Open Jaw

Panama Jack Hits The Road

Playa Resorts to turn casual lifestyle brand into all-inclusive experience

Panama Jack logo

Flush with cash from a recent IPO -- and flush with success from its partnership with Hyatt in developing the Ziva and Zilara all-inclusive brands -- Playa Resorts is setting off on its next adventure. The latest challenge: translating the popular Panama Jack lifestyle brand into an all-inclusive experience.

If you’re not familiar – and the 40-year-old brand does seem to have more recognition in the U.S. and Europe than Canada – Panama Jack is based on its founder, Jack Katz, who grew up in the bohemian atmosphere of Key West, Florida.

Jack is portrayed as “a traveller, not a tourist.” The brand is licensed to products revolving around casual fun, including sun protection, hats, clothing, home furnishings, liquor – even ‘beach cruiser bicycles.’ For its entry into all-inclusive resorts, the prevailing ethos will be: “Exploration is encouraged. Relaxation, inevitable.”

Jack is a 'traveller,' not a 'tourist.'

The Panama Jack flag will be initially raised at two existing – and already popular – Playa properties. Thus Gran Porto in Playa del Carmen and Gran Caribe in Cancun will become Panama Jack Gran Porto and Panama Jack Gran Caribe.

Both properties will undergo an in-depth conversion with multi-million dollar upgrades scheduled for May through September, and soft openings in October followed by full-fledged grand debuts in January, 2018.

Panama Jack Cancun lobby

Panama Jack Cancun lobby

Plans for the rebranding include a restaurant, two bars, furnishings, in-room amenities, signage and uniforms reflecting the Panama Jack look and feel. Each resort will also have a Panama Jack retail store featuring the brand’s signature sun protection products, apparel, home furnishings and beach accessories.

Kim Manna, Chief Executive Officer of Panama Jack, says the company found “the perfect partner” in Playa.

“This is the natural evolution of our brand, confirming its pre-eminence in the casual lifestyle market. Consumers who enjoy our products at home and on the beach, will now, as vacationing guests, have the opportunity to experience the brand as a destination where they can create their own adventures and memories with family and friends.”

Playa aims to replicate its huge success with Hyatt.

After seeing the success Playa has achieved in bringing Hyatt into the upper echelons of the all-inclusive world, it probably wasn’t a tough decision for Panama Jack.

It works for Playa too, according to Rose Cosentino, Director, Canada for Playa Hotels & Resorts. She believes there’s a strong connection with the core audience for the Gran properties, which enjoy strong year-round occupancy but were both ready for a makeover.

Panama Jack coffee shop

Panama Jack coffee shop

“Change was already going to happen at the Gran properties, but with Panama Jack that’s accelerating. As we go through the process we’re feeling like the partnership could be even better than we thought.”

Panama Jack will be priced at the 4-4.5-star level. Cosentino makes the analogy that Hyatt guests skew towards vintage wines, while Panama Jack will cater more to fun-loving craft beer aficionados. She says the staples of Playa properties – great locations, accommodations and food & beverage – will remain standard, and the Panama Jack vibe will be infused into the resorts.

"A really cool concept from a really great partner."

A key part of that is being true to the destinations. The resorts will be managed by local talent, feature lots of authentic dishes in the restaurants and promote local artists and musicians.

Another Playa partner that is excited by the Panama Jack development is WestJet Vacations. Tami Brown, product buyer for the operator, calls it “a really cool concept from a really great partner.”

Panama Jack king room

Panama Jack king room

Cosentino says the first Panama Jack properties will have strong appeal to multi-generational families, as well as couples and groups of friends. The CUN property does a big wedding business, partly due to the fact there’s a consecrated Catholic church right on the property.

“We are excited to bring Panama Jack resorts to Canadian travel agents through WestJet Vacations,” says Cosentino. “Even the agents we meet who don’t know the brand are welcoming the move, because they know that Playa-managed resorts send their clients home happy. And we’re not stopping with the two Gran properties. We want to grow this brand just like we want to grow the Hyatt brands. It won’t end with these two.”


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