Hello and welcome to Panama Travel Concierge! My name is Ursula Kiener Ford, and I hope be your host in Panama and help you plan the most amazing trip.
I was raised in a pretty unusual family, as the 1rst of 5 children. My parents loved to travel and as long as I can remember they have been taking me into the jungle to do bird-watching or off to our beach house. My classmates were going to Disney in Orlando and we were taken to Disney in Paris and Tokyo. By the time I was in high school I had gone to Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. I have been 69 countries as of this moment. I remember my mom fighting with the school principal that nothing they could teach me was more important than traveling.
I studied business in FSU (at my dad’s wishes) and when I returned to Panama I was expected to work with him at his factory. That lasted about 6 months. I realized quickly that wasn’t for me and that you should follow your heart. I tried to sell / rent properties during the real estate boom in Panama but I suxed and ended up being the relocation / tour guide of my clients for free. I ended up selling insurance for the English speaking expats and I was really good at it (even won some awards and free trips!) but it wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to be selling fear. Slowly I transitioned into tourism, first by doing social media. I have probably managed the social media for about 1/10 of all the tourism businesses in Panama. Then I opened a travel agency, Panama Travel Group. I worked in politics for a bit, then after the election, I went partnered with Air Panama and we opened Air Panama Viajes, a travel agency for the airline. We have also done campaigns with the government of Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica and Honduras.
My father was in business associations and I got into them since I was young. I was the youngest female director for the Chamber of Commerce of Panama, being elected 3 times to manage the tourism and agriculture committee. I also managed those same committees in the Panamanian Business Executive Association (APEDE) and founded APEDE Joven for young executives to join the association. I come from a political family, my grandpa was Ambassador of Panama to the United States, Canada, Spain and Bolivia. His brother, Billy Ford fought the dictatorship of Noriega (look him up!). So I have many political, as well as business connections, perfect for those who are traveling for business. In Panama you are worth for who you know and how fast you are able to solve situations, so it is always good to have a local contact.
After a couple of years being an Airbnb host, I decided that I wanted to keep on providing a more boutique experience for travelers. You will never get a better experience than having a local host no matter how many Lonely Planet books or Trip Advisor reviews (good references but you miss ton of the more authentic things and focus on the touristy) you read.