Things are moving smoothly for The Santa María, a Luxury Collection Hotel& Golf Resort, Panama City, and it seems that its extraordinary location on the eastern sprawl of the Panamanian capital has a lot to do with its success, according to Fidel Reyes, its general manager.
“We are referring to a different concept that fills in what the city requires.This is a resort located within city limits that conveys the feeling of being elsewhere, despite its closeness to the downtown area”.
When we mention its location as one of the keys to the property’s success, please do not be mistaken this is, to think, for example, that the hotel is located at some paradise-like beach area or close to any other similar point of tourist interest. In fact, what surrounds the hotel is an eclectic mix of suburban residential development, the headquarters of international corporations, and mangrove forests.
The true secret, said Reyes, is the product’s versatility. “Conventions are held here year-round, even during ‘Carnavales’ [Mardi Gras]. The truth is that, while the whole country seems to stop to celebrate said holidays, a good part of the world continues to work, traveling to Panama to organize meetings and conventions,” he explained.
The excellent results of the hotel’s marketing strategy as a destination for international meetings and conventions has been overwhelming, with a well-segmented market hailing from the United States, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Spain, and Canada.
The Santa María features 750 indoor m2 destined for meetings and conventions, which translate as nine meeting rooms with capacities ranging from 10 to 400 people, in addition to 800 m2 outdoors which, along the hotel’s 182 guestrooms, create a corporate environment of high quality, luxury, and comfort.
Reyes further explained, “We are convinced that the MICE market is necessary for hotel occupancy base. In fact, our main occupancy stays from Monday-through-Thursday; however, although the promotion of our MICE attributes have been successful, our strategic location plays a very important role within all of this. No one can deny that there are two very different markets, one located west of the Canal and another, east of it.” [In Panamanian parlance, the expression, ´del puente para allá’, which was actually used by Reyes in the interview, conveys the cultural differences between Panama City, which is east of the Canal, and the interior provinces, to the west of it.]
Likewise, the hotel offers privileged areas facing its golf course, which is ideal for outdoor activities, even during the rainy season. Several multinational firms among them, those located at the business parks that surround the hotel’s premises choose the resort for a range of activities although, as Fidel Reyes explains, “the hotel continuously seeks to surprise its clients with new ideas to break routine and engage in more interactive activities, such as our punchbowl where executives break the business routine
The golf course: The Crown Jewel
A member of The Luxury Collection, one of the highest category of Marriott hotels and resorts, The Santa María features an 18-hole golf course designed by the Nicklaus Design firm, established by the golf legend, Jack Nicklaus.
The course, which can be used throughout the year –thanks to an excellent drainage system that allows playing between 20-30 minutes after rainfall—can only be used by members of the Golf Club and hotel guests, which was recently acknowledged among the 50 best golf venues of the region.
International tournaments of all types take place at The Santa María’s golf course, which is compiting to become the site of the 2022 Latin American Amateur Championship, whose winner will, in turn, compete at the prestigious Masters Tournament., likewise renowned charity organizations hold tournaments there, all this actions contributes to the international promotion of Panama.
Reyes stated, “All of this creates a niche market for The Santa María. Many people who generally seek to play golf at Los Cabos or the Dominican Republic now see the hotel as a new alternative.”
Fidel Reyes: An ambassador of Panama’s national brand
A native Mexican, Fidel Reyes has over 35 years’ experience in the international tourism industry, although he has spent over two thirds of those years in Panama. “I define myself as a lover of tourism, customer service, networking and communications. I therefore consider myself an “ambassador of Panama’s national brand”, even to the point of having people ask me whether I’m a native Panamanian. Although“I’m not panamanian, my wife, my children, and even my mortgage are,” the hotel’s manager humorously stated.
Throughout his career, Fidel Reyes has enjoyed to participate in the development of new hotel endeavors, a role he’s successfully carried out ever since he first set foot on Panamanian soil over 20 years ago. He has worked as manager for prestigious properties of the Starwood, InterContinental, and Marriott Hotels & Resorts chains and considers his current duties as the conclusion of a cycle in Panama’s hospitality industry. He said, “There will hardly be another hotel development in Panama that encompasses as many aspects as this one. People known it, not by the chain’s name, but simply as ‘The Santa María’.”
“It is important to know how to promote Panama”
Although he is aware of the world’s sluggish economic growth, Fidel Reyes is a firm believer in that success can be attained even in times of crisis. “There are hotels that are doing pretty well in the midst of the slowdown. The fact is that, as this hotel does, it is important to know how to promote Panama,” a country that, in front of a hypothetical group of European tourists, Reyes would describe as “warm and exuberant, a treasure chest of the culinary arts an economically stable country due to the use of the US dollar, and a nation that is safer than the average Latin American countries.”
He continued, “At The Santa María, things happen that will make you feel great from the moment you arrive. Doormans physically open the doors to visitors of this hotel. If they so request, we are happy to provide them with any recipe without hesitation, in order for them to take home a little piece of Panama. At The Santa María, we promote domestic tourism, Panamanian handicrafts, museums and landmarks of interest, in addition to advising visitors on the best places to visit, such as Boquete, Cerro Punta, or Azuero. The idea is to show them that Panama is much more than visiting the Canal, the Old Quarter, or shopping. That’s how we promote Panama, an important key of our success.”