The Spectacular Fairmont
Mayakoba on Mexico's Riviera Maya played host to the Fairmont 2006 Insurance Customer Advisory Board, giving planners a close-up view of the trials involved in launching what the hotel chain hopes will become one of the best resorts in the Caribbean.
After a major delay caused by Hurricane Wilma in October, the Mayakoba opened to the public on a limited scale early in May. This year's Insurance Customer Advisory Board, held May 17 to 19, provided Fairmont officials with a focus group par excellence. The group shared their impressions with Fairmont executives as the resort was being readied for a full opening later this year.
The consensus among the attendees was that while the hotel still needs final tweaks on such things as signage, the property is spectacularly beautiful, with a staff, that if in some cases is still slightly inexperienced, is incredibly attentive, friendly, and motivated. (See page 48 for more on the resort.)
Seller's Market, More Meetings
Speaking at one of the business sessions, Fairmont President and COO Chris Cahill said that the seller's market in the lodging industry will probably remain strong over the next several years. Cahill said that overall economic conditions do not necessarily have a direct effect on the hotel industry — baby boomers, for example, will continue to drive leisure travel even in times of sluggish economic growth. And the rate at which travel and tourism is growing — pegged by Cahill at 5 percent annually — also radically outpaces the expected hotel growth rate of 1.5 percent. “Which means,” he noted, “increased demand.” Cahill also pointed out that inbound tourist travel to the United States has been down substantially since 2000. If that should rebound, he said, we'll see an even more robust seller's market.
In a brief rundown on the state of the insurance industry, advisory board members agreed that business is hopping. They also said that their companies are holding more meetings (without adding more planners), they are seeing more meeting department consolidation, and they are planning more international meetings.
Advisory board members in attendance this year were Michael Burke, manager, conference & travel services, Hanover Insurance Group Inc., Worcester, Mass.; Brett Barrowman, vice president, conference and travel management, American Fidelity Assurance Co., Oklahoma City, Okla.; Christine Fairbanks, meeting planner, Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co., Omaha, Neb.; Martha Fetter, assistant vice president, St. Paul Travelers, Hartford, Conn.; Sue Lewis, associate manager, conference and event planning, London Life Insurance Co., London, Ontario; Robert Pizutte, assistant vice president, conference services, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., New York; Lynn Jean Schwandt, senior event planner, Thrivent Financial, Appleton, Wis.; and Todd Zint, vice president, marketing communications, NFP Insurance Services, Austin, Texas.