My first year as a General Manager of a 4 stars hotel in San Jose was great but I was still travelling every day back and forth to my little home town of Atenas. It was too bad the four lane highway that now goes to Caldera wasn´t built at that time because it would have saved me 20 minutes off my ride instead of the 40 minutes from the old road that goes through the Santamaria airport and the little town La Garita.
During this period of my life I was working hard at the Barceló Parque del Lago but I was still able to visit my father and grandmother in France with my son Jourdan, 5 years old at the time. Because I had been many times in France in my youth, we saw the best French castles of Normandie, we eat gourmet food in amazing places and visited the most interesting places in “PARIS”.
When I got back to Costa Rica it was hard work again and the management of a luxury hotel was very challenging. At the same token my experience reached the top of the hospitality industry and I felt a great feeling of achievement at this time of my life.
In May 1999, I was contacted by a group of serious investors from Switzerland that was beginning the construction of two large hotels in Playa Panama, Guanacaste. I was asked to coordinate the opening of one of them, El Nakuti Resort, 100 rooms. I had to organize everything from scratch however I immediately accepted the challenge. The first time I went in Guanacaste to see how far the construction was going was in September 1999. I had to fly from San Jose into the tail of the Hurricane Mitch where even the crew of the flight was scared of all the lightning and turbulences and I sincerely thought it was my last day on this planet!
Being on site for the first time I was amazed how big it was with more than 6 hectares of grounds, more than 100 workers was moving around like ants with mud up to their knees. I met my now good friend Mario Pria who was in charge of supervising the work of all the contractors on site on behalf of the investors. I immediately knew that Mario would help me as he was very involved with the construction; it turned out to be a great idea as he became my chief of maintenance during the 4 years I was there.
At the beginning of October 1999 I permanently left San Jose and was staying full time in Playa Panama. We had to work collaterally with the construction mostly because the hotel had to be open for the 2000 New Year eve. We were under a lot of stress as the construction was way behind schedule with only 40% built at the beginning of October but we were able to pull it out working day and night like an opening of a McDonalds! LOL!! I then started to get all my chiefs of departments, mostly all coming from San Jose. We than started to interview the staff, as we needed around 70 employees however we must have interviewed more than 400 person, mostly all from Sardinal, Playas del Coco and Playa Panama.
The New Year Eve event was magic; we had a tent of more than 5000 lights on top of the swimming pool with 2 large buffet and all the tables was around the pool. It was Champagne and Lobster for our entire 300 guests with live music, carnival, fireworks and a lot of dancing.
After the grand opening, I was very busy creating and implementing all operational procedures but I also remember having some amazing moments during my few free times. Of course all the tours operators were inviting me in order to get an exclusive spot in the hotel so my family and I was able to do all the tours of the region and my son was so excited every time we went open sea fishing, Zip lining , ATV´s in the mud, horseback riding, sailing, rafting, etc. It was a lot of fun!!
After 2 years, the group of investors decided to give me also the management of the second hotel “El Giardini Di Papagayo” 80 rooms with even more work than the Nakuti, however, I was still young and full of energy! Life was good, our lifestyle very glamorous, I loved my work! It was probably the best professional time of my life!
During this time, my second child Bianca was born at the public hospital in San Jose. I always was amazed how they take care of new born and how dedicated they are with all the dozens of mother that gave birth every day, where, except for the nice installations and Ac´s rooms of private clinic everything else is even better and more family oriented!
I stayed in Playa Panama managing the 2 hotels for almost 4 years, until 2003. During that time I got very familiar with all what´s going on in the Papagayo region, I also met some incredible people that became real friends! It felt like HOME and it was clear in my head that I would do everything to stay in an area that was offering everything that I needed to spend the rest of my life!
To be continued…