Panama is certainly no stranger to structural marvels. The Panama Canal can sometimes be found on various lists of modern man-made wonders. And these days, the country is becoming one of the hottest markets for hotel development. So it seems like a natural place for Trump Hotel Collection to mark its first departure from U.S. soil.
This week, Trump Hotel Collection opens the highly anticipated Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower Panama in the Punta Pacifica area of Panama City. And for a company known for creating structures that make their marks on destinations, this hotel is no different. It is said to be the largest hotel in Latin America, and it soars high above Panama Bay with 369 guestrooms, including 47 suites.
“This is definitely a big opening for us,” says Eric Trump, who serves as executive vice president of development and acquisitions. “We really believe in Panama. The country has just been terrific to work with. Panama’s just done everything right over the last 10 years, with the Panama Canal expansion and with so many major multinational companies coming into the country.
“We have the best building anywhere in Central or South America—the largest building. I think the quality that you’ll see blows everything else out of the water,” he continues. “It’s a building that we’re incredibly proud of and look forward to operating for many years to come.”
With hotels in Chicago; Las Vegas; Waikiki, Hawaii; and SoHo in New York City gaining architectural acclaim Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower Panama enters its market with an incredibly high standard to follow. But Trump says the property is up to the challenge. “Our developer did an incredibly great job,” he says. “It’s really very fitting to the area. One of the things we believe in is having projects that are contextual to their surrounding. This building is very ‘Panama.’”
The hotel features exterior glass designed to mirror the blue colors of the water of the bay. The building is tropical, but urban, which Trump says works with Panama City because the city represents both of those facets. It also includes a lot of work from local artisans, using local materials.
Service is Key
For Trump Hotel Collection, international expansion was always in the plans, and the company certainly plans on bringing its trademark service and operating techniques to new countries beginning with Panama and continuing with a new Toronto property later this year.
“Service is one thing that we’ve always prided ourselves on, and we’re probably the only real estate company that hits on a lot of different elements whether it be hotels—a major focus of this company—or golf or residential real estate,” Trump says. “One of the things that’s always been constant with us is white-glove service. It’s what the name stands for and it’s what people are buying, so we’re certainly going to do that [in Panama].”
Trump Hotel Collection’s existing properties have already gained acclaim in the U.S. Trump International Chicago has been named the fourth best hotel in the world by Condé Nast Travel & Leisure. Trump says the newest property aims to keep the acclaim coming in. “This will be right up there with Chicago and the rest of the hotels that are getting really tremendous accolades,” he says.
Among the amenities at the Panama property will be a floor of elite boutiques and shops, multiple restaurants, a pool deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and more than 46,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space.
Panama and Toronto are simply the beginnings of Trump Hotel Collections international expansion plans. “It’s clearly one of the major pushes for myself, my brother and sister (Donald, Jr. and Ivanka, who also serve as vice presidents with the company), and my father (Donald Trump). It’s one of the things we’re working on quite a bit,” Trump says. “The international markets make a tremendous amount of sense for us.”
One of the unique advantages the company has in international markets is the popularity of the brand name. “People really value the Trump brand. They know us. They know what the name stands for, and it resonates well,” Trump says.
And the company is seeking to put its stamp on the usual suspects when it comes to international markets, but with a unique Trump twist. “Asia’s a major market, including India,” Trump says. “I think Central and South America are just critical markets because there’s so much going on. Everyone points to Brazil, but Colombia and Argentina are doing incredibly well. And there are so many places there we’d like to have a property so we’re going to continue the Central and South America expansion.”
Trump says the Panama property offers a great stepping stone for that expansion.
He also says there is more expansion to come in Canada, as well as Europe and Asia.
Given that the company has been able to build six high quality and enormous projects in relatively short period of time, it stands to reason that expansion into these markets will come sooner rather than later.
The International Draw
As many new-build projects in the U.S. remain on hold due to the economy and an oversupply of product, most hotel companies are expanding internationally. “I think people understand globalization. People are traveling more than they’ve ever traveled before,” Trump says. “Brands are significantly powerful across the global arena.”
Trump says that many of the markets people talk about are aspiration markets. “People want to live beyond just having a unit, they want a lifestyle,” Trump says. “That’s what we’re providing, and that resonates very well.”
He also says that many of these markets have a lot of wealth, and a lot of business travel from the U.S. and other places. “It really helps round out a collection. It makes it fun, special, unique, and hotels are very aware of that,” Trump says. “In this day and age, international development is very important to any brand.”
Like many hotel brands, Trump Hotel Collection has its sights set on emerging markets, and it plans to eventually take its unique brand around the world.