It felt a little like the book series, Griffin and Sabine. We exchanged little notes here and there as I traveled around Panama. We had met only once, but I had left for just a little while. So until my return I was going to be traipsing around the jungle looking for birds with my husband.
My new suitor was the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Panama City. I met the Waldorf Astoria upon our very late arrival in Panama City where it had just opened its doors six months earlier. Our holiday in Panama was going to be primarily in the jungles and forests of Panama, and because we’re birders, we don’t typically look for triple-sheeted beds or accommodations with room service. Birders mostly go to lodges in the jungle and endure bugs. I’m okay with that, mostly because people I work with think I have great adventures and it makes birding seem pretty bad ass. Yet, I like to book-end our trips with a little luxury and this time I selected the Waldorf Astoria to get me just that kind of toque especial I needed.
So when we arrived on our first night in Panama I got a little giddy about the robes in our hotel room, because I knew there’d be no more little luxuries for the next 9 days—and like any social media addict, I posted it on Instagram.
And that’s where it all began.
An Extraordinary Correspondence
I had tweeted out my Instagram photo above and wrote, “We’re being fancy for one night and then it’s jungle all the way.” The Waldorf has a very savvy person handling their social channels and two days later started engaging me in a genuine conversation.
I had a new admirer.
I thank my lucky stars every day that I’m able to live in the era of social media. I love Twitter because I’m a news junkie, Instagram because it’s a window into a lot of beautiful places in the world and Facebook for keeping up with news of family and close friends. But most of all I love engagement. I love learning from others and sharing. Essentially it’s what communication is all about and while social media gets a bad rap about taking the human connection out of communication it’s because people are doing it wrong. Social media has connected us in ways unimaginable 10 years ago.
Essentially, social media engagement has allowed the people who are doing it right to connect to people and businesses they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to reach. And once they reach each other wonderful connections happen.
So having a luxury hotel become completely interested in my birding adventures was a marvel to me (mostly because people I work with have grown weary of my bird tales and simply just walk away scratching their heads). And to be quite honest, made me feel pretty damn special.
Little engagements have their rewards
At the end of our stint in the lush jungles of Panama we returned to the Waldorf Astoria for our last night where they handed us our room keys and escorted us to a special bank of elevators that took us to one of the highest floors. We followed our porter down to the end of a long hall where he directed us into a large suite with floor to ceiling windows that looked over the ocean dotted with ships waiting their turns into the Panama Canal. “You have a very good room,” he said.
Yes, he was right. The room was extraordinary—a full kitchen, dining room, a sectional sofa facing the view and the big ass flat screen TV. A deliciously adorned king size bed in another room, a walk-in shower that could fit the Brady Bunch (if they were into that sort of thing) and a walk-in closet.
And this tasty treat was waiting for us on the granite countertop.
I was lying on the leather sectional, looking at the million dollar view when the doorbell rang. Yes, the doorbell.
Holy cow, this place is huge, I thought.
I opened our door to a young woman who handed me a book. “This is a gift from the hotel,” she said. “We thought you would like it.”
“Oh, wow,” I gushed. “Thank you so much!”
“No, thank you,” she insisted.
Well, there was no better gift than this book.
A customized experience
Tourism is extraordinarily competitive. Just look at what makes Trip Advisor tick. Fake reviews aside, when I look for a accommodations I’m looking for service, whether it’s in the jungle or a 4-star hotel overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It’s beyond the free breakfast and, dare I say, the free wifi. The type of service I’m looking for nowadays is if the hotel remembers me. When I’m rewarded with a customized experience I feel like I just unwrapped the golden ticket that covered my chocolate bar. As loyalty point programs have become more complicated and diminish in value from year to year, it’s come down to the personal touch. And the Waldorf Astoria in Panama City has this figured out.
Look, that book probably cost less than $20, and all it took was some obvious connecting of the dots for the person running the Panama City Waldorf Astoria social channels to be imaginative about what would make me happy. Sure, I was promoting them in my Instagram feed and on Twitter. They probably checked out who some of my followers were (a lot of birders and a lot of people in the travel industry, including some media). My guess (and it’s not a stretch) is that it was a small token of appreciation for the shout outs in a very competitive hotel market in Panama City. All of those obvious points notwithstanding, the book is a treasure to me.
Of all the fabulous birds we searched out and found on that trip, it’s this experience that was the most memorable. Well, that and the robe. I bought one to bring home, since it’s the robe that started our whole affair.