In 2017, I had the opportunity to lead and support the development of a tourism plan for the Panama Canal, taking on the challenge of immersing into the existing experience in Panama City and understanding what motivations and expectations their 800,000 tourists might have currently and in the future. The result? Five unique tourism offerings across the country, and creating an architectural icon that becomes a brand in itself, for the whole world to see.
Spending a week in a Panama Canal visitor's shoes was not like what I expected. Our team hopped into a car to explore their on-land engineering facilities, before taking a speedboat ride from one end of the canal to another, visiting eco-tourism sites that local schools would visit. Along the way, we spoke with locals and employees at the Panama Canal.
Out of this research, we benchmarked and identified their key personas—their Tourism Explorers—that set the tone for the architectural and landscape development planning. These personas not only allowed the design teams to better understand their end-user, but also became a vehicle of communication for our client team, using the names to better allow them to participate in the design process and see their decisions and feedback from the perspective from their Explorers.
We immersed ourselves in the tourism offerings in Panama City to understand the motivations and inherent pride that exists in their local and regional community.