Green Travel Trends

I just read an article from Anne Lim – Travel Trends In The Twenty-Tens: What Marketers Need To Know and I feel excited  to confirm that the trends are going towards responsible tourism and that companies like EcoCircuitos that have been working for years to support the local knowledge, empowering local communities and offering transformative experiences are on the right track of the industry today.

I feel connected with the philosophy of today’s travelers that buy less and experience more is the way to travel.    Some of the important information she shares with us in his very interesting article is that people are spending more on travels but in a conscious way and definitely, companies in the industry need to change strategy and adapt to the new green travelers.   Definitely, Sustainable Tourism is finally sexy!!

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Below some of the figures Anne Lim shares in her article:

Sustainable Tourism is the way today

More than 70% of travelers plan to make eco-friendly choices in the next vacation, in contrast to what was only 45% one year ago. In addition to this, 58% of travelers said their choices are affected by whether or not the hotel and tour company gives back to the local community, and 66% of global consumers prefer to buy products and services from brands that give back to society [TripAdvisor]. Why? It seems that in this age of political turmoil and ecological crisis, individuals support only the companies whose values are aligned with those of their own, especially when it comes to luxury purchases and consumerism. It’s in these particular cases that marketers must take social responsibility into account. By advertising the charitable aspects of the brands, you’re telling people why they should want your product, as well as why they should also feel good about buying it over the competition – a strategy that will be especially effective with millennial travelers. 

The “Bucket List Effect” (Panama should be on that list)

75% of travelers say they’d like to visit travel destinations that none of their friends have visited before. Additionally, 80% of travelers expressed interest in escaping the usual tourist traps on their next holiday [Experiential Travel Survey]. It turns out that people enjoy having unique experiences they can claim as their own, as opposed to traveling to the same popularly visited destinations that will provide them with the same basic pictures that everybody else has in their photo-albums or social platforms. This means that people are always on the prowl for a trendy destination – giving marketers an opportunity to showcase “under-rated” locales which enable their ads to stand out more and drive curiosity; a powerful duo that can exponentially increase sales.

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Cala Mia lodge in the Gulf of Chiriqui

This boutique hotel is located on the tip of an island in the Chiriquí province, 15 minutes by boat from Boca Chica and on the border with the nearly unexplored Chiriqui Marine Park, which provides habitat for birds, monkeys, dolphins, turtles and much more.  Each of the 11 individual air-conditioned bungalow suites with their thatched roofs have a “rancho” rest area, hammocks and big sofas for relaxing and generously designed bathrooms with hot water showers. With the ocean being never more than 10 meters away from your bungalow enjoy the cool evening breeze while looking out on the Pacific and the surrounding nature.
The restaurant, located on the highest point of the peninsula, offers stunning views of the surrounding area, while you treat yourself to one of the exquisite Mediterranean style dishes. Many of the ingredients are directly grown on the hotel’s organic farm. Meet other visitors around the big table in the evenings to revive age-old customs of storytelling and companionable silence as you watch the sun set.
Pamper yourself in the spa located on an adjacent islet accessible by a suspension bridge or enjoy the infinity pool on the shore. The hotel offers half and full day tours for the exploration of the nearby areas.

INCENTIVES AND MEETINGS THAT ARE SUSTAINABLE

Incentive travel is a reward or recognition to the staff of an organization that fulfill their goals.  This type of travel it is used also by companies to change the behavior, to improve productivity and to motivate the team to become more successful and engage with the organization philosophy.

EcoCircuitos Incentives is committed to making Panama a better place through tourism.  As we are true believers that any type of travel can include the sustainable component, we work with our clients, partners and staff to develop incentives programs that are authentic, fun and responsible.

SUSTAINABLE PARTNERS

We encourage our clients to incorporate sustainable and responsible practices into their planned meetings and incentives travel to Panama.  Our company will source the best locations and venues that share this commitment of responsibility while we take active actions to reduce, reuse and recycle the waste generated by the events and activities.

