Mexico is reinventing itself after a year made difficult by the economy, the outbreak of the H1N1 virus, and sporadic reports of violence. However, the AIG effect has, in some cases, helped Mexico, says Eduardo Chaillo, regional director, North America, for the Mexican Tourism Board. “The current economy gives us the opportunity to get the North American events that were planned for Europe, Asia, or even South America,” he notes. “Due to the recession, Mexico is a good option since planners will get more value [in] Mexico.”
Official warnings about travel to Mexico because of H1N1 have been lifted. Cruise lines have returned to Mexican ports. And tourism officials are doing all they can to show meeting planners why Mexico belongs back on their short lists of meeting sites through extensive promotion andefforts — plus exceptional packages and concessions.
Those same officials are looking forward to welcoming members of the largest association of international meeting planners in the world to its shores when Meeting Professionals International takes its annual conference, MeetDifferent, to Cancun, February 20-23, 2010. The association has created a hosted-buyer program for its upcoming event at Moon Palace in Cancun. One hundred qualified meeting buyers will get free housing and registration in return for their participation in a series of prescheduled appointments with suppliers.
Fact-finding and site visits are essential to booking international meetings, according to international meeting planning experts. “What people tend to forget is that the news, while factual, can be very misleading,” says Eli Gorin, CMP, president of boutique meeting management firm gMeetings Inc., Aventura, Fla., who has long experience bringing groups to Mexico. “People need to do a little more research of their own and connect with the local primary sources of information in the destination that they want to visit.”
Today, meetings executives are finding a revitalized Mexico with a more extensive selection of venues than ever before. Convention centers and exhibition venues in 12 Mexican cities are under construction, renovation, or expansion. Along with expanded accommodations and meeting facilities, Mexico is home to 59 international airports with good airlift to the U.S. and Canada.
Mexican tourism officials have launched a Web site to keep planners and travelers informed: www.mexico-update.com.
The Hyatt Regency Acapulco is now Grand Hotel Acapulco & Convention Center. The 632-room hotel features 14 meeting rooms.
Following a $30 million renovation, the 1,011-room Fairmont Acapulco Princess recently introduced Pearl, a luxury hotel within a hotel. Newly opened: a 20,000 — square-foot exhibition center.
The Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués is scheduled to open late this year. Featuring 46 villas, each with its own pool, the resort will offer a spa complex, banquet hall, and four meeting rooms.
The new Mundo Imperial development includes The Resort at Mundo Imperial, a member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts. The 805-room hotel has a spa, six restaurants, and four meeting rooms. The development also includes the Forum, a theater that can seat up to 4,000 attendees.
The 426-room Hilton Cancun Golf and Spa Resort has opened the $2 million Isla Jr. Ballroom, part of the newly renamed Peninsula Convention Center at the Hilton Cancun. The property now offers 110,000 square feet of combined indoor and outdoor meeting space.
Marriott International has announced that in the next five years it will nearly triple its presence in Mexico, including the Riviera Maya, with an investment of more than $1 billion.
With 365 guest rooms and more than 27,000 square feet of meeting space, The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun, has opened a new 17,000-square-foot beach club available for group use. Accommodating 700 attendees, the club includes 10 private cabanas, 17 palapas, and a bar and dining area.
Aventura Spa Palace has been divided into two properties: the 777-room, adults-only Aventura Spa Palace and the 489-room Aventura Cove Palace for families. The all-inclusive resorts are home to the Harmony Center, with 55,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.
Unik Island Resort & Spa is set to open in summer 2010 on Isla Mujeres, off the coast of Cancun. It will offer 84 suites, six restaurants and bars, a spa, and meeting space for up to 210 attendees.
The all-villa Banyan Tree Mayakoba Hotel & Spa Resort has opened. It offers a full-service spa and health club.
The 497-room Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort Riviera Maya has opened, offering 91,547 square feet of meeting space.
The 86-suite Capella Bahia Maroma is expected to open in late 2009 featuring a championship 18-hole Rees Jones golf course, spa, and beach club.
Plans are under way for the 561-acre, master-planned community Grand Coral Riviera Maya. A $2.5 billion investment, it will include hotels, an 18-hole golf course, and entertainment and sports facilities near downtown Playa del Carmen.
Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa, scheduled to open October 2009, is a 486-room resort that will have nine restaurants, unlimited complimentary golf at El Camaleón Mayakoba Golf Club, a spa, and a 7,196-square-foot convention center.
The Puerto Los Cabos development northeast of San José del Cabo has opened an 18-hole golf course with nine holes designed by Jack Nicklaus and nine designed by Greg Norman.
The Barceló Los Cabos Palace Deluxe will open in December. The 649-room all-inclusive will offer 35,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 10,225-square-foot dividable ballroom and five additional breakout rooms.
The 32-suite Zoetry Casa del Mar is set for a December opening. Stays include private, chauffeured airport transfers. Guests will receive access to all facilities and services at the adjacent Dreams Los Cabos Suite Golf Resort & Spa.
Groundbreaking has taken place at Cabo Riviera, a development on a three-mile-long beach that includes a Pete Dye signature 18-hole links course, five-star hotel, spa, marina, and artists' village, all set for completion in the third quarter of 2011.
The 66-room Capella Pedregal has opened along the Cabo San Lucas Marina. It features three restaurants, a 12,000-square-foot spa, and a personal assistant assigned to every guest.
A private golf, beach, and marina community, