I recently sold off most of my DVDs, and in the process I met a number of people who came to the house to browse my collection. One was Earl Hall, co-owner of El Valle's Anton Valley Hotel.
Earl, who is 55 years old and came to Panama from South Florida, has been in the hotel industry all his life. He got his start working as a busboy at the Holiday Inn when he was 15, going to school half days and then working the rest of the day, and working full shifts on the weekends. Most recently he was part of a hotel management group.
Earl says that owning his own hotel is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I think everyone in El Valle would agree that he and co-owner Les have done a great job with the Anton Valley. The hotel is always busy,and their Sunday morning breakfast has become a popular meeting spot for locals. It's one of the few places in El Valle where you can get an American-style breakfast. My only gripe is that I went there once on a Wednesday morning and was told rather brusquely that breakfast is only available on the weekends.
I looked up a few of those TripAdvisor.com reviews. Here's the first, by "LandCruisers":
We stayed here after a root canal in Panama City, and it was just what we needed. The place is beautifully decorated and maintained, with fresh flowers, towel art, stained glass, metalwork, and a wonderful garden. We took advantage of the free bicycles to explore the valley and had Juan take us birdwatching in the hills on his day off. The reasonably priced breakfasts were wonderful, and set in a lovely room filled with light and the sound of a gentle fountain. Our room was a little small; we "borrowed" a couple of the chairs from the patio, which allowed us to relax in our room without sitting on the bed. We also enjoyed the patio, where one can sip a glass of wine and watch the birds that are attracted to the flowers in the garden. Even without taking price into account, this is a very special hotel. Given the value, it can't be beat.
Rewards and Challenges
When I asked Earl what the best thing about owning a hotel in El Valle is, he responded with genuine emotion that it is the wonderful people who work for him. He pointed out that many of the staff are mentioned by name in TripAdvisor.com reviews. That's something you don't often see.
What's the greatest challenge of owning a hotel in El Valle? "Government paperwork and bureaucracy," Earl replied without hesitation.
What about the guests, where do they come from? According to Earl, about 40% are North American, 15% Panamanian, and the rest from all over the world, literally, with every continent represented.
Please note that the hotel will be closed the month of September 2008 for vacation.