Everyone is highly anticipating the arrival of October 12th! Next Monday, Panama will officially lift the ban on international travelers and we will, once again, be welcoming people from all over the globe. The government of Panama ordered the airport and country closed on March 22 so it’s been a long wait, but one that was totally needed to maintain safety during the pandemic of 2020.
While there are no country restrictions, business and tourist travelers coming through Tocumen International Airport will experience a new normal. Everyone entering the airport will need to produce a negative COVID-19 test less than 48-hours old. Antibody tests are not enough so everyone will need to have either a PCR or Antigen test. If they can’t provide an acceptable test, travelers will be quarantined and given a rapid test before entering customs. There will be a $30 charge. Panama isn’t requiring a 14-day quarantine so everyone will be able to move freely once they arrive.
In addition to the tests, there will be automatic temperature checks, social distancing, random temperature checks, face masks in place at all times, sanitization stations, a required electronic affidavit affirming compliance with the health and biosafety standards in Panama, and information about housing plans.
If You Are Sick, We’ll provide A Hotel Room
If someone tests positive, they will be quarantined at a hotel designated by the Ministry of Health for a minimum of seven days. If, after seven days, the test is still positive, the visitor will remain in quarantine until they test negative. The cost of the hotel will be borne by the Panamanian Government.
These requirements will be carried out on all forms of transportation in Panama including taxis, private livery, the subway, and public transit. Hotels and restaurants have their own stringent regulations including sanitizing the reception area three times a day, cleaning the elevators every two hours, and reception employees will operate behind a plexiglass shield. There will be no buffets in restaurants and while casinos, gyms, and hotel pools will be open, it will be at diminished capacity ranging from 30% to 50%. Capacity limits will also be enforced with any group activity such as a tour.
Tired Of Staying Home!
Of course, it is safer to simply stay home, but here in Panama, everyone is really itching to get back out and regain some semblance of “normal”! I have actually enjoyed the enforced slow down and I now take more time to pause and look over the beautiful Pacific Ocean, smell the flowers, and pause on my mountain bike to see the birds. Panama is entering a new phase after COVID-19 and much of it is good.
Panama has emerged from the pandemic better than most Central and Latin American countries, in part because of its diverse economy. Not dependent on oil, or any one type of economic driver, Panama continues to grow despite the implications of having the world essentially shut down. The virus taught us several things and it reaffirmed Panama’s direction in a few more.
For example, by closing the globe, it was quickly demonstrated that we can still improve our environment and reverse some trends resulting from the climate crisis. If the Ganges river in India can improve, certainly the air around Panama City will improve. Panama has always been environmentally conscious, and if there is a silver lining to this pandemic, it is that we were on the right track all along!
Similarly, Panama has been hesitant to push tourism even though everything from Miami-type all-inclusive resorts lined up on white-sand beaches and glamping experiences in the Darien exist. White water rafting, rainforests, museums, five-star tasting menus, spectacular bird watching and a five-star resort known for setting the most fishing records in the world were also located in Panama.
Panama had earlier decided to bill themselves as a “green” tourist destination and some aspects of the pandemic helped people crystallize the concept that enjoying a less-glamorized vacation would be more appealing. During the prolonged period of Panama’s lockdown, the current government offered free English classes for individuals working in hospitality and tourism as well as sponsored excursions for guides and tour operators so they could learn as much as possible about the wide variety of tourism options.
The pandemic also illustrated the need for great healthcare. Medical tourism had been developing for over a decade in Panama City, but it was quickly recognized that first-class care needed to be extended to the rest of Panama. There isn’t universal healthcare yet, but we are much closer after the pandemic. Tests for the virus and treatments were available country-wide.
It would be foolish to suggest the pandemic has been anything less than catastrophic. Lost lives, lost wages and diminished healthcare outcomes have touched almost everyone. Construction was halted, hotels and restaurants shuttered and schools became ghost towns. But, it has been a little less catastrophic in Panama than in other emerging markets.
Economy Firing Up
Tocumen will open October 12th, but economically Panama began firing up last month. In an effort to restart the economy, there are deals everywhere. Furniture prices have been slashed and all-inclusive vacations are so low you know the operators are handing out loss-leaders just to get people in the door. Tour operators are able to provide an almost custom experience because of reduced capacity.
If you have ever considered purchasing a vacation or permanent residence in Panama now is the time. Developer financing starts at less than one percent and tops out at four percent. Close-out inventory on some of the best properties is still available. Think Casa Bonita, Coronado Golf, Royal Palm and Coronado Bay. And then, remember we are talking beachfront properties.
Come See Us!
New construction, amenity-filled towers overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and townhomes are being offered on a rent-to-own basis with a high portion of three years’ worth of rent going toward the down payment. There is incredible excitement in the air. Panamanians want visitors. Please come see us, but remember the rules so we can keep you safe!
COVID-19 has humbled the strongest and helped to refocus the important things. Almost everyone has been impacted by the virus in ways large and small. With the borders once again opening, Panama will continue to grow economically with a strong service sector, mining, tourism, logistics and that fabulous canal!
I’d love to discuss with you the different properties we have on special pricing and how they might be good for you financially or emotionally or both. We have returned to offering the Try Before You Buy program so remember to ask about enjoying a few free nights in our buildings.