ECO TOURISM FINDS GLAMOUR IN PANAMA
by Cristiane Roget, Correspondent AdAvenueGroup, South Florida, Los Angeles, Paris
According to a recent report by Irina Klytchnikova and Paul Dorosh of the World Bank in Washington, DC and the International Food Policy Research Institute, respectively, “The role of the tourism sector in Panama within the broader social and economic context is attracting visitors not only because of its scenic vistas, luxury golf course resorts and vast biodiversity, but also for its rich cultural heritage, robust commercial opportunities and as a growing center of medical, health and ecotourism.”
The prevailing prescience to protect and steward a sustainable future for Panama permeates the entire region. This speaks of a civility and respect for the surroundings that could best be likened to the Netherlands; where sustainability and manageable development strategies are one in the same.
On a recent press junket to Panama; an unexpected upgrade on the national carrier Copa Airlines found this writer seated adjacent to the charming Priscilla Rodriguez, who waxed poetic about her families ‘finca’ where fragrant groves of tangerines and oranges grow. While sipping a Argentine Malbec paired with ravioli in a sauce of artisanal cheese, she said, “Being a citizen of Panama is to be fraught with uncertainties. Realistically, driving or riding a bicycle to work will not mitigate global warming, especially when nationals must account that the growth of our local economy is fueled by exponential global trade”. Yet, like the scene in “Annie Hall” when the little Alvey Singer refused to do his homework with the excuse, “the universe was expanding and will eventually implode”, Priscilla suggested conservation is intrinsic to the DNA of most Panamanian citizens. Every decision large and small takes on the gravitas of “will it increase or reduce green house gases”. Or to paraphrase Alvey’s Mom, “You are here in Panama! Panama is not expanding and you will do your homework AND recycle your milk carton while you are at it”.
Meeting moderation and sustainability head on, the acclaimed architect Frank Gehry, designer of the iconic Guggenheim in Bilbao and Facebook’s new campus in Silicon Valley was commissioned to make a grand statement about Panama’s commitment to conservation and environment.
Last year’s BioMuseo’s christening of the over 43,000 square feet exhibit space portrays the history of the isthmus and the species it engendered. “Panama’s topography is best described as a geological bottleneck of migratory birds, marine life, butterflies and bugs. One can experience the entire Southern and Northern Hemisphere in microcosm,” says Danzzell Marshall, a lecturer for the Unidad de Centros de Visitantes.
As a vital link in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, which connects the ecosystems of North and South America—122 species of migratory birds pass through the country each year with an estimated domestic 978 bird species. Deforestation is another challenge to be surmounted as the slash and burn of first and second growth forests interrupts migratory routes with irreparable ecological damage.
The exhibits, designed in consultation with scientists at the nearby Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute feature “Oceans Divided” a pair of semi-cylindrical, two-story aquariums celebrating marine life that emerged in the Pacific and Caribbean.
Boasting some of the world’s most chill worthy, resiliently ecological golf courses and resorts and secluded white sand beaches are measured not by their ‘wilderness isolation’ but how best a multitude of living organisms can complete their life cycle while co-inhabit with residents of the surrounding, vertigo producing sky scrapers.
The gentrified 16th century Casco Antiquo Panama city is now only accessible to pedestrians on weekends. Those wishing to wile away the siesta on a tiled terrazzo in a bespoke boutique hotel or have a craving for a Respiro of shaved ice doused with natural coconut and fresh mango syrup or a locally grown and brewed Café con leche may ammuse themselves for an entire weekend getaway within the confines of this ancient walled city.
The prevailing prescience to protect and steward a sustainable future for Panama permeates the entire region. It speaks of a native civility and respect for the surroundings that could be best likened to the Netherlands with manageable development strategies.
Visiting locally and thinking globally; visitors can play a crucial role in helping the eco-industry develop in Panama over the coming years. If business owners see a demand for sustainable, low-impact travel, they may continue to adopt a more environmentally conscious approach.
Travelers to Panama are encouraged to avoid anything made from animals, including jaguar teeth , turtle shell and coral jewelry. Avoid eating lobster which is being massively over harvested, most noticeably by the Kuna people in the San Blas Islands. Cattle ranching in Panama has led to large-scale deforestation and the destruction of important ecosystems.
The Oscars aired within hours after this writer landed in Hollywood west on February 28th from a whirlwind press junket to Panama City and surroundings. As the mood at the February 28th Oscar’s turns one might opine so does the world. With over 37.4 million global viewers tuning in; the Academy Award extravaganza is a powerful podium for getting out the message on the state of local to global affairs.
On The occasion of Leonardo de Caprio’s acceptance speech for Best Male Performance he braced the subject of climate change. He implied irresponsible consumerism and it’s impact on the quality of life were acutely evident in The Revenant‘s extreme filming conditions, and was emphatic when he said , “Climate change is real. It is happening right now, it is the most urgent threat facing all species and we need to work collectively and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world… who speak for all of humanity.“
President Juan Carlos Varela participation in the the IV Summit of Heads of State of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) this past January of this year attended by 33 countries claimed to be taking a more assertive role in redistributing the wealth to the under served , shoring up education to meet the demand for professional employees and in protecting the environment with sustainable protocols. .For those travel junkies that are addicted to privacy, service and design Panama’s ecologically sensitive fairways, spa retreats such as Spa at Bristol and Luz Londono’s Spa at Tucan Country Golf Club and the protection of Panama’s natural and indigenous habitats serves Caprio’s pronouncements well. That is, “humanity needs to wake up or to paraphrase the poet TS Elliot , this is the way the world ends not with a bang, but a whimper.
Panama is a prime example of a country that is, as de Caprio concluded to rapturous applause, “not taking the planet for granted”.