Since prehistoric times Mexico has been the site of important assemblies of indigenous peoples. They gathered in such awe-inspiring locations as Teotihuacan, Xochicalco, and Chichen Itza to exchange ideas and receive inspiration from their gods.

Today, those awesome, ancient places are surrounded by resort areas that provide all the modern conveniences necessary for outstanding meetings, conventions, and incentives.

Mexico has world-class hotels and resorts as well as state-of-the-art convention centers. Its proximity to the U.S. makes it convenient while its diversity makes it attractive. The scope of Mexico's attractions provides something for every meeting planner's "wish list": fabulous beaches, quaint mountain villages, the impressive art and architecture of Mesoamerican cultures, beautiful 16th-century colonial cities, and a fascinating blend of pre-Hispanic and European traditions.

Other appeals such as the weather, the hospitality of the people, and easy access make Mexico one of the most popular destinations in the world.

A Little Help From Your Friends In order to facilitate meetings and conventions, the Mexican Government Tourism offices around the world provide promotional material, specialized information on hotels, assistance in coordinating site inspections, and guidance on immigration procedures.

When selecting Mexico as a destination, do yourself a favor and work with an incentive house, a convention management company, or a destination management company (DMC) that has had years of experience organizing group travel to Mexico.

What you will save in time, effort, and energy is well worth the expenditure.

Whether you're bringing in a small incentive group or a large convention, you'll want to work with someone who can help with the logistics, negotiate hotel contracts, get discounted meeting fares, and secure concessions from other service providers.

How To Select A Location The following guide to Mexican cities, resorts, and regions offers U.S. planners an overview of what each area has to offer to your event, whether it be a convention, meeting, or incentive. Some places are good for all three (Cancun, Acapulco, Mexico City); others are better for incentives and small meetings (Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta). You might want to offer the excitement of a city (Mexico City or Guadalajara) or the beauty of a colonial town (Merida). If your business involves trade shows, you'll probably wind up in Monterrey or Leon.

Jim Davie, president of Travel Planners, Inc., San Antonio, Texas, meeting, convention, and incentive specialists, offers this advice: "In addition to infrastructure, a good location must include a number of hotels offering a variety of rates, adequate airlift, an efficient DMC to handle ground transportation (transfers, shuttles, sightseeing tours, etc.). It must offer cultural or educational facilities, scenic locations such as beaches, mountains, or parks and gardens, good dining facilities, and nearby sightseeing opportunities accessible by day tour. Obviously, for large conventions, the first prerequisite is a good convention center--the ones in Cancun, Mexico City, Acapulco, and Monterrey are of particular interest."

Drinking Water Most hotel zone venues have safe drinking water (hotels will indicate this in the rooms). If visitors stray from the beaten path or have delicate stomachs, bottled water is advisable.

Documentation U.S. visitors need a tourist card to enter and leave Mexico. A valid passport or birth certificate for proof of citizenship is also useful. Travelers from other countries may need a visa.

Currency Mexican peso. The rate of exchange against the U.S. dollar fluctuates.

Tipping Tips are rarely included on the bill. A gratuity of 10 to 15 percent, depending on the quality of the service, is appreciated.

Electricity Same as in the U.S.

Tommie Kozlov of Ambassador Performance Group, an incentive house in Newport Beach, Calif., had a challenge: her client, a major insurance company, wanted a fabulous location-- all to themselves!

Her solution was the Grand Bay Hotel Puerto de la Navidad, set on a magnificent golf course, located on an exclusive peninsula between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.

A buyout of the whole property provided 200 oversized, luxurious guest rooms, including 31 suites for the top echelon. The company also requested a truly extraordinary event. This was accomplished with the help of MHT Incentives, a DMC in Puerto Vallarta.

A small, nearby village needed its church repaired. The company made a substantial donation to this worthy cause. As a thank you, the town held a "fiesta" in its honor. Attendees were asked to wear white. At the party, each received a colorful Mexican item-- a belt, shawl, or hat--to dress up their outfit. Kozlov says, "By the end, the villagers and the attendees were hugging each other and there wasn't a dry eye in the whole town!"