Jan. 19, 2015

José G. Arias Chiari


José G. Arias Chiari

President, Club Unión


José G. Arias Chiari began his professional career at the Panama Canal in 1989. He is an industrial engineer who has obtained two Master's degrees in business administration, with focuses on marketing and finance, from the Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencias y Tecnología. He has been a Member of the Board of Directors of Club Unión since 2011, and served there as Treasurer and Vice-President before his current role as President.

Club Unión is one of the foremost social centers in Panama. What are the criteria for entry to the establishment?

The club is a meeting point for the leading figures of Panamanian business society. We have a rigid membership procedure that requires screening by the Admission Board. Every year we vote people onto our Admissions Committee of 32 members, which identifies potential new members. A candidate member requires a group of referees to submit their application to the Admissions Committee, and should six out of those 32 oppose the application, it is rejected. Successful candidates then pay a $100,000 membership fee, and purchase an ownership share, currently of around $3,200. Members' children over the age of 18 are also presented to the committee as potential members in their own right, and from the ages of 21 to 30 they may incrementally pay their membership until becoming a full member on their 30th birthday.

Are foreign citizens allowed to become members?

There is no restriction that says you have to be a Panamanian to be a member. The only requirement is that the group that presents you as a candidate is well-known and respected by members. Usually, members of the committee like to spend around a month and a half with a potential member to get to know them. Every year we have between two and five new members in general. For example, a number of ambassadors have partial membership, although being a temporary member entitles them to use all the club's facilities.

What are the main services that the club offers?

Our “Second Home" as we call the Club Unión contains extensive sports facilities for members and their families, including a full gymnasium, plus tennis, volleyball, basketball courts, and a swimming pool. In terms of entertainment, there is a discotheque, three different restaurants, and a poolside snack bar providing informal dining. We have a sports bar that is a casual family venue, and there is also a formal dining room. The club has its' own unisex beauty salon. Six dedicated halls are available for special events such as wedding, birthday, cultural, and corporate functions. We have a bar and three terraces for casual get-togethers, happy hours, and dances with live music.

Can a non-member spend a day at the club?

Yes, once a month they can attend if they are friends of a member and they can have access to most of our facilities. If you are a member of a club in another country, and they have a reciprocity agreement with us, then you are entitled to up to 30 days use of our facilities in Panama.

What are Club Unión's priorities for future investment?

We have invested in a new building out of the need for a larger parking facility. Currently, our location in the center of a residential neighborhood makes for parking problems when we stage a major party or celebration. The new building has seven floors, with five given over to parking. The front of the building has two terraces, a gym, a discotheque, unisex beauty salon, a future spa, a lounge, and a sports bar, while the top floor has three tennis courts.

What is your outlook for the Panamanian economy over 2014 and 2015?

The local economy appears to be robust, and the Canal expansion should be providing full service in 2016, and will boost revenues generated from abroad. The new government is also proceeding with the development of two new metro lines, the second and the third, which will ease congestion and facilitate commuting. The government is also set to invest heavily in water-related infrastructure to the benefit of the community. Panama is now basically a port on two oceans. In my opinion, if we can consolidate goods from South and Central America and repack and ship them down the Canal, we could generate considerable business. The Canal serves 144 different routes and reaches about 1,700 ports and 160 countries worldwide. If we take advantage of this potential we can develop the nation into a dynamic logistics hub.