Cancun is probably best known as Mexico's vacationers' paradise, offering a Caribbean experience with Mexican gusto. While the package groups will likely cycle in and out of some hotels forever, some properties are actively courting the meeting and incentive markets.
In particular, Palace Resorts, which now operates four resorts (a fifth is under construction) is making a concerted effort to lure corporate business from the U.S. and Canada. The company controls about 6,000 sleeping rooms in Cancun--15 percent of the destination's room inventory. To overcome the double hurdle of being relatively unknown north of the border and of offering an all-inclusive package (a concept still untested by many incentive planners), Palace Resorts recently invited 10 meeting executives to experience its new 2,300-room Moon Palace. They were joined by Dennis Tucker, national sales manager for the insurance/financial industry, American Airlines. American offers zone fares from the U.S. to Cancun.
A New Experience For some participants, it really was a new experience. "I've never been to an all-inclusive resort before," said one. "The hotel was better than I expected--the grounds and buildings were beautiful, and the staff were all great."
Moon Palace opened in December 1996 with 417 rooms, each with its own double Jacuzzi strategically placed to view the Caribbean. An additional 313 rooms opened in January 1998, and by the end of 1999 two new units--Moon Palace Sunrise and Moon Palace Nizuc--will have added 1,300 more rooms. The property has 48 two-bedroom suites and two eye-popping presidential suites.
Every room has a sea view and terrace or balcony. The entire complex is sited on 55 tropical acres with a 2,000-foot-long white sand beach. Moon Palace offers the largest room block in the Caribbean: groups may hold up to 1,100 rooms.
As an all-inclusive, Moon Palace offers a phalanx of freebies (premium food and beverage, themed events, conference facilities, sightseeing, and shopping tours), plus a few special ones, including dining privileges at its sister properties--Sun Palace, Cancun Palace, Beach Palace, and the soon-to-open Reef Palace/Reef Bay Palace complex. Free full-day excursions to the Xpu-Ha ecological park are also part of the package.
A Class of Its Own As a conference and golf resort, Moon Palace offers facilities that clearly put it in a class of its own. They include a self-contained convention center with a 28,000-square-foot ballroom with 30-foot ceilings (the largest in the Caribbean/Mexico region) and a second 12,000-square-foot ballroom.
The large ballroom can seat 3,100 guests theater-style or 2,300 in rounds of eight for a banquet. It can also be divided into six meeting rooms. The smaller ballroom, which has an 18-foot-high ceiling, seats approximately 1,300 theater-style or just over 1,000 banquet-style. It is divisible into six smaller meeting rooms. The resort has spent $1 million on sound equipment and acoustic design in the main ballroom, and all meeting rooms have connections for video, phone, and data-port services. Audiovisual services are provided by an in-house vendor, J&S Productions.
In the spring of 2000, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Golden Bear Golf and Country Club will open near Moon Palace, and meeting executives will be able to wrap golf for attendees into the all-inclusive package. For those who can't wait that long to play a tropical course, championship golf is available now at Playa Car Club de Golf, just a 45-minute transfer away from the resort.
For off-property special events, there is an on-site, Chaza Travel. The resort also with the EPIC Group, another large, well-known DMC.
"Extraordinary Service" While the meeting organizers visiting Moon Palace were surprised at the high quality of the facilities, what really knocked them out was the service.
"We kept asking, 'Is this how they treat everybody?'" says Mark Brittain, incentive planner, Alabama Health Benefits, Gadsden, Ala. "The service was extraordinary. For example, when we arrived, I somehow left a bag at the airport. I didn't discover it was missing for a few hours. When I did, I called [director of group and incentive sales] David Schwartz, and within 10 minutes I was on my way back to the airport (the resort is a 10-minute ride from Cancun International Airport, and 15 minutes from Cancun Island). "It was as though all you had to do was ask for something, and it happened."
Says Jack Davito, director of insurance industry sales for Palace Resorts. "This is really and truly all inclusive--when we quote a group rate, it includes everything but telephone calls."