The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting Panama's tourism sector hard, which is registering losses of about 12 million dollars a day, the president of the National Chamber of Tourism (Camtur), Ernesto Orillac, told EFE on Tuesday.
It is calculated that we may be losing around 12 million a day, said Orillac, who also indicated that before COVID-19, tourism contributed $4 billion of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The pandemic of the new coronavirus came to give another blow to a sector that has been immersed in a crisis for years, which is reflected in events such as low hotel occupancy, just 39% in the first quarter of this 2020 according to the union, and a fall average of 3% per year in visitor entries since 2015.
Restrictions on the entry of foreigners and the closure of international flights since last March, as well as non-essential trade, as part of the measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, led Panama hotels to close their doors.
According to Orillac there are 60,000 suspended contracts in the hotel sector, which is one of the most affected sector, if not the most, with travel agencies, tour operators, convention organizers and hotels being the worst hit segments.
The Panama Chamber of Tourism estimates that the recovery of the sector, at least to pre-pandemic levels, will take at least two years, and that it will take about $120 million to start to organize its reopening.
HOTELIERS ASK THE GOVERNMENT TO PAY DEBT TO HOTEL-HOSPITALS
Amid the pandemic, the hotel sector and the Government chaired by Laurentino Cortizo reached an agreement for 14 hotels, representing 2,000 rooms, to function as hospitals to isolate COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate symptoms.
The Executive has not paid the 'millionaire' amount of renting rooms with a flexible rate of $15 a day, the president of the Panamanian Hotel Association (Apatel), Armado Rodríguez, told EFE.
We know that they are bureaucratic procedures and we want to continue supporting, but we need (the government) to handle the payment of the 3 months, an amount that was not specified by Rodríguez to EFE.
According to data released Monday
by the Ministry of Health, there are 676 isolated COVID-19 patients in hospital hotels in Panama.
In the framework of the pandemic, the hotel sector loses about $40 million a month and has suspended 37,000 contracts, according to the union's data.
Rodríguez asked the Government to specify the dates, on which they can reopen to reorganize the reactivation, which the Government has already ruled will in principle be limited to 25% of the hotels' capacity.
Panama divided the reopening of the economy into six blocks and tourism is in the fourth. The first two segments opened in mid-May and last June 1, but the process is suspended due to the strong rebound in COVID-19 cases in the country.
Panama already has 39,334 confirmed infections and 770 deaths
in 120 days of the pandemic, which is in phase 4 or high community transmission, with the prospect that the most difficult is yet to come as the authorities themselves have warned.
The Apatel president admitted that the recovery 'will be slow' but the consequences 'will be worse the longer the delay' of the economic reopening.