Trade gathers in Panama for Latin America travel confab


Some 250 buyers and suppliers gathered in Panama City, Panama, last month for the 30th annual TravelMart LatinAmerica trade show, held at the capital's Atlapa Convention Center.

During the three-day event, organized by Jacksonville, Fla.-based event management firm William H. Coleman Inc., buyers met with companies and tourism organizations from Central and South America.

"It's an efficient way to communicate about your product with a great number of people," said Jascivan Carvalho, general manager of Quito, Ecuador-based Tropic Ecological Adventures.

With a new ecolodge under construction and new tour options, Carvalho said he decided it was time for Tropic to make its first appearance at the conference. "Now that we have more product, we need to be more aggressive to get the word out," he said.

Carlos Alberto Arrarte, president of Lima Tours in Peru, described the conference as an opportunity to build relations with others in the industry. "We've had good meetings; business looks great," he said. "The key players come and we network."

"It's been quite a success," said Kathy de Guardia, marketing director at the Panamanian Institute of Tourism, known by its Spanish-language initials of IPAT. "People in the private sector have told me they've had a lot of meetings and did a lot of business, and I think that's the most important thing."

During the event, organizers announced that next year's TravelMart will take place Sept. 12 to 14 in Cartagena, Colombia, at the Cartagena Convention Center.

Noting that it will be first time Cartagena has hosted TravelMart Latin America, Luis Guillermo Martinez Fernandez, president of city tourism board Turismo Cartagena de Indias, said, "We're very focused on having the event achieve all it sets out to.

"It's an important moment for Cartagena," he said. "[Show attendees] are going to see the best of Colombia."

Martinez added that the event will also be an opportunity to position Colombia in the minds of buyers and to demonstrate the nation's focus on tourism. Martinez said Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is "very interested" in tourism.

"He's created the position of vice minister of tourism, the first time such a position has existed in Colombia," he said. "We're very happy about that."

To contact reporter Mark Chesnut, send e-mail [email protected].

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