EcoCircuitos Incentives offers innovative Meetings, Incentives and Events for clients who demand only the best.  Our experiences are unique and specifically designed to inspire our travelers.  All of our incentives are fully customizable to ensure the best possible experience for our clientele and organize in different areas of Panama that offers cultural, folklore and diversity.

Our company is committed to responsible travel and sustainable tourism development. We believe that travelers are agents of change and we aim preserve the travel experience for generations to come by educating travelers on the diversity & cultural wealth of the places they visit.  We aim to provide adventures in Panama with minimal negative impact on the environment or on the local cultures of the places we operate.

EcoCircuitos Incentives is the choice for all travelers who want conscientious travel with style. A percentage of all our profits are donated to local organizations that support sustainable development and conservation. Ask our team for a list of partner’s organizations.

For more information contact us!

http://www.ecocircuitos.com/incentive

A Fantastic Journey: Part 5

Barro Colorado Island

By Louie Celerier

Tuesday was another early starting day, 6:00 am to be exact, in order to get to Gamboa in time for the launch to Barro Colorado, the wildlife island refuge operated by the Smithsonian Institute in the middle of Gatun Lake. EcoCircuitos was, as always, right on time.
Barro Colorado is not for the casual tourist. This is a place for the study of insect, plant and animal life. Nevertheless, I wanted to go there and satisfy my curiosity about the place. I was fully rewarded, but the trip taxed my stamina. I had expected mild climbing and mostly even ground. This was not so. Much climbing and going steeply down was involved.
Arriving at the island around 8:30 am, we faced the first climb immediately. The dock was at the bottom of a very steep hill and the main building was quite a way up this hill. The steps I climbed rivaled anything in San Francisco, or so it seemed to me. Reaching the building with my lungs about to burst, I was faced with another set of stairs inside the building to go to the top floor. There, we were given complimentary coffee and, because they felt sorry for me, they let me have two delicious carimañolas left over from the staff breakfast, at no charge. After a short break, we were ushered to a conference room for a short lecture about what we were about to do and see. Some of it was above my comprehension, but several in the group were there to study and they really understood it all and could hardly wait to get started.
We left the building and immediately we were faced with a very steep climb into the forest. After climbing for a short, but difficult, time, we stopped because a group of howler monkeys had been spotted. They started howling when they saw us, but I don’t know who was making more noise, they with their howling, or I with my wheezing. The next series of climbs were more gradual and, because the naturalists in the group were involved in bird watching and plant admiration, I was able to rest a bit. Then, I broke from the group and climbed ahead until I came to a clearing with some crude benches. I picked the best of the lot and laid down to wait for the group. Thanks to this, I was fully refreshed when they caught up with me and I had no more trouble keeping up with the group from there on. Well, I lie a bit. The climbs were not as steep from there on and, after a while, we started to come down. Two and a half hours after starting our trek, we reached the main building again.
This time we were fed an excellent Panamanian lunch. After a short rest, we were again ushered into the conference room for a bit more information and to answer any questions we may have had. By then, our main subject of conversation were the many ticks and chiggers we had picked up during our hike. It  became a game to see who could spot ticks quicker running up our clothes. By 3:30 pm it was time to catch the staff boat taking workers getting off work back to the mainland at Gamboa.
EcoCircuitos met us at the dock and took us to the big and beautiful Gamboa resort for refreshments before heading back to our hotel. We ran into some classmates there and, as much as I try, I cannot remember who they were. Please forgive me and make allowances for old age. If you read this, please remind me who you were as the suspense is killing me.
While at the resort, we had a good, but short rain shower. Something they tell me is not uncommon for Gamboa, even in dry season as it was then. We left the resort driving a bit through what is left of the town of Gamboa and photographing a beautiful Guayacan tree in full yellow bloom. I kept thinking back how interesting it might have been to grow up in Gamboa, isolated from the rest of the world and with all that bountiful nature around. Not for the weak at heart, I bet. Kids that grew up there must have wonderful memories and tales to tell.
The remaining houses in Gamboa have been refurbished and look very good, as the photos will show. I guess the folks living there are still working for the dredging division, as I believe was the case in the past. Correct me if I am wrong. The place looked very clean and neat.
Finally, we headed for our hotel in the city under a misty rain, which cleared after leaving the Gamboa area. That night I dreamed about climbing stairs and mountains.

