Collect and respond to guest feedback: Make sure to collect feedback from guests regularly and take their suggestions seriously. Use this feedback to improve your services and experiences and respond to guest reviews and comments promptly and professionally. This shows that you value their input and are committed to providing the best possible experience for your guests.

As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ariel Barrionuevo.

Ariel Barrionuevo is an Argentine bon vivant who enjoys the finer things in life in every corner of the world. He graduated from Ecole pour l’Hotellerie La Suisse and has been directing properties for the Faena and Sofitel chains of the Accor Group in Buenos Aires for over 20 years. However, Ariel discovered a secret gem in the Caribbean and, together with his partners, conceived La Coralina Island House in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us what brought you to this specific career path? Can you share the most exciting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Like many facets of my life, synchronicity played a significant role in the unfolding of my career path. While studying Political Science, I serendipitously stumbled upon an opportunity to work as a telephone operator in a hotel to support my personal expenses. Little did I know this experience would awaken a dormant passion for service that has been thriving for over three decades. Every encounter with my guests fills me with joy and purpose, as hospitality is a magnificent art of caring for others and attending to their needs. Over the years, our focus has evolved toward creating invaluable experiences that leave a lasting impression. I have cherished countless stories from my time in this industry. Still, perhaps the most exhilarating one was when a king from Africa visited us, showcasing the beauty of cultural differences.

Can you share a story about your funniest mistake when first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I venture to say that the most enjoyable aspect of this journey was the initial belief that graduating from a hotel school was enough to manage a hotel. Oh, how naive I was! I still chuckle when I recollect my first job interview with a prestigious luxury hotel chain, fresh out of college, and being offered a position as a valet attendant. And to top it off, I had not even learned to drive a car yet! The hospitality industry has taught me the importance of humility, particularly in recognizing that every individual around me has something to teach me. Every day is an opportunity to learn from those I interact with and embrace new insights with open arms.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have been fortunate to have had numerous mentors throughout my career, and their impact on me continues to this day. My superiors have imparted valuable lessons, from navigating through crises with composure, to perfecting the art of providing a customer-centric experience down to

the tiniest detail or even to creatively problem-solve beyond traditional methods. One boss, whom I worked with several years ago, left an indelible impression on me. They instilled in me the importance of recognizing the humanity in every person involved in the service industry. This involved attentively listening to everyone, offering support and guidance, and being fully present. For me, this is the humble secret to success in this industry.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers the innovations you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries? We hold a firm conviction in the power of hyper-personalization regarding travel experiences. Our guests are driven by a desire to discover novel cultures and engage in unique encounters. Moreover, the significance of health and wellness cannot be overstated as a deciding factor for travelers. Our approach to these needs extends beyond the typical relaxation offerings, such as a massage. We are continually exploring new experiences, from forest bathing and sound healing to breath work, bio-decoding therapy, and more unconventional options like family constellations and astrology. There exist a wealth of ancient therapies that warrant revisiting as we shape the new humanity. All of these offerings can be customized to the specific preferences and desires of the luxury traveler, complete with intuitive service.

As you know, COVID-19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will adjust over the next five years to the new ways consumers will prefer to travel?

The demand for wellness-focused trips has become a tangible reality, with travelers increasingly seeking out experiences that prioritize their well-being. Alongside this trend, there is also a growing interest in experiences that honor and revive the authentic elements of culture. We recognize the need for balance in the face of globalization and strive to achieve this through our offerings. Additionally, guests are becoming more conscious of their travel’s impact on the environment and are seeking sustainable luxury experiences that minimize their carbon footprint. For us, sustainability is an essential component of luxury, and we aim to reduce our impact on the planet in every way possible.

You are a “travel insider.” How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

Undoubtedly, comfort remains an integral facet of what I consider to be the ultimate vacation experience. Nevertheless, it is imperative that my travels entail a sense of exploration and that I can learn and discover new things. I steadfastly reject the notion of overcrowded tourist hotspots and instead seek out locales that offer a sense of tranquility and seclusion while still affording opportunities for meaningful interactions with others. Indeed, when it comes to my preferred mode of travel, I relish nothing more than embarking on a journey without a predetermined itinerary, where I can leisurely traverse the open road in my own vehicle.

Ok super. Here is the central question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

Provide exceptional customer service: People remember how they were treated during their stay at La Coralina Island House, and if they received exceptional service, they are more likely to return. Make sure to go above and beyond to make guests feel welcome and valued.

Create unique and memorable experiences: La Coralina Island House offers activities and experiences that are unique to our resort and that guests cannot find elsewhere. This includes things like local cultural experiences, guided nature tours, or adventure sports.

Maintain high standards of cleanliness and maintenance: Guests expect a clean and well-maintained resort; failing to meet these expectations can lead to negative reviews and lost business. Make sure to invest in regular maintenance to keep the property looking its best.

Offer competitive pricing and value: While price isn’t the only factor that guests consider when booking at La Coralina, it is important. Make sure to offer competitive pricing and value for your services and experiences.

Collect and respond to guest feedback: Make sure to collect feedback from guests regularly and take their suggestions seriously. Use this feedback to improve your services and experiences and respond to guest reviews and comments promptly and professionally. This shows that you value their input and are committed to providing the best possible experience for your guests.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

At La Coralina Island House, we have conceived CORAL NATION, a non-profit organization with a clear mission: to preserve marine ecosystems through the engagement of local communities, scientific research, and the protection of biodiversity. One of our main initiatives is focused on regenerating damaged coral reefs by establishing ocean and land-based coral nurseries. Our approach involves transplanting coral clones onto degraded areas of the reef, where they can grow and help to recreate the reef habitat. By doing so, we aim to create a thriving ecosystem that allows marine life to return and strengthens the reef against future damage. Through our work, we hope to make a positive impact on the environment and inspire others to take action to protect our oceans.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.