Panama, a former U.S. colony and host to a number of tropical parks, is taking the first step towards opening up its parks to tourists, with a new program offering ecotours a new look and feel.
The new Ecotours course, launched in December, is part of an effort by Panama’s tourism ministry to increase tourism by offering people a more natural experience while providing a new approach to tourism and the environment.
“I think it’s great for the tourism industry, and it’s an opportunity to showcase Panama’s unique culture and environment,” said Josefina Torres, the executive director of the Ecotouring Education Center in Panama City, which opened the Ecotic Parks program.
Torres, who also works as the national ecotouring coordinator for the United States, said the new program will be offered to all ages, from toddlers to seniors.
The first class, which will be held from March 20 to June 6, will provide an introductory tour of the park.
“It will be a first for us, but we’re sure there will be others,” she said.
The program will take place at various parks around the island, including the national parks in the capital, San Juan.
The goal is to bring visitors in from outside the country, Torres said.
Ecotourist classes will also be offered in Panama’s other parks, including a new one at the National Biosphere Reserve, which covers parts of the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.
“We are hoping to open up this new program to the whole country, and we’re also hoping that it will be extended to other places as well,” Torres said, adding that the program could be expanded to other parts of Panama.
The initiative, Torres added, will be paid for by tourism companies and other groups that have participated in Ecotoring programs.
The ministry is also encouraging companies to participate in Ecotic Park programs.
“When we’re out there, we’re looking for the best in Panama,” Torres told Al Jazeera.
“We have great parks.
But if you’re not in the right place at the right time, you won’t find a better park than this one.”
The park system was founded in the early 1990s by then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu to promote tourism and preserve biodiversity.