Breezing through customs in Panama City’s clean, contemporary airport is a great start to visiting this fascinating destination—named one of the five top emerging destinations for incentive travel in 2013.
Big news on the luxury hotel front is the spectacular, 369-room Trump Ocean Club Hotel & Tower, which quickly became an architectural icon on the city skyline for its dramatic, curved façade resembling an open sail. Situated on the upscale peninsula called Punta Pacifica, about 20 minutes from the airport, the Trump Ocean Club feels like a chic urban sanctuary. The spacious, light-filled guest rooms (all with balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows) and public spaces have cream-colored palettes punctuated by color accents. Overall, the design reflects Panama’s tropical locale—with breathtaking ocean views lending the vibe of a laid-back resort.
But this is also a serious business hotel, with a generous 45,000 square feet of state-of-the-art meeting space. Corporate groups account for roughly 35 percent of the hotel’s total business, says Director of Sales and Marketing John Cardona. U.S. groups choose it for the airlift, which includes nonstop service from a dozen major cities, and the fact that its currency is tied to the U.S. dollar and that meeting expenses here are IRS tax exempt.
Conference facilities at the hotel include an exceptionally stylish 8,611-square-foot ballroom in hues of blues and greens that can accommodate up to 950 people, or be divided into three separate areas. There are also four additional meeting rooms that range in size from 1,464 square feet to 862 square feet, plus 19,128 square feet of outdoor gathering space. This includes a sensational 1,830-square-foot pool deck, with lounge areas, a bar, and a casual restaurant. Here, and at the hotel’s two other restaurants and wine bar, planners can arrange for meeting attendees to enjoy local fare such as Carimanolas, a yucca dumpling filled with minced beef or chicken and egg; and Patacones, fried green plantains.
Offsite excursions in the fast-growing city of modern skyscrapers include a step back in time to Panama City’s charming Spanish colonial “old town,” Casco Viejo. The Frank Gehry–designed Museum of Biodiversity, due to open in stages later this year, is sure to be a draw. And at the Miraflores Locks Panama Canal Visitors Center, it’s thrilling to learn about this amazing feat of engineering and then watch ships transit the locks, rising and dropping more than 50 feet as they make their way from one ocean to another.