under the slogan “MEET SAFE.”
Their approach will market the country’s many well-known attractions along with the new heritage routes created under the PMTS for incentives and Panama’s “Biosafety and Distancing Protocols for the Events and Meetings Industry” that guarantee the safety of the attendees.
Panama’s location has always been its biggest advantage and key to its status as the Hub of the Americas. The expanded Panama Canal and its trillion-dollar business brought with it a level of economic development that’s reflected in its modern skyline.
There are some 20,000 hotel rooms in Panama City alone, distributed among international hotel chains such as Hard Rock, Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham, Starwood, Hyatt Place, and others. The area also has two large convention centers, including the colossal new Panama Convention Center (PCC).
Ready for inauguration in July 2021, the PCC will be adapted to the New Normal right out of the gate. Capable of accommodating 26,000 people simultaneously, it will open with the Venue Shield program already integrated to protect its 60,000 m² of construction area.
The recent winner of “Best Destination for Responsible Tourism” Gold Award from the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards, Costa Rica has been prioritizing environmental sustainability and personal well-being for decades, and its MICE industry has also been closely tied to this topic.
The country cemented its position as a green meeting destination in 2019 when it hosted the World Meetings Forum’s “Summit Costa Rica Sustainable Edition” at the Costa Rica Convention Center (CRCC).
A state-of-the-art venue, the CRCC opened in San José in 2018 and offers over 15,600 m² of eco-friendly construction area. In 2020, it was selected as the best venue for conferences and meetings in the region by International Association of Convention Centers (AIPC) and the World Travel Awards, which also named Costa Rica “Mexico and Central America’s Leading Meetings & Conference Destination.”
In the wake of the pandemic, the CRCC has been certified under a new “Safe Guard” program that protects the health and safety of delegates and staff.
Outside the boardroom, Costa Rica’s tropical landscape and remote, secluded areas offer limitless opportunities for individual and team-building activities that can be coordinated through local tour operators and charter services.
Meeting planners can ensure they are contracting qualified companies by looking for the Costa Rican Tourism Institute’s Certification of Sustainable Tourism (CST), given to over 400 local companies that meet their stringent standards.
Of note is the fact that both countries have received the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Safe Travels stamp that certifies them as destinations that have adopted a new set of global safety and hygiene standards. For current travel updates, go to Visit Panama or the Costa Rica Tourism Board sites.