Travel agents and wholesalers in Panama were treated to a Cayman Night experience marking the new Cayman Airways direct service to Panama City.
Designed for travel trade professionals and members of the Panamanian media, the goal of the Cayman night experience was to promote the Cayman Islands as a new leisure destination of choice, by educating and creating of excitement among this important distribution channel.
Acting Director of Tourism Shomari Scott said travel agents were important in the Panamanian context for the dissemination of travel information and for influencing the closing of vacation sales versus other traditional tourism markets.
“The Cayman experience therefore functioned as a valuable marketing tool to educate them about the destination,” he said.
In order to solidify the government’s investment in the Cayman Airways route, the Department of Tourism has developed an integrated media plan, as well as sales promotion activities to ensure potential travellers in the Panama market keep the Cayman Islands brand top of mind when choosing their next vacation destination. Strategies have also been developed to drive them towards channels that can close the sales loop and convert potential enquires in to stay-over visitors, according to a press release by the tourism department.
In addition to Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush and Mr. Scott, the delegation to Panama included private sector tourism officials such as hoteliers, and Wil Pineau, the executive director for the Chamber of Commerce, as well as executives who discussed outward medical tourism opportunities.
Jane van der Bol of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association was also in attendance for a night that she said was an excellent networking opportunity.
“I was delighted to meet with some of the top travel agents and wholesaler companies in Panama, including Mr. Enrique Pesantez and his daughter, Lorena Calvo, from Pesantez Tours, who will be handling the Cayman market. I was amazed at the openness to learn more about Cayman and excited to know that there is an interest in Cayman for visitors from Panama and South America.
“I look forward to seeing this market develop as we reach out to Brazil, Venezuela, Columbia and Panama. Visitors from South America will be most interested in visiting Cayman during the summer months,” she said.
The night’s entertainment included a performance by the Swanky kitchen band, costumed carnival and pirates models and featured tastes of swanky drink and rum cakes.
“Having local Caymanian elements acted as a hook which generated excitement and allowed us to showcase two of our national events whilst also giving an informative presentation about the virtues of a Cayman Islands vacation,” Mr. Scott said.
“Another of our goals was to introduce Pesantez Tours to the local Panamanian travel community, as the primary wholesaler who will package the Cayman Islands on our behalf. As The Cayman Islands has very little brand awareness in the Panamanian market, it is important that the rich sounds, colours and excitement are incorporated into marketing and promotional activities such as this, to help paint a vibrant image on a previously blank canvass and give a sweet taste of what we in the Cayman Islands have to offer.”
Summing up the Panama promotion, Mr. Scott said the Cayman Night was successful as between 60 and 75 travel agents were in attendance and some of the top TV programmes in Panama were on hand to cover the information session.
The premier in his capacity as Minister of Tourism also travelled in order to give an official Caymankind welcome, which followed warm Panamanian Ministry of Tourism opening remarks.
As this was an inaugural trip, the premier also invited a small number of influential Caymanians. The goal behind this action, said the Department of Tourism, was to help enhance future package development for the route and to also help to educate the Caymanian public as to the potential benefits of such areas as cost-effective overseas medical care.
“It is envisaged that the Panama alternative could reduce Cayman’s overseas medical care bill costs significantly. Several Caymanians have now used the services in Panama, which are of excellent standard, comparable to what is provided in the US.
“Panama also offers trade and tourism expansion projects, as air traffic routed through the country to and from Latin America is set to increase; and the canal is projected to double capacity starting in 2014,” read a release to the media.