Every Monday we publish part of Louis Celerier’s mesmerizing tale of how he rediscovered the country of his childhood. Subscribe to this blog or follow us on Facebook to make sure not to miss anything! If you also have a story you would like to share with us, or if you are interested in taking a Fantastic Journey yourself, let us know in the comments or by email at marketing@ecocircuitos.com

A Fantastic Journey: Part 1

by Luis R. Celerier

 

A Dream Fulfilled

Since my retirement several years back, I had been wanting to return to Panama, the place where I was born and spent the wonderful years of my youth. I wanted to return to the places which had been a part of those growing years and I wanted to see other locations I had never visited before.

Each time I tried to put together a trip, I was frustrated in my attempts by one reason or another. All this time, my relatives in Panama thought I was crazy for wanting to make the kind of trip in my dreams … to head into the interior away from the city. In 2002 I found the Panamanian Institute of Tourism (IPAT) on the Internet and they immediately responded with a large packet of information. Encouraged by this data, I began to formulate an aggressive itinerary covering all I wanted to do and see. Searching the IPAT website, I located several local tour companies and one met all my needs and goals. This was Ecocircuitos. Next, a fellow retired co-worker, Gene,  stated he would like to go along and the plans were immediately put in the works. The pieces fell into place and on March 2, 2005, we began our Fantastic Journey which would last until March 21. Allowing for two days of travel, we would be in Panama a total of 18 full days.

Wednesday, March 2

Our trip began at Shreveport, Louisiana, an hour by car from Longview, where we boarded a Continental flight to Houston. In Houston we changed planes and went on directly to Panama taking 4 hours in the process. Arriving at Tocumen at 6:45 PM, we were greeted by the EcoCircuitos representative who drove us to the Marbella Hotel on D Street, El Cangrejo, about two blocks from the old, but still somewhat majestic, El Panama Hotel.

The Marbella fit our desires for a hotel exceptionally well. The rooms were ample and clean with telephone, TV and AC, dresser, table, closet, etc., it had its own restaurant with excellent Panamanian food and the personnel were friendly and helpful. We would stay there 7 nights and would return for two more nights at different occasions. By the time we left for the last time, we were being treated as family.

Thursday, March 3

On this day, my cousin Luis Carlos picked us up at the hotel taking us to the offices of Ecocircuitos so we could meet the company’s owner, Annie Young, and pay the balance of our fee. From there we went on to meet with some relatives and to a wonderful Panamanian lunch at Luis Carlo’s home. During this time, we introduced Gene to Marañones (cashews), from which the cashew nuts are harvested, even drinking a glass of chicha de marañon, made from the fruit itself. As some of you may know, the fruit is edible, being sweet and tart but very good. The juice from it is excellent and appears to have blood pressure reducing qualities. I need to check this out further.

That evening we went out again with cousins and their spouses for dinner at a fine restaurant in the new filled area next to Flamenco Island. This area is full of restaurants and shops. From here, the sight of the city of Panama at night time is just as outstanding as it is by daylight.

The causeway leading from land to the islands has been widened, a two-lane concrete road has been built, as well as a nice sidewalk with landscaping, which is now widely used by people walking, jogging and riding bicycles.

I had a good day visiting with some of the relatives and seeing the tremendous changes that have taken place.

