This week my company hosted a big trade show at ATLAPA, Panama’s state ran convention center. The convention center is managed by the Tourism Authority which is as close to a ministry as it gets. They have been heavily advertising ATLAPA as a premium convention location, to the extent of giving away free tickets to speakers, free hotel nights, etc.
The bad thing is the poor and sorry state of the installations. The walls are missing plaster, the floor is dirty beyind repair. Every time we looked up to the ceiling we saw big chunks of insulation foam peeling off AC ducts, and lose wires from unknown sources overhanging. The bathrooms are clean but way outdated, and the carpet has seen better days, with far to many coffee stains.
I reckognize it is a better location than many in Central America. Panama is building a new convention center, part of the reason that maybe no one is investing in maintainance. Yet there is something very dangerous about advertising ATLAPA as a premium location to unsuspecting speakers who might be annoyed when reviewing the premises for the first time. The feeling of over exagerating the reality of the infrastructure is palpable. Many might decide to take their business elsewhere and some might even write about it in their blogs.
There is no second chance for a first impression. ATLAPA’s first impression on me was one of doubt and not of praise.