When we at International Tours Alliance heard that First Broker Realty, now The Ivri Group was looking to do an incentive company trip we were thrilled to step up to the plate. It took some time for us to finalize on the destination but once we did it was set… Panamá here we come!
When we saw the excitement on their faces walking out of the airport drained after a long flight we quickly got them in the van, opened a beer and we were on our way to the city. Like most people everyone is surprised when they first get to Panamá. The size of the buildings & skyscrapers like New York or Miami impress almost everyone.
Once we saw the famous “Torneo” building, one of the many banks in Panama’s City we knew we were getting close. Most of the high rise buildings have only emerged since the economic boom shortly after the year of 2000 when Panama was given control of the famous Panama Canal from the USA who had been in charge of the operation for 100 years. Our hotel was located in the banking district known as the area of El Cangrejo, a hipster destination where lots of people from around the world congregate due to its many bars, restaurants, casinos, karaoke, and of course cafés and bakeries.
We stayed at the boutique Hotel Granada with an urban and modern design. The architects are Panamanian and they wanted to show their modern concept in the middle of Panama’s City. Their focus on atmosphere makes for some great nightlife as the music starts and people come in from outside the hotel to mingle. Their outdoor pool has a bar area with classic wooden picnic tables, lights strung across the area and music playing till the wee hours of the morning. A great mix of people from all around the world.
For dinner we walked a few blocks along the side streets of El Cangrejo to an authentic Panamanian restaurant called El Trapiche with local cuisine where they had our table reserved in the back under a small rancho. The food was brought to us right away without having to order a thing. A full array of typical foods from Panamá. Starting with a traditional chicken soup known as “sancocho” followed by a mixed platter of; “arroz con pollo” a chicken & rice dish, “ropa vieja” shredded beef, “tamal de olla” a deconstructed pork tamale in a dish, “yuca frita” fried yucca sticks, “carimañola” a meat filled yucca roll, “patacon” a twice fried plantain, and crunchy chicharon.
As we finished our dinner we had an intimate talk with one of the founding partners of The Ivri Group, Omar Sanchez. We heard about his past, his struggles, his victories, his accomplishments, and how his perseverance was able to keep him in the game through good times and bad times. Now he is the owner of a company growing a team of agents and he recognizes how important it is for producers to feel recognized for their accomplishments. He spoke about how the company has decided to make this investment into their first incentive trip and shared his vision for the future where every year the company will continue to organize incentive travel and incentivize its performers and top producers. With everyone inspired they reflected on what needed to be done in their respective lives, careers, & relationships. We walked back to the hotel that for an early much needed rest as we prepared for our following days trip to the islands of San Blas.
You may or may not have heard of it before but the Islands of San Blas are something you would see on a computer screen saver. Sandy white beaches, clear turquoise water, transparent enough to see the fish swim through your legs. With 365 islands there is so much to explore and know about San Blas. This almost lost culture is quietly awaiting to show you their local ways living off fresh fish and with a positive attitude while soaking up the sun‘s rays in paradise off the coast of Panamá in the Caribbean Sea. To get the most out of the day we woke up at 5:00am in the morning and hopped into a 4×4 SUV and departed the city as the sun started to rise in front of us.
Watching the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean is always beautiful, illuminating the sky in the Panamá Bay as we drove over the freeway exiting the city. We made our way up the spine of the mountain making up the continental divide through twists and turns avoiding large potholes feeling as if we were a bobble head inside the vehicle. We arrived to the top of the mountain and had breakfast in a small indigenous cabin. The food was very humbling to say the least but to see the small indigenous women from the Kuna Yala Tribe making us breakfast, plate by plate, doing what she could with the little that she had just to accommodate us for a quick bite to eat was quite the cultural experience gained in this incentive company trip.
As we arrived to the port we jumped on a small boat and headed 30 minutes out to sea. Once we got to the first island everyone jumped out of the boat with their jaw completely wide-open. As we sank our feet into the sand and as each toe sank deeper and deeper into the sugary white sand, all of our thoughts disappeared in a moment like the snap of a finger. This is paradise. After a few hours of doing nothing, one of the most amazing things someone can do to recharge their batteries by means of this incentive travel and realize what they’re fighting for and go back to their work family and lives with new ambitions and motivations, we decided to go have lunch on another island.
Eating fresh seafood on an island after you’ve been in the sun for a few hours is extremely rewarding. The cherry on top is when you get to wash it down with a nice tasty cold beer. Even though the beer is light and some might even classify it in the category of a flavored water, there’s nothing like a cold one after a hot day. It was a busy day on the island as the country was celebrating its independence day. We lucked out and got a seat at one of the few restaurants and not only ate our lunch which was included but we also purchased fresh lobster from local fishermen and had an extra “dessert” of fresh lobster as we relaxed in the Caribbean Sea.
