PANAMA. When Tourism Minister Ruben Blades first took on the job, he asked an audience: “How many university thesis have been done on t...
PANAMA. When Tourism Minister Ruben Blades first took on the job, he asked an audience: “How many university thesis have been done on tourism in Panama?,” In response he got blank stares.
“I think if I had asked how many people there are in Australia, I would have obtained a better answer,” he joked.
From then onwards, the Tourism Ministry has been working to create a national framework —with a strategy, a publicity campaign, and defined laws— to develop the sector.
The latest achievement on the tourism front: the Guide for the Establishment of Tourist Micro-enterprises in Panama, which hopes to build an “entrepreneurial culture” and create jobs in Panama.
The guidebook is a private initiative sponsored by Citi Foundation and carried out by the National Competitiveness Center (Centro Nacional de Competitividad, CNC).
It gives new entrepreneurs an overview of the tourism sector in Panama, profiling tourists that visit the country, and identifying ideal tourist locations for new businesses.
It then explains the types of businesses on demand, how to set them up, as well as the basic guides to operate them.
The guidebook also offers information on acquiring technical and financial support and steps to develop an adequate business plan.
Thirty nine communities, including Colon, Tole, Portobelo and Ocu, have been identified as strategic locations to distribute the guide for free.
“This guidebook is essential, it contributes to develop a tourism strategy,” said Blades, who believes the spur of businesses catering to tourists will help visitors explore the entire country, getting to know locals and their culture, instead of simply staying at resorts and then leaving.
According to the Tourism Minister, we need to make entrepreneurship more accessible across the country, to dispel the notion that only a certain sector or a certain type of person can be an entrepreneur.
“Poverty is not only an economic deficiency, but a spiritual one. Here there is a cultural problem,” Blades exclaimed.
“Those of us who come from the popular sectors, our mothers used to tell us ‘study my son to have a good job’ not to run a good business.”
“We need to educate people, remove their shyness,” to keep them from doubting they can be entrepreneurs, he added.
Giselle Carcaño, general director of AMPYME (The micro, small, and medium enterprise authority), agrees that Panama lacks an “entrepreneurial culture” within the popular sectors of society.
She said: “We need to encourage students in universities and schools to see themselves as entrepreneurs, as oppose to simply working for others.”
For Carcaño, the project is “an additional contribution towards the right type of development” the country needs.
The CEO of Citi Panama, Marcelo Gorrini, said that the Citi Foundation invests $200 million globally on micro-enterprises, and the guidebook initiative comes from “(Citi’s) awareness of the role that micro-enterprises play in Panama.”
Starting on Monday, the guidebook will be available online at www.cncpanama.org.