Annie Young founded EcoCircuitos Panama, S.A. in 1999. She is currently in charge of the Marketing and Sales Department and continually researches and creates new programs and adventures. Annie has a degree in Social Communication with an emphasis in Journalism from the University of Panama, a diploma in Business Strategies for Environmental Sustainability from Stanford University in California and has studied Environmental Management of International Tourism Development with Harvard University. She is the President of APTSO (Panamanian Foundation of Sustainable Tourism) and is committed to the conservation and social development of Panama through the promotion of sustainable tourism.
Here is how it all began, in Annie’s words: “After a backpacking trip to Central America and coming back home from studies abroad I realized that I wanted to share my passion for Panama with the rest of the world. I’m in love with the nature, people, history and culture of my country. So with very little money and a big dream this adventure started in 1999. I have the privilege of having a job that I love and to work with amazing people that are also passionate about promoting social development and conservation through tourism in Panama. I have always wanted to share the authentic Panama while contributing to improve the well-being of our local communities. I discovered that this could be done with a responsible approach in tourism and this is what we are striving to offer since I began this company. We hope to keep doing this for a long time with your help.”
How do the experiences you offer at EcoCircuitos Panama give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of your region?
This happens through our team of experienced guides, the most important part of the experience is our team! We manage our client’s expectations, this is done from the beginning with the sales team and then our guides. Our guides are trained to provide in-depth insights, which is key to providing an unforgettable experience in Panama. We are a locally owned tour operator that proudly hires and trains local guides in leadership and interpretation. We believe interpretation and interaction is the key in an authentic travel experience. There is a difference between seeing something and understanding something, not only with cultural encounters, but also with wildlife observation, birdwatching, walking through an unknown ecosystem or even just entering the Golden Altar in the Old Quarters of Panama.
How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
After EcoCircuitos Panama started in 1999 many things have changed and evolved. When it originally began it was ecotourism company that focused on local perspectives with an aim to work with young international travelers with adventure tours. The name EcoCircuitos was chosen to acknowledge that the company was promoting responsible tours. EcoCircuitos has evolved and now offers experiential travel to a wide audience (families, couples, groups, academics, special interest) and authenticity is the key. Local food, local people, local places. We know that through our local talents, we offer long and lasting memories and that is priceless.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
Our company believes in a responsible approach to offering tours and we want to make a difference and support conservation through tourism. We believe that traveling responsibly is one of the most important parts of experiential travel. Our company provides clients with a stainless steel, PBA free water bottles upon arrival to reduce the use of plastics. We train our guides in sustainable and ethical values and they will explain our clients what actions can they take while in Panama to reduce their carbon footprint.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider booking a tour with EcoCircuitos Panama?
That we are a local company that is FAIR!
Fair wages and respectful communication with our staff, partners, suppliers and most important to our travelers are a strong part of our commitment. The fair pricing of our products ensures the quality of our guides, drivers and the overall travel experience in Panama.
What is one piece of clothing or equipment guests should have to maximize their enjoyment of the experiences you offer?
Depending on the season: For dry season a hat and for rainy season a rain jacket.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
Academic travel. Millennials are looking for authentic experiences abroad, this type of travel is slower and more educational. It allows travelers to truly get a feel of the culture and area they are visiting. This type of travel falls within the motto of EcoCircuitos: Tourism, Conservation and Education. Our academic tours are a great opportunity for students to gain firsthand knowledge and experience from a diverse team of professionals. Panama’s remarkable biodiversity and history make it a paradise for historical and ecological studies. Our programs will expose participants to the natural wonders, in addition to learning about Panama’s unique history.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Learn the language. If you are in Panama, you should learn a bit of Spanish. Reading about the country’s history will give a good inside view.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
I think the best strategy has been to offer a very good service and word of mouth. Sometimes in order to make our client happy we have to lose a bit, but we understand that we are in the business of happiness and that is what we want to offer our clients.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
In a gastronomic tour one client states that it has been the most fun tour she ever had. We recently started this tour offering our clients as a walking tour experience while tasting different local food specialties in the Old Quarters, exercising and food. She states that what a wonderful and memorable day it was.