In Ocean Dining!
As we got into the afternoon ours we started to head back towards the city with everyone taking a long much needed nap on the way back. With a fresh sunburn and a layer of dried salt on our skin, it was back to the hotel for a nice cool shower and an early nights rest.
After a breakfast with a view of the pool we headed out to explore the city the following day. Panamá has much more than just a canal as we went to an impressive building formerly known as Trump Ocean Club now bearing the name JW Marriott, which is the tallest building in the city, a 70 floor skyscraper with infinity pool and 180° views of the ocean. Later we went to the top marina in Panamá where we were able to get some fun pictures in front of the large Panamá sign with yachts and the skyline as a backdrop. In the afternoon The Ivri Group Team had some private time for everyone to connect with business discussing goals and future visions as part of their incentivized travel trip.
This time spent during the incentive travel with the companies top producers and the owner is what more companies and organizations should be doing. With incentivized travel, we work at an elevated level. These types of moments are priceless and when we have mind opening experiences like we do when traveling abroad exposing ourselves to different ways and lifestyles, us “go-getters” light up like a Christmas tree with inspiration and purpose through our own self reflection. What a phenomenal way to connect with workers and understand mutual goals and objectives of both their personal and business lives. These talks surly will be remembered forever. This was only possible because of this incentive company trip.
I can clearly recall many moments as a sales rep of a Silicon Valley based company where the incentive of a $5 Starbucks gift card gave me fuel to add to my already burning fire. As “overachievers” we will always push the envelope and test the boundaries to see what we can and can’t do. With a little incentive or a big incentive great results will surely follow. Bring out the competitive spirit in your team and organization. Show them a new image and interest by the company to invest into them by means of incentivized travel such as this. Knowing them. Understanding them. Empowering them. Making them leaders who will in return produce and grow the company or organization to exponential lengths.
The next day we chilled out and cooled off from the tropical weather at the rooftop pool with a stunning view of the booming modern city of Panamá mixed with the contrast of the cathedral bell tower from the ancient Spaniards. The Central Hotel was actually the first hotel of Panama located in the National World Heritage Site of Casco Viejo. This day was starting off great. Expect for that little thing called a hangover! Solution = Micheladas! As we came back to life with the help of the sun and the alcohol we gazed out and watched the sky turn dark with thick grey storm clouds in the distance. It was only a matter of time before this storm started dropping bombs of rain on us. So we enjoyed the time while we could taking advantage of the sun shining with a obvious change in climate knocking at the door.
Right about then the owner of First Broker Realty had finished his spa treatment at the hotel in Casco Viejo. It happened to be his birthday during the trip so a good birthday spa treatment was definitely in order. He walked out clam and cool in his white robe and flip flops happy to see his team all connecting and bonding in the pool even if it was over micheladas to take away the edge. He jumped into the water and joined his team for some bonding time listening to the stories from the previous nights adventures.
This is team building. These are genuine relationships. On a real level.
We have turned into a society which actually looks for the fake and phony even though we acknowledge it to be so. Through these types of transformational incentive travel moments people drop their ego, drop their guard, and drop their jaw when they are exposed to a new way. This is what we do best and to offer this unique experience to individuals and organizations of all types we know that we make a difference in people’s lives for the long haul. Maybe you have traveled, then you know exactly what we are talking about. Incentive travel or mere travel changes your point of view. Your energy. Your level of understanding. There are life lessons learned when traveling abroad especially when there are differences in language, culture, lifestyle, economical status that help us understand better who we are and that makes us appreciate what we have so much more. Thus we are motivated to fight for it. Live for it. And most importantly learn from it and apply it to what we do daily in our lives. We plant the seed so that individuals and organizations can help their people reach their greatest potential for the mutual benefit of all.
In the tourism business, It’s always difficult to watch people come and go. They show up with their ironed clothes and makeup all fancy. They arrive not knowing what to expect, what to think. They just come with an open mind. That’s what allows them to receive information like a sponge. Soaking up all they are exposed to while they experience exotic destinations where the mind stands still for just long enough to have that “ah hah” moment which could change you forever. Being a part of your company retreat or the incentive company trip is not just a job for us. It’s the opportunity for us to change lives. Help develop and identify leaders and see individuals and companies grow.
We want to grow with you. Let’s pick a destination. Structure an incentive trip for the people in your organization and get them excited about the opportunity to travel, explore, discover and learn.
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