A couple of years ago, a group of top executives from a U.S.-based telecommunications firm boarded a plane to an unknown destination, departing from a northern city amid a harsh winter’s day. A few hours later, being already night time, the members of the group expressed relief after sensing the warm, tropical climate of their destination, but remained quite confused with regard to the identity of the city to which they’d arrived, which featured a skyline –they believed— that did not resemble anything Latin American. It wasn´t until they boarded a ferry, minutes later, that their conundrum was solved: “Welcome to the Panama Canal!” –the guide announced. “I never imagined anything like this!”, said Steve, as the vessel transited Miraflores Locks northbound.
Incentive travel is an important, yet relatively obscure segment (at least in Panama) of the MICE industry; however, everything indicates it is one of the few in which the country virtually has everything it takes to become a regional leader. Sandrine-Pia Casto, of the firm, Tucaya Panama, comments on the sector in the following interview:
How is the incentives sector defined and what does Panama have to offer as a destination for this industry?
The incentives travel sector corresponds to a corporate strategy that motivates clients or associates by traveling in an exclusive, creative, and fun manner. The goal of these trips is to generate empathy among travelers. A successful trip provides a good balance between business and leisure travel.
Panama is a privileged destination due to its role as an aerial hub, a destination with a diversity of settings and cultures, and the advantage of having short distances between domestic destinations.
What are some of the most recent trends concerning preferences and events in this sector?
Activities in which, more than being spectators, visitors actually live the experience; for example, taking part in dance classes, or learning to cook in culinary experiences, etc.
Among the most recent trends, we can mention the visitors’ participation in charity activities related to environmental development or social responsibility. Mere financial or material donations have given way to direct or concrete participation, such as taking part in the construction of schools or traditional huts in indigenous communities.
What are the main incentive-travel destinations at the regional and global levels?
At the regional level, Colombia and Brazil. Up north, the United States and Canada are the main destinations in the Americas. In the rest of the world, we have Portugal, Italy, Poland; the region of Cappadocia in Turkey; South Africa, Thailand, Indonesia, Oman, and Japan.
What are Panama’s strengths and weaknesses concerning the development of the incentives-travel sector?
Again, here I mention the importance of Panama being an aerial hub. The country stands out for being a destination with direct flights between Europe and the Americas. This point is essential for Panama as an incentive-travel destination; however, it is also attractive for being a dynamic and innovative destination, offering the possibility for unbelievable activities about culture, adventure, nature, beaches, and city experiences.
The fact that it is a safe destination is important, just as the factor of having a trustworthy DMC on-site.
Tell us about the services offered by Tucaya.
Pertaining to the incentives sector, Tucaya is known for offering clients authentic experiences through a rally of historic sites, team building in lush forests, and sports competitions in indigenous communities to foster cohesion among participants –this, without forgetting the actions of solidarity pertaining to the protection of the environment, or social responsibility projects in the country’s least favored communities.
Tucaya has 23 years’ experience working with human values as part of its DNA in 4 countries: Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Panama.
Tell us about your professional experience and trajectory in the field.
After 15 managing Tucaya Panama, I have been able to observe, with great satisfaction, the growth of the Incentives sector in Panama thanks to the arrival of direct flights, an increase in the number of hotels, and the professionalization of the domestic tourism sector.
At Tucaya, our trajectory is characterized by an excellent knowledge of the field and an intergenerational team, both of which allow us to offer innovative experiences. Our travelers will, thus, forge an unforgettable memory, and will become the destination’s best ambassadors.