Friday, March 4
The Ecocircuitos van picked us up at the hotel at 9:00 after we had consumed a big breakfast. Our first stop was the locks at Miraflores, where an observation building with an observation platform has been constructed. This allows a perfect view of the operations of the locks as ships are taken through. After watching several ships go by, we toured the excellent exhibits in the building beginning with many photos and models of the equipment and processes used during the construction days. Included in the exhibit area was a simulator that allows the visitors to observe the transit of a container ship through the locks from the view point of the helmsman, including movement and noises. Unfortunately, the view from the windows of this ship’s bridge does not show in the photos I took. Only blank windows appear, but this is misleading as, in reality, one can see the locks and the cut as if on was standing on the bridge of a real ship.
From Miraflores, we went to Quarry Heights driving through the Officers’ Quarters area. The houses are being sold to private individuals and remodeled to suit individual tastes. Also, Edgar McArthur, nephew of the late Charles McArthur, has gone into partnership with another fellow and they are buying some of these quarters turning them into a hotel. I met Edgar at Santa Clara several days after we had visited Quarry Heights.
Then we went up to the top of Ancon Hill. The road up is a single lane hardtop requiring a guard at the bottom to contact a guard at the top for clearance before letting us go up to prevent meeting another car coming down. I had never been to the top of this hill and the view was magnificent. The crest of the hill, where the flag flies, is fenced and a policeman is on duty at the locked gate to prevent anyone from going there. I don’t know why this is so. But it felt good to be there and see the area as I had never seen it before. I could remember stories of my uncles about the hill as my grandfather used to take them there occasionally on a Sunday when they were small children and lived nearby.
The next area of exploration was the Casco Antiguo around Cathedral Plaza, The Plaza de Francia, Las Bovedas, the Presidential Palace and several other streets. This area is very quiet with little traffic and not many people in the streets. It is also very clean, as is most of Panama City, with the exception of the slum areas which are filthy. Some of the old homes are being renovated and there are efforts to revitalize the area as a tourist attraction. The results are outstanding and very beautiful. Many homes and buildings have already been renovated and it makes a good place to live because of the quiet and peacefulness away from the hussle and bussle of the rest of the city.
My old elementary school building at Plaza Bolivar, where the La Salle Christian Brothers school was located, is still standing and seemed very well kept. I do not know what is located in that building now. I went there for two years before transferring to another Christian Brothers school closer to home at the old Miramar Club, by the sea, at the end of Federico Boyd Avenue by the Urraca Park.
Being behind schedule by now, we made a dash to Old Panama to visit the ruins of the city burned by the infamous Henry Morgan. Years of neglect have taken their toll and now desperate attempts are being made to save what is left. Unfortunately, someone decided to use brick made in the fashion of
these times to replace missing pieces of walls around windows, etc. As you may remember, the original buildings were made of stone and the decision to use brick for repairs makes for an awful contrast. While in Panama, the Star and Herald ran an article criticizing this decision.
That night we went to Las Tinajas Restaurant for dinner and the folkloric show which has been promoted so much up here by other tour outfits. Briseida “Bris” Fuentes Lopez (51) and Susi Hammerschlag Marmorstein (51) met us there. We, the Panamanians, found the food adequate and the entertainment not truly Panamanian. The foreigners, who have never seen Panamanian folklore dancing, though the show was great. All we could hear was loud drums and no music and the dancing had little resemblance to “tamborito” and other local dances. It was so loud we could converse very little. I guess that as long as no one else provides real Panamanian folklore dancing and show (as in the Lucho Azcarraga days) this will have to pass as the real thing. We were disappointed, but since all others were having such great fun, we shared in their happiness and enjoyed ourselves. We really did enjoy the “polleras” when they came out dancing because they are always so beautiful, as you can see in the photos. By the way, Briseida’s husband was very much involved in the Flamenco island developments and the Paitilla area developments, but sadly passed away about 6 months ago. At Las Tinajas, we also met Ann and Bill Willoughby and Gay and Henry Pridgen.
As a whole, this first day of site-seeing in the City was very enjoyable and exciting. More exciting days were to follow.

