THE days of floppy disks, MS DOS, and monitors the size of small sedans have long given way to a new era of computer technology: an era where blogs, downloads, and search engines have revolutionized not only the way people communicate, but the way people live. One small country in Central America is active proof that, with the power of the internet, far-fetched ideas are a lot more feasible than one might think.
May 25th, 2007: The government of the Republic of Panama–a nation 3.5 million people strong, in the midst of a hefty real estate and tourism thrust–passed a law changing the length of a traditional tourist visa. The new law required foreign travelers to leave not once every 3 months as traditionally declared, but once every 30 days. This law elicited an uproar from the country’s growing investor community who feared it would be a serious roadblock to the promotion of Panama as a retirement haven.
It became apparent over the ensuing month that the decision made by the Panamanian government lacked adequate research, principally in the possible effects on the status of Panama’s expat community, both in-country and abroad. But how, with so many expats scattered all over the globe, was a single cause to be heard? And how, if presented with such a call to action, would a confident government react?
June 22nd, 2007: Enter Prima Panama, a humble real estate marketing and consulting company based out of Panama City. Acting as an advocate for those who would be personally affected by the tourist visa change, this small group made history with, what at first seemed like a futile plan: to create a short online survey examining just how important the new tourist visa law would be to its clients.
June 25th, 2007: The survey took off like a rocket. 100 completed surveys, then 300 surveys, then 700 surveys! The group’s blog website saw as many as 10,000 unique visitors a day: each of whom, without a doubt, had something to say about the issue at hand. Nightly updates with photos were posted keeping readers abreast of the day’s activities and readers followed them intently. Developers wrote in with desperate pleas, future investors commented with doubt, and Panamanian citizens responded with their own feelings of disgust: the results were overwhelmingly negative.
Link to the updates:
June 27th, 2007: Representing concerned individuals from over 21 countries, Prima Panama willingly became the voice for what had, up until then, been a faceless and anonymous concern. They presented “the book” and their findings to policy makers at a series of meetings and each meeting appeared to go better than the last. Because Panama is such a small country and because the numbers in their study were so sizeable, the team at Prima Panama seemed to cut themselves a path, clear and direct to the top. And impressively, those at the top actually cared about what they had to say.
June 28th, 2007: When high level administration representatives of the President of the Republic called personally to compliment them for their efforts and to ensure a quick and effective policy change, the gang at Prima Panama–along with hundreds of thousands of other Panama-philes around the world–took one giant sigh of relief. In just six short days, a law was made, information was disseminated, a market responded, results were compiled, policy makers consulted, and a change was in the works. Presto!
If, by perseverance, a sloth could make it to Noah’s Arc, then the team at Prima Panama figured maybe they could lobby to change the tourist visa back to its original 90 day formula. What they didn’t expect was the speed or power of their biggest ally–the world wide web. It was a story of technology and free flowing information in which people thousands of miles away were able to react to an issue in real time. And with that, in the small isthmus of Panama, a grand new voice was born.
About Prima Panama
Prima Panama is a real estate marketing and consulting firm based out of Panama City, Panama. Their efforts in statistical research regarding the area’s investment boom have been one-of-a-kind and their Prima Passport program has established itself as one of the most honest and useful investment tools on the market.