Panama City is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Panama. The city is the political and administrative center of the country, as well as a hub for international banking and commerce. It is considered a “beta- world city”, one of three Central American cities listed in this category. It has a dense skyline of mostly high-rise buildings, and it is surrounded by a large belt of tropical rainforest. Panama was chosen as the 2003 American Capital of Culture jointly with Curitiba, Brazil. It is among the top five places for retirement in the world, according to International Living magazine.
The city of Panama was founded on August 15, 1519, by Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Dávila. The city was the starting point for expeditions that conquered the Inca Empire in Peru. It was a stopover point on one of the most important trade routes in the history of the American continent, leading to the fairs of Nombre de Dios and Portobelo, through which passed most of the gold and silver that Spain took from the Americas.
On January 28, 1671, the city was destroyed by a fire when privateer Henry Morgan sacked and set fire to it. The city was formally reestablished two years later on January 21, 1673, in a peninsula located 8 km (5 miles) from the original settlement. The site of the previously devastated city is still in ruins and is now a popular tourist attraction known as Panama Viejo.
Tourism is one of the most important economic activities in terms of revenue generation. The city’s hotel occupancy rate has always been relatively high, reaching the second highest for any city outside the United States in 2008, after Perth, Australia, and followed by Dubai. However, hotel occupancy rates have dropped since 2009, probably due to the opening of many new luxury hotels. Several international hotel chains, such as Le Méridien, Radisson, and RIU, have opened or plan to open new hotels in the city, along with those previously operating under Marriott, Sheraton, InterContinental, and other foreign and local brands. Also, the Trump Organization is building the Trump Ocean Club, its first investment in Latin America, and Hilton Worldwide recently opened its first Garden Inn Panama, at Eusebio A. Morales Avenue and 49A Street West, and more recently The Panamera, the second Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Latin America.
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