Each Monday, we will be sharing another piece of Luis R. Celerier’s account of his journey to rediscover his country. Subscribe for blog updates, or follow our Facebook page to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Carnival in Panama

By Meret Schueschke

During the last days, Panama City has been a different place: It was Carnival, and the entire city celebrated it.

The first sign we noticed on Friday was the closure of a major downtown road, Avenida Balboa, which runs along the coast. Part of this road, and the Cinta Costera coastal park next to it were the main area for the celebrations, with daily parades, four stages where music and show acts were hosted, and a multitude of little stalls selling food, beverages, souvenirs and toys.

On Saturday morning, the entire city seemed deserted. The usually busy roads were empty, restaurants were closed, and even the bustling Casco Viejo with its souvenir stores, restoration projects and tourist activity was empty and quiet. As soon as we reached Cinta Costera we knew why: live music was playing on several stages while big water tanks stood by to spray the dancing crowds with water, a very welcome refreshment in the hot noon sun. Soaked with water, hungry and excited, we retreated home during the late afternoon to get changed and rest, before joining the celebrations again in the evening. The atmosphere was like a big street festival, and it seemed that the entire city had come out to participate in the festivities: from old men in Wheelchairs to babies in the arms of their parents,  from Kuna women in their traditional Mola to Tourists in their not-quite-so traditional flower print shorts, everyone was there. We strolled through the crowds, considered buying funny sunglasses and flashing hair ornaments, tried grilled Chorizo and marinated pork on skewers, and listened to the rhythms of Salsa, Rumba and Reggae being played everywhere. Children darted through the crowds, spraying unsuspecting people with fake snow, couples young and old danced by the stages, while the carnival queens waved serenely from their decorated wagons.

Each evening brought new parades with elaborate floats, stunning carnival queens and animated calypso bands, we could not get enough of the multitude of things to see, the flavors, smells and sounds of a whole city dancing and celebrating together.

The whole thing had a strong feeling of community, an openness that large cities usually do not experience, people were brought together by the music and the festivities.

And then, today, Ash Wednesday, it seems like it was all a dream. The colorful displays, the calypso bands, the queens and dancers and revelers are all gone. The city is returning to normal, until next year, when the next carnival queen will be crowned to lead the city during these exceptional days.

45 places to go in 2012 – Panama No. 1

The New York Times
January 6, 2012

1. Panama
Go for the canal. Stay for everything else.

It’s been 12 years since Panama regained control of its canal, and the country’s economy is booming. Cranes stalk the skyline of the capital, Panama City, where high-rises sprout one after the next and immigrants arrive daily from around the world. Among those who have landed en masse in recent years are American expatriates and investors, who have banked on Panamanian real estate by building hotels and buying retirement homes. The passage of the United States-Panama free trade agreement in October is expected to accelerate this international exchange of people and dollars (the countries use the same currency).
Among the notable development projects is the Panama Canal itself, which is in the early stages of a multibillion-dollar expansion. The project will widen and deepen the existing canal and add two locks, doubling the canal’s cargo capacity. For those who want to see the waterway as it was originally designed, now is the time. The expansion is expected to be completed by 2014, the canal’s 100-year anniversary.

Other high-profile projects include the construction of three firsts: The Panamera, the first Waldorf Astoria hotel in Latin America (set to open in June 2012); the Trump Ocean Club, the region’s tallest building, which opened last summer; and Frank Gehry’s first Latin American design, the BioMuseo, a natural history museum scheduled to open in early 2013. Even Panama City’s famously dilapidated historic quarter, Casco Viejo, has been transformed. The neighborhood, a tangle of narrow streets, centuries-old houses and neo-colonial government buildings, was designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997 and is now a trendy arts district with galleries, coffeehouses, street musicians and some of the city’s most stylish restaurants and boutique hotels.

Across the isthmus, on Panama’s Caribbean coast, the Bocas del Toro archipelago has become a popular stop on the backpacker circuit, with snorkeling and zip lining by day and raucous night life after dark. FREDA MOON