My Experience with Bocas Culture

Jean-Francois Robert, CHE, CFBE

Article by,
Jean-Francois Robert,

Recently, I had the good fortune to teach a seminar on Leadership in Hospitality to hotel professionals in Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro.

I have had this opportunity on several occasions and each time I am more impressed with the quality of people who live and work there; with the unique attractions in this region (Isla Colon); with the opportunities it has to develop into the country’s top tourism destination; and most importantly, with how they teach us to be better citizens in the world, to be precise, better citizens in Panama.

The last point above is what I want to talk about, about some experiences I had; very positive experiences and that are worth mentioning. It is not common to hear that Bocas local people have good manners, or that they have good practices- in all, very little is said of Bocas people.

Getting back to the topic at hand, Isla Colon, where the epicenter of the tourism boom of the magnetic and enigmatic BOCAS DEL TORO province is, there are a number of attractions that make this destination an iconic and unprecedented place in Panama. I won’t talk about its geography and biodiversity; I’ll talk about the people and their good practices.

MANNERS: Bocas people greet each other when they meet. They look in the eyes and greet by first name to those they know. They have a positive attitude. This is relevant (sadly) because in many other parts of the country, this delicious practice is almost nonexistent. The advantage of being a small city perhaps makes it easier, but I think it is a matter of family, inheritance.

CORDIALITY: Bocas people are gentle and make you feel welcome. They do not hesitate to tell you about the business next door or to give you information related to your needs- even if its not their business or shop.

Special Note: Something I noticed, dogs roam around, not stray, all have owners, but do not fight! They have fun and occasionally become the entertaining companion of a tourist. As a person who has had dogs all their life, I know that dogs acquire habits from their owners, which I use as reference and not as a comparison.

RESPECT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Here I mean the use of bicycles as a common way of transportation. There are some cars, taxis (which would have to write in another tenor), motorcycles, electric cars, but it is so easy and practical to go around on a bike. It always resulted in a pleasurable experience.

Take into consideration that first world cities such Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, Barcelona, Tokyo, Guadalajara and Montreal, amongst others were classified as being friendlier to cyclists. These cities promote, protect, legislate and award those who use bikes as their main transportation. There are many benefits to riding bicycles: zero harmful emissions, contributes to health, fewer accidents, less noise, more equality, less crime, less stress, more happiness… We should do what is right and encourage Panama (and rest of the country) to follow the Bocas del Toro example.

This surely would impact the quality of life not only for the locals, but also visitors that will develop high quality hospitality. Go from being inhabitants to becoming citizens.

Thank you Bocas del Toro and congratulations to all the Bocas people.

Bocas del Toro Travel News ,


  1. Christine Loomis, 11 years ago

    I would love to hear more about your experience as a seminar leader for hotel professionals. I’m writing an article related to conferences and incentive groups in Panama.

       -   Reply
    • bocasdeltoro, 11 years ago

      Send us an email at [email protected] and I will put you in contact with the author.

         -   Reply

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