Panama is trending among the world’s richest travelers

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LOS ANGELES, Feb 6 — Panama, which was named the top destination of 2016 by a major travel publication and the best place to retire in a poll by expats, saw the most growth in interest among the world’s richest jetsetters for travel this winter and spring.

According to luxury travel boutique Virtuoso, Panama saw the most significant growth in bookings —107 per cent — compared to the previous year for the travel period between January and March of 2016.

File picture shows a beach at Bocas Del Toro, Panama. — AFP Relaxnews pic
File picture shows a beach at Bocas Del Toro, Panama. — AFP Relaxnews pic

After Panama, Thailand and Switzerland round out the top three spots for highest growth in bookings.

Panama may have languished under the shadow of its more popular tourism neighbours Costa Rica and Nicaragua, but in the last few years the country has gained the attention of the luxury travel industry precisely for its under-the-radar aspect and untouched surroundings.

Last year, Travel + Leisure magazine named Bocas del Toro — a collection of nine tropical islands — the top destination of 2016 for being home to some of the “purest natural beauty in Latin America.”

Already home to 50,000 US expats, the country also topped International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index for 2016, with residents praising their new home for offering cheaper and healthier living conditions. Countries were ranked based on factors such as buying and renting property, visas, cost of living, environment, health care and climate.

Historic expansions to the Panama Canal — one of the world’s busiest maritime routes — are also slated to be completed this summer.

The report showed that bookings to Africa have also seen a major uptick, particularly to South Africa and Kenya.

Meanwhile, by virtue of proximity, it comes as little surprise that Mexico and Canada topped the list of most popular destinations in the first quarter for North American travellers.

For the report, Virtuoso analysed the bookings of more than US$35 billion in transactions. The international travel agency is comprised of 380 agency members specialising in luxury and experiential travel.

Here are the top 10 countries that have seen the most significant growth in year-on-year bookings for between January and March, 2016:

1. Panama (+107 per cent)
2. Thailand (+92 per cent)
3. Switzerland (+56 per cent)
4. South Africa (+50 per cent)
5. Kenya (+47 per cent)
6. India (+46 per cent)
7. Jamaica (+44 per cent)
8. Vietnam (+43 per cent)
9. Colombia (+39 per cent)
10. Spain (+34 per cent)

Here are the top 10 most popular destinations:

1. Mexico
2. Canada
3. Australia
4. New Zealand
5. United Kingdom
6. South Africa
7. Argentina
8. India
9. Chile
10. China

Courtesy AFP Relaxnews

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