Ruben Bla­des:

THE VI­SION OF A NEW CEN­TURY

Excelencias Turísticas del caribe y las Américas (Centroamerica) - - Outlooks - By: Rai­sa Za­yas Pho­tos: Cor­te­sía IPAT

Pa­na­ma tries to blow so­me fresh air in­to tou­rism de­ve­lop­ment with the re­vam­ping of the Pa­na­ma Tou­rism Ins­ti­tu­te (IPAT) in vir­tue of De­cree Law 4 da­ted Fe­bruary 27, 2008, which is very much in sync with mo­dern trends that must ru­le this eco­no­mic po­wer­hou­se in the country.

“IPAT is not a mi­nistry or a bu­reau­cra­tic en­tity, but an in­co­me­ma­king body. IPAT can be cons­trued as so­met­hing si­mi­lar to the Ca­nal Aut­ho­rity,” Pa­na­ma’s Tou­rism Mi­nis­ter Ruben Bla­des said du­ring a con­ver­sa­tion held in March at the Con­fe­ren­ce Hall of Pa­na­ma’s Na­tio­nal Jour­na­lism Coun­cil (CNP).

Mr. Bla­des, a ce­le­bra­ted songw­ri­ter and sin­ger, was tap­ped by Pre­si­dent Mar­tin To­rri­jos to lead the country’s tou­rism sec­tor. Sin­ce then, he’s con­duc­ted a hard­wor­king ef­fort to re­po­si­tion his ho­me­land in terms of in­vest­ments, in­fras­truc­tu­re and per­son­nel trai­ning, let alo­ne paint a brigh­ter pic­tu­re of his country’s tou­rism over­seas.

“We used to ha­ve an ad­mi­nis­tra­tion com­ple­tely ba­sed on the ba­sics of the 20th cen­tury, that is, the 1960s. How can we meet new goals in the 21st cen­tury? We had a pro­blem with that be­cau­se we nee­ded to enact the new law and get the ne­ces­sary sup­port,” he ad­ded.

In the same breath, a new Tou­rism De­ve­lop­ment Master Plan was pas­sed in vir­tue of De­cree Law 4 da­ted Fe­bruary 27, 2008, “a new law that’s going to shed far mo­re light on areas that are key to us in or­der to clinch ef­fi­ciency and ser­vi­ce qua­lity.”

The new Tou­rism Act will open up a per­ma­nent of­fi­ce for the Tou­rism De­ve­lop­ment Master Plan, a mo­ve that gua­ran­tees the as­sess­ment of new goals and em­po­wers the next Pa­na­ma­nian ad­mi­nis­tra­tion to fo­llow up on the Plan.

In this res­pect, Mi­nis­ter Bla­des ex­plai­ned that “the for­mer plan and its goals, from 1992 to 2002, didn’t ha­ve the pos­si­bi­lity of being gau­ged. Goals could be as no­ble and em­bra­cing as they got, but no one ever chec­ked that out and found out whet­her they we­re wor­king or not. Why? Be­cau­se the­re was no such thing as a per­ma­nent of­fi­ce. In ad­di­tion, a 10-year master plan li­ke this im­plies that the fo­llo­wing go­vern­ment will be pic­king up whe­re the pre­vious ad­mi­nis­tra­tion left off. That is, build on the early achie­ve­ments.”

As to in­ter­na­tio­nal ad­ver­ti­sing cam­paigns, this is what he had to say: “We’ll ear­mark $39.5 mi­llion over the next fi­ve years for pro­mo­tion over­seas. In this ca­se, IPAT de­ter­mi­nes whe­re the mo­ney goes to and why. That’s a way of as­ses­sing the going of the cam­paign. At the same ti­me, we’re se­pa­ra­ting the do­mes­tic cam­paign from the ex­ter­nal cam­paign, so everyt­hing won’t rest on the shoul­ders of just one company.”

As far as cu­rrent cha­llen­ges are con­cer­ned, Mr. Bla­des men­tio­ned the need to build new air­port in­fras­truc­tu­re in or­der to wi­den pas­sen­ger flows, step up pro­mo­tion in dif­fe­rent tra­vel des­ti­na­tion, im­pro­ve per­son­nel and staff trai­ning for the new jobs to be crea­ted, pre­vent tou­rist at­trac­tion areas from being af­fec­ted by mi­ning, and ma­ke Ku­na and Em­be­ra In­dians sign up for trai­ning cour­ses and pro­jects.

Pa­na­ma tu­rism mi­nis­ter Ruben Bla­des is at the helm of de­ba­tes on the in­dutry’s New Act that fos­ters in­vest­ments, and the de­ve­lop­ment of its in­fras­truc­tu­re and hu­man re­sour­ces

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