Now that we have put 2021 behind us, I would like to share with you some of the exciting things that are coming in 2022. While the year 2021 was certainly miserable for many, there were also outgrowths of the pandemic, both positive and negative, which will affect Panama for generations.
After a difficult continuation of 2020 in the first quarter of 2021, Panama vacillated between cautious openings and rapid closures, Panama emerged as one of the most successful in managing the pandemic in Central and Latin America. We lost 7,440 Panamanians to the virus but considering our population of only 4.4 million we were tied with Peru for the most successful containment including hospitalizations, positive cases, death and percentage of immunization achieved. Social systems were put into place to help all Panamanians successfully maneuver the virus and no one went hungry. Schools offered a combination of Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) and in-person classroom teaching.
Rapid Residency Attracting Foreign Investors
During the pandemic, the government began offering a number of programs to quickly employ as many individuals as possible including incentives to promote tourism and to restart robust construction projects. These projects included building condominiums such as the previously paused Arcadia Tower in Costa del Este and the third line of the new Metro system. The programs produced positive outcomes and any middle-class Panamanian looking for full employment could find it.
One hundred, sixty-eight (168) monorail train cars, signaling systems and other technology has been ordered to accommodate the 15.5 mile, 14-station Metro Line 3 which is now in full construction. To accommodate a more rapid completion, the governing board decided not to wait for the fourth bridge to be built but rather cut an approximate 2.5 mile tunnel under the Panama Canal to facilitate moving passengers from the suburbs of Panama Pacifico, Veracruz and the interior of the country.
Tourism, A Major Player In Recovery
Tourism was high on President Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo’s priority list when he entered office in 2019 and much of the groundwork is now beginning to pay off just as COVID is beginning to be controlled. In November and December of 2021, two Ocean-going cruise ships tested the new dual cruise piers now 90% completed on the Amador Causeway and in close proximity to the newly opened Convention Center.
The two terminals can accommodate up to 5,000 passengers a day and cruises will depart and end in Panama allowing for pre- and post-guests. This is projected to create 2,800 new jobs and deliver as many as 600,000 unique visitors to Panama annually. Previously about 260 cruise ships transited the canal annually without stopping in Panama City or allowing for excursions and hotel stays. Norwegian Cruise Line will be the first to seasonally homeport in Panama City and will begin offering round trips to and from Panama City starting March 20, 2022.
As the pandemic comes more under control cruises are starting to welcome more and more passengers to Panama City including lines such as Crystal, Seabourne, Norwegian, Regent, Viking, Ritz Carlton, Carnival and Royal Caribbean
For example, Viking is offering an 11-day “Classic Panama Canal Passage” cruise beginning at $3,299 for the cruise, plus pre-and post-packages in Panama City for $549. “Immerse yourself in nature and discover the rich culture and heritage of Panama. Hike through rainforests and discover UNESCO World Heritage sites,” is how Viking is describing the cruises which will begin as early as March 22, 2022. Seabourne is offering a 14-day cruise beginning in Panama City and ending in Miami, Fl starting at $6,999. This itinerary includes transiting the Panama Canal and stopping in Bocas del Toro.
According to news releases from Seabourne, “We are especially attracted to Panama as we maintain a sophisticated client base who is always looking for new places to visit. Panama is an untapped jewel offering everything from a thriving metropolitan city to the gentle waves of two oceans; not to mention the UNESCO World Heritage site.”
All this new activity has increased demand for rental units both long- and short-term. With the cruise growth, and the opening of the new convention center also on the Amador Causeway, cruise line employees and convention executives are looking for residential spots to call home.
Visiting cruise passengers will be looking for interesting and different overnight accommodations as opposed to the standard hotel room. That is why properties in Costa del Este and Casa Bonita are seeing high demand.
Casa Bonita, the residential tower located on the closest beach to Panama City has entered a close-out phase as it was recently announced a sister building, Palma Bonita will be offered with direct developer financing. With plans for the new building to be located next door, closing out the current, ready to deliver, inventory has created terrific pricing opportunities for the savvy investor.
These luxury units are perfect for the retiring couple as well as an investment to be rented throughout the various sites such as Airbnb, Vrbo and Booking.com. Many buildings offer on-site property management. Additional opportunities aimed at the longer term rental are residences in Costa del Estes. Units in that business district start with as little as 70 square feet to almost 4,000 square feet.
As if the ability to accommodate up to 5,000 cruise passengers a day at the new twin piers on the Amador Causeway is not enough, there is another huge driver for tourism which just opened-–the Convention Center. The new state-of-the-art facility has already welcomed thousands of guests since hosting the first convention in July 2021.
The single building, with common space in the middle, can accommodate 23,906 persons a day. Few conventions require that much space so the building can easily be turned into different appearing units of the same building. According to press releases hotel occupancy will at times exceed 100% filled by the usual business traveler, tourist and now the convention goers and cruise passengers.
The years of 2020 and 2021 may not have been the greatest for most, however it has lead to many positive things on the horizon in Panama in 2022. I’ve almost forgotten the GroundHog days and am simply grateful Panama doesn’t have many severe rules or limitations. I’d love to talk to you about Panama, property and the economy in Panama. Call, email, text, whatever is your choice of communication and I’ll get with you!