Panama is fast becoming one of the new “It” destinations in the Americas thanks to developments such as Bristol Hotels. The company offers two luxury properties for an easily created split program: a boutique business hotel in Panama City and an upscale beach resort 80 minutes away on the Pacific Coast.
Showcasing a contemporary colonial vibe, the 56-room Bristol Panama is located in the heart of the capital city’s financial district within easy access of fine-dining restaurants, modern shopping and multiple marinas for offshore adventure. This winter, a new tower debuts, adding 84 new rooms. The hotel has 8,000 sf of meeting space.
For post-meeting incentives, groups can head to Bristol Buenaventura for sunbaths on the Pacific Coast of Panama and bury their feet in the white powder sand of the resort’s private beach. Resembling an old-style Spanish hacienda, this luxury 114-room resort features 8 villas on 1,000 acres of terrain filled with rivers, lakes and lush vegetation. Total meeting space is 5,000 sf.
We spoke with Victor Pitti, director of sales/marketing, and he told us how Bristol offers planners a practical option to provide groups with the complete Panamanian experience.
Q: Can you give us an idea of the business climate in Panama? What are the selling points of the destination and how has it evolved over the last couple of years?
VP: Panama has been enjoying a great growth in tourism during the last few years, especially the last two. It has a lot to do with a good political climate as well as financial stability. Panama is the second fastest growing economy in Latin America right now. It’s very U.S. friendly and we use the U.S. Dollar as our currency, so there’s a lot of U.S. investment in Panama.
Q: Could you describe the Bristol Buenaventura a little bit? It’s inside a gated community, right?
VP: Yes, which is the Buenaventura Community, also part of our own company. The resort itself is oceanfront with a really nice beach. We have a total of 122 rooms, including 8 luxury villas. The architecture of the property is like that of a hacienda. The resort is about two and a half years old. We have very large common areas, the whole lobby is very wide open with that luxury feeling that is old but in a good way. We have great wonderful outdoor venues for events, like creative dinners. Our cuisine is really really good. We’ve had very experienced planners come from New York, for instance, and they usually rave so much about our food and that’s one of our strong points. We are also only about 80 minutes away from the airport.
Q: Could you mention a couple activities for groups around the resort?
VP: We offer a lot of individual and group activities within the resort. One of the activities that a lot of people like are the ATV tours that take you all around the property, which is about 300 hectors [741 acres]. Our outdoor venues are also great for very creative beach activities at night like fireworks.
Q: Do you find that a lot of groups do split programs?
VP: For smaller groups, is very typical to do a combined program where they’d stay two nights in Panama City, and then they’ll come for three nights to the beach. In Panama City, they can do city tours, Panama Canal activities, historic district tours, and enjoy great fine dining.
We expect more share programs between Panama City and the beach, especially now that our Bristol Panama property is going from a 56-room boutique property to having 140 rooms by January. That increases our capacity to handle groups of 120-150 participants in both properties. Our group business at the hotel is about 40 percent of business.
Q: Can you describe the setting and architecture of Bristol Panama?
VP: The hotel has already been operating for about 14 years. It’s a luxury boutique hotel. The architecture is a little more colonial and I’d describe the tower that we’re opening in January as the kind of boutique hotel that you would find in New York. It has a blend of the traditional and beautiful furnishing with a modern twist. With the new expansion of the hotel, we’re updating the overall look to be still traditional with a modern luxury feel to it.
Q: Can you describe the area around Bristol Panama?
VP: The location of the Bristol Panama is wonderful. It’s very close to the financial district and the entertainment section called Calle Uruguay. It’s only four to five blocks from the hotel and is very famous in Panama for dining, bars and going out. One of the major upscale malls is within two miles. We’re also about 15 minutes away from the Panama Canal, the international airport and less than 10 minutes from the historic district.
Q: What can you tell us about the lift?
VP: From the U.S., we have service from Continental Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, Copa Airlines, which is the Panamanian airline, and nonstop flights to Panama from Newark, JFK, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Houston and Los Angeles. We now have a nonstop flight from Toronto to Panama as well with Copa Airlines. We have great airlift from the west coast to the east coast and the Midwest.