OP ED: Steven- for PNO.com-
Seeing as I have had to become quickly educated and immersed into the topic of “beach resorts” and “tourism” lately. I feel compelled to offer a quick blurb in regards to my family going to Nassau, Bahamas over the weekend.
So through much of the “hullaballoo” that James and I have had to learn about Bocas del Toro overt the past few months, I can openly say that I wish the same type of prosperity can occur in that area that I notice in Nassau.
First and foremost, Nassau has a major distinction that makes it less desirable than Bocas. It’s awfully expensive. The pre-added sur-charges along with a 9% VAT tax is obscene. It was $37 (asked for, didn’t buy) for a bottle of Sunscreen at the hotel I was at. Simply crazy.
But for people looking for a tropical destination relatively close to the US, it had some very important aspects. The airport is top notch, the infrastructure and roads were flat and cleared. It was clearly obvious the billions spent all to get people to come to the beach.
My point here is simple. From what James has shown to me and what I have seen in pictures is that the beaches of Bocas del Toro are even more beautiful than those I just spent a boatload to see. The issues with so many developers trying to do something in that area and experiencing so many issues is counter intuitive. I am certain that people that retire and move to live in Bocas don’t want to see a bunch of casinos and big hotels going up along the shoreline. Nor do I think that is the correct route. (Believe me, JB would lay down in front of a bulldozer before he let that happen). What I am observing is the failure to Panama to truly embrace Bocas del Toro as what it is. Apparently the number 1 tourist destination in the country from what I am told. From that angle, I can see why you want to bring people there, and why people fighting for their land is so important. However, the fact that I see all the money that Panama spends on Tocumen to get people to the country, they spend ZERO on beautifying and improving said #1 attraction???
I have read the TripAdvisor reviews and have seen the pics from JB. That airport is a complete disgrace. It does not look like a place that is representative of the #1 attraction of the country. The streets were unkempt, and the roads were unpaved.
So my comparison is in that “beaches” and “islands” are essentially geographical gifts from God. Places like Nassau, Mexico, Florida, California, Hawaii to name a few do what is needed to maximize those gifts. Now I am aware that economically, those countries have more money to do so. But I have been to places in the 3rd world that still do a much better job than Panama to do the same. Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam to name a few.
As I mentioned earlier, you have the aspect of the “locals” that live there that I am sure are quite happy with the status quo. They don’t want to be deluged with giant structures in an island paradise. I understand that completely. They did not retire to Bocas to have it become Miami. My feeling is there has to be a middle ground where a) More people would want to come to Bocas. b) More places that are not just tents and eco structures are available for the more comfort seeking traveler, and c) the ease and pleasure in getting to the place is a better experience.
If that were to occur, maybe I could have gone to Bocas instead of Nassau this past weekend, and save a ton. The beaches look just as beautiful.
Thanks “JB” for the post. Just my opinion for this new Cortizo president of yours over there.