David Kianni, General Manager of the Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo in Panama
Visit Latin America: Can you introduce us to the Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo?
Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo, Panama is a historic place which blends French elegance with the charming Panamanian culture. The hotel has a privileged location, not only does it have incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and the modern city, but it is also located in the heart of Casco Viejo, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The hotel’s impressive exterior will be reminiscent of the allure and history of Casco Viejo and the iconic Club Union, having retained vestiges of the building’s original French colonial architecture. The French stylings of the building’s architecture are carried through into the interior by incorporating luxurious finishes such as the ballroom’s marble checkerboard floors, wrought iron balcony detailing and brass touches, and contrasted by the use of contemporary Panamanian design elements, including local artwork, handmade encaustic tiles, and colorful furnishings inspired by the diverse flora and fauna found throughout the country.
VLA: Why did you choose Panama to install the 6th Sofitel Legend in the world and the 2nd in Latin America?
Panama is a hidden gem. It is full of history, culture, and biodiversity. Given its size, Panama is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world waiting to be discovered. From the sunny Caribbean islands to the picturesque coffee plantations, Panama is a desirable destination. Panama is also the hub of the Americas with direct flight connectivity with more than 80 major airports, allowing easy access to the country, hence a great location for the hotel.
VLA: What is the concept of the Legend range at Sofitel and why is the experience so unique?
Sofitel Legend is Accor’s collection of heritage addresses located in culturally-rich destinations around the world. Dating back centuries, these landmark properties all have captivating backstories.
This ultra-luxury brand has all the experiences of Sofitel hotels but also has iconic and unique experiences such as the Legendary Tours, which are one-of-a-kind, bespoke hotel tours offering guests behind-the-scenes insights into the property’s rich heritage, allowing them to relive historical events and collect treasured memories of times past. Another one of these iconic experiences is our Majordome personalized butler service for suites, inspired by an age when service was as much an art as it was a discipline. The Majordome service ensures that every aspect of a guest’s stay is meticulously cared for – from the initial check-in to the final farewell.
VLA: How many restaurants and bars will your hotel have and what type of gastronomy will your guests be able to find?
Our hotel’s culinary program is led by award-winning Michelin-Star Chef Lorenzo Di Gravio, and includes a varied collection of food and beverage offerings. Overlooking the waterfront, Ammi Skybar, will feature indoor and outdoor dining with 180-degree views of the ocean and city skyline. Caleta, the hotel’s Mediterranean brasserie will feature a flavor-driven menu with a seafood focus, using fresh local seasonal ingredients. Mayda Lobby Bar & Plaza will offer classic cocktails and small plates, taking guests on a journey back in time with a unique culinary experience inspired by Panama’s history and culture. The hotel will also include a grab-and-go venue, Vera Gourmet Café, a patisserie offering freshly baked French pastries and exclusively blended Panamanian coffee. Lastly, the hotel’s Pool Bar will feature freshly prepared juices, handcrafted cocktails and healthy fare.
VLA: What has been your career path in the hotel industry that has led you to become the head of one of the Accor Group’s flagship hotels in Latin America?
Hospitality has always been in my heart as I love people. I love interacting with clients. I love seeing the smiles on the faces of guests enjoying their stay with us. My hospitality career began as a waiter/bartender while attending university, which later led to being recruited as a Bar Manager for the Sofitel Washington DC. I grew professionally in various food and beverage roles, reaching the Director of F&B role. Later I was promoted to the Director of Operations at the Sofitel Washington DC, before moving to Colombia to take on the role of Hotel Manager at the prestigious Sofitel Legend Santa Clara in Cartagena. My career path continued as the General Manager of the Sofitel Bogota Victoria Regia before moving to Panama as the General Manager of this beautiful hotel to be.
VLA: How do you see the luxury hotel industry of the future?
Luxury is all about experiences and as we proceed we will see luxury more and more as “when I want it”, “How I want it”, “Where I want it”… Travelers will be looking for new destinations and new experiences and sustainability will be a very important aspect when traveling.
VLA: What message would you like to send to tourism professionals?
Travel is back and stronger than ever, however the new hospitality is about curated and unforgettable moments. This is what travel is about now, and what it will be in the future.
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