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Sweating Bullets in Panama: David, Panama Recap

Anthony heads to the 68-room Las Olas Resort in Panama, owned by Juan Arauz and his family since they built it 15 years ago.. He takes a taxi there and the driver points out that the road is undeveloped. The resort is in a more remote area of the country, and the driver explains that there is no shuttle to and from the resort. He tells Anthony that the resort is just developing and it has a beautiful beachfront. They drive past it and the driver turns around. His engine stalls and Anthony has no choice but to walk the remaining distance in 92-degree weather. Anthony insists on walking just like a guest would have to do if they didn't have a film crew. A tractor comes by and Anthony catches a ride the rest of the way.

Once he arrives, Anthony goes to the lobby and finds a fish pond filled with green scummy water and a fake alligator. The nearby pool is nice and Anthony jumps in fully-clothed to cool off. There's a submerged bar but nobody there. Once Anthony changes into more comfortable clothing, he meets with Juan and his family: his wife Donna and his kids Tony and Abby. Anthony tells them about what happened with the cab. They admit that other guests have had similar experiences, and Anthony tells them that they need an air-conditioned shuttle with the resort's name on it.

Juan tells Anthony that he grew up nearby, got married in the States, and then returned to Panama to develop the resort. He owns the land and developed the resort 15 years ago, and has never made money. They are $8 million in the hole and Anthony warns that they can't sell it. The STAR report shows that they're running at a loss, and Juan says that they sell decorative feathers in the States. That business feeds the resort, and Tony is running out of patience because they're not turning a profit. It costs $300,000 a year to keep the resort going, and Juan admits that it can't continue the way it is. Anthony figures that the family is stressed, and Abby says that they have disagreements all the time. Donna says that neither child gives in, and Juan says that he is bringing the show in for Tony and wouldn’t have done it otherwise.

Anthony inspects the property starting with the beachfront. He's impressed with it but wonders why it's empty. Anthony figures that it's empty because of the 25% occupancy, and because Panama is just developing its tourist industry. He goes to the on-site restaurant and figures that the food had better be good because the guests are stuck at the resort. The place looks like a banquet hall, and Anthony sits down to wait for some service. A waitress, Nancy, comes over within a minute and he's surprised that the menu is so large with 85 items. Anthony orders homemade beef soup, a medium beef fillet, and tea with no sugar, and figures that they must have high food costs to keep all of the foods on hand. There's a bone in the beef soup and there's sugar in the tea. There's a cat under the table and Anthony isn't thrilled with that. Nancy brings back the fillet and Anthony discovers that it's rare, not medium. Overall, he's not impressed.

Inside, Anthony checks a room and admires the view out the patio. The lamp is old, the clock radio is unplugged, but there is bottled water in the room. They charge $1.50 a bottle, and Anthony says that a destination resort shouldn't charge. He checks the bathroom and discovers that it looks like a public locker room in Coney Island. The soap dispenser is covered in dirt, and there's a film of iron on the wall and floors.

Anthony brings in designer Lauren Makk to give the resort a fresh look. They check the pool and Lauren feels that it's drab. The patio furniture is dirt and there's nothing that says luxury. Anthony also needs Lauren to renovate a room and takes her to the beach to get her inspired. He then tells her to focus on the bathroom and fix it.

Tony joins Anthony in a room and Anthony shows him the film. Tony says that they need a water softener, but Juan doesn't want another item that will require maintenance. Anthony sets up a meeting with father and son, and asks Juan if he's a professional hotelier. Juan admits that he isn't, and Anthony says that things have to change. He describes his restaurant experience and warns that they have too many items on the menu, and an iron film in the bathrooms. Anthony asks Juan if he values money, and Juan explains that his family lost some of the land to Noreiga in the 1980s. After that, Juan wanted to establish a tourist destination and build a legacy for his family. Anthony confirms that they have a farm and says that they have to take advantage of agitourism.

Anthony goes to Juan's family farm a hundred yards from the resort. Everything served in the restaurant comes from the farm, and most guests don't know that. Juan doesn't seem to understand, and has Anthony ride around the farm on a horse with him. They come to harvesters gathering coconut water and Juan shows Anthony how to drink it and then scrap out the meat and eat it. Anthony says that it's revenue

When Anthony checks back at the resort, he discovers that Lauren has done nothing at the pool and is way behind schedule. She explains that the concrete is mounted with rebar so they're going to set up cabanas. Lauren admits that it's her first show, and Anthony says that they've never been further behind. As he walks away, Anthony says that they're going to have problems if Lauren doesn't have the resort ready for the reveal.

Anthony brings in a local chef, Edwin, who creates a shorter menu with a wide variety of dishes suited to their kitchen. He serves risotto and the family enjoys it. They offer Edwin the job and he accepts, and Anthony brings in Hector from the Fontainebleau in Miami to make a drink menu. Hector plans to use fresh local ingredients from the farm.

Finally, Anthony figures that he needs to fix the management. He brings in Everhett and John from Patton Hospitality. They manage 30 full-service resorts and are willing to have Everhett stay there for the next 45 days to jumpstart things. The family agrees and Patton Hospitality goes to work. Anthony visits the pool and discovers that the sod isn't installed and the walkway is stained. There's nothing done with the pool and the bar. Anthony finds Lauren and points out that the pool is where it was the day before. He asks if he should shut it down and give the family the room, and Lauren says that she just arrived and needs some time.

On the last day, Lauren and her team from Green Effect work to meet the deadline. Anthony arrives in a new minivan shuttle. A local taxi company will provide shuttles. A crew from Sheer Video has made a video of local activities, and then takes them to the room. Lauren and Irene, their contractor from Green Effect, are waiting. They enter the room which has been redesigned with a white color scheme. American Hotel Register has donated the linens, and Lauren has installed a wave-shaped lighting design. Juan promises to install a filter to deal with the iron film, even though it will cost $30,000.

Since there wasn't time or money to renovate the restaurant and bar, Colin with iRay3D have rendered a virtual tour of a proposed design. If they make money from the existing redesigns, they can then redo the bar and restaurant. Finally, Anthony has the family put on bathing suits and check out the new pool area. There are individualized cabanas and they power washed everything, and Anthony jumps in first. The family jumps in after him and Anthony shows them the new bar that Hector and his business partner Eddie have designed. They serve daiquiris and mojitos made with local ingredients from their farm. Cocktail Kingdom donated the bar equipment, and Anthony makes a toast to the family and Hector. Abby breaks into tears and they share a salute to the future.

Written by Gadfly on Oct 14, 2015

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