Bienvenido a Panama!

Well, the word is certainly out.  If it seems that in the past several months you hear more and more English spoken at El Rey than ever before, well yes, it’s happening.  Panama is in the world’s spotlight and its brightness seems here to stay.                                            My husband, Jerry, and I have lived in Coronado for one and a half years. 

In just that short time we have seen many changes.  We’ve watched each other, and our friends ,learn Spanish (I’m not saying we can actually speak it, but we are learning).  We have watched our favorite servers at local restaurants learn to speak English, and most menus have been updated to include English as well.  For some, it’s a relief.  For others, it feels a bit sad, like losing a little part of that special feeling that you are living in a foreign country. 

The most obvious of changes are that more and more North Americans are coming to Panama.  Many come to invest and hope to make a quick return.  Many come to visit, to experience the adventure that dozens and dozens of web sites offer.  But the most common reason this huge influx of visitors share is to find a safe, comfortable and friendly place to retire.

Based on predictions from several sources on the internet (International Living, LearnAboutPanama, Prima Panama), Panama is poised to experience hyper-growth for the next decade or more.  The driving factor . . . the baby-boomer generation.  Did you know the majority of boomers won’t even reach retirement age until 2011?  Panama’s is recognized as a growing economy that has ‘the best retirement program for foreigners in the world,’ with an ideal climate and the U.S. dollar.  All the ingredients for a long lasting real estate boom.
It has been a wonderful opportunity for Jerry and me to be able to share in a couple of  International Living and Prima Panama events here in Coronado.  You can go to any web site and see the long list of benefits of living in Panama.  Of course, we are all curious about what visitors are looking for and what they think about Panama.

Based on my own observations and experiences, the average person coming to visit Panama from International Living is looking for property where they can retire and live permanently, or where they can build and come to vacation a few times a year, until they are ready to retire.  That does not mean that every visitor actually buys a lot or a home.
There are plenty of folks who come on the tours as a vacation.  They are curious and just want to see what all the ‘hubbub’ is about.  Living in a third-world country is not for everyone and most folks realize very quickly if it is not for them.  This realization can be unfortunate for their seat-mates, or the entire bus, as well.

 The International Living tours generally last seven days.  The itinerary is very tight and these folks spend an awful lot of time on a tour bus.  There are usually one night and day in Panama City, then the folks are taken to the beaches where they tour developments from Coronado to Buenaventura.  After two days at the beach developments, they head back to Panama City and fly to Boquete to tour the developments going on there, usually staying two nights.  Then it’s back to Panama City for more touring of projects, and most of them are ‘virtual’ projects.  The tour is not about sightseeing.  The object of these tours is to fit as many projects into the tour as possible.  Unless the tour attendee schedules to stay on after the tour, or to come to Panama several days before the tour, their chances of actually walking on the beaches in Panama are very slim.

Just like all of us who live here in Coronado, these folks come looking for a place they can call home.  I’m sure that all of us have had the opportunity to talk with folks who are visiting Coronado and are looking for their piece of paradise.  We meet them in restaurants, at the grocery store, the beaches or at the hotel.  We share stories of how we came to Panama, and why, and they tell us their story and ask so many questions about our decisions to move; how we did it, how we like living here, what about taxes, can they live on xx amount of money per month, and always they ask about the community and the possibility of making new friends here.  Coronado is unique and special when compared to the other beach towns.  Of course, we have the grocery store, veterinarian, multiple restaurants, golf, tennis, equestrian and many more amenities.  But, the very most important attribute we have to offer is the community itself.  Us, the ones who did find our piece of paradise and have found new and wonderful friends and from our hearts call Coronado, Panama, home.

Kaye Ashbridge