Antonio Parra is a happy and charismatic 24 year old with a big smile and a great attitude. Upon meeting him it’s easy to see why General Manager Philipp Real suggested that I interview him for this month’s column.
Antonio is a Security Agent at Garza Blanca in Puerto Vallarta. He works the main lobby entrance and the beach. His job is mostly about receiving guests and keeping a watchful eye over the property, but Antonio goes the extra mile to make sure guests have a great experience, and that is why we are featuring him this month.
Security Agents are the first people you see when you arrive at Garza Blanca. Dressed in brown trousers, beige shirts, and hats, they receive guests and keep a security detail of everyone who enters and exits the property daily. They do daily rounds, walking the property making sure everything is in order.
Antonio does all of this, of course, but his extra charm, personality, and willingness to take care of guests have earned him the nickname “Playordomo” which means “Beach Butler.”
Antonio’s team members gave him the nickname, which signifies to them that Antonio performs a role that is something of an unofficial mix between being a butler and being a security agent: he gives great service as though he’s part of the butler team, even though he’s not.
Antonio consistently helps members and guests with their umbrellas and their chairs at the beach, and recommends activities to do and locations to visit in Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding area.
This is not really part of the job of Security Agents, but Antonio told me he’s happy to do it for the guests.
“I am always smiling, and I want to provide service with a smile, always,” Antonio told me. “I want to make the clients happy, forever, siempre.”
Antonio was born and raised in Puerto Vallarta, so he knows the area like the back of his hand. He’s the perfect person to recommend places to go and things to do. “Soy pata salada,” he says. This is an expression you will often hear from locals in PV. Pata salada translates to “salty paw,” and it is a reference to children running around barefoot in Vallarta.
As an aside, I once heard a story from a taxi driver, and old timer. He was a child in Puerto Vallarta in the 1960s and 70s when movie stars were starting to vacation here. He told me one day, some movie stars came to his school. They looked around and saw young children with no shoes, and they noticed that the school had no doors or windows, just openings but no glass or wood. The taxi driver told me it was customary in those days that children didn’t start wearing shoes until around age 10, 11, or 12, and it was normal that the school didn’t have any glass in the windows because of the hot weather. The next day the movie stars returned with pairs of shoes for all of the children. They donated a lot of money to the school, helped to build a basketball court, and hired a basketball teacher to teach the children how to play. The taxi driver remembered thinking as a young boy, “Well that was nice, thank you, but we really don’t like wearing shoes!” So the saying still goes, people from Puerto Vallarta are called pata salada.
“I recommend restaurants, places to go, how to visit the rivers and waterfalls, all the things to do in Puerto Vallarta, and the surrounding towns,” Antonio said.
Antonio has worked in security for 8 years, both in private security and hotel security, before joining the team at Garza Blanca a year and a half ago. Prior to his career in security, Antonio worked in sales, selling fruit in the market. “I love working in sales because you get to interact directly with your customers,” he said. “Working in security at Garza Blanca is similar, because it provides the opportunity for a face to face connection with the guests.”
While on the beach, Antonio protects the guests from pestering by vendors selling souvenirs who sometimes make their way onto Garza Blanca beach. All beaches in Mexico are public, after all, but a simple “no gracias” from Antonio is all it takes to encourage the vendors to move on.
Antonio is very athletic. He loves running, playing soccer and basketball, so it’s no surprise that he often attends the hiking tours to the waterfall on the upper part of the Garza Blanca property. During the hiking trips he sometimes helps guests who need a hand stepping or climbing around the trees and rocks on the hiking trail.
“It’s a rather advanced hike, so sometimes the guests need help. If someone is having trouble, I tell them here, grab my arm, I’m strong like Antonio Banderas.” Antonio says this with a chuckle, a twinkle in his eye and a huge smile.
“I’m very grateful to be working at Garza Blanca. It’s been a great experience for me. I feel very happy and I feel like wow, I can’t believe this is my job! I love working at here because everyone here takes care of the little details and takes very good care of the guests. I try to do my part to take care of the guests too. All of the little extra services I provide to the guests are just my way of creating the ‘wow factor’ so that the guests and members enjoy their stay here at Garza Blanca.”
So the next time you are in Puerto Vallarta, make sure to say hi to Antonio. You will easily recognize him by his big smile and eagerness to put out your chair and umbrella, as well as offer pointers about the local area.
I have been told that guests mention Antonio a lot on the surveys, and say that he makes the guest experience a great experience. So remember to mention if someone provides excellent service. Those surveys are closely monitored by the General Manager and team, and it does help with hotel operation, and helps the staff to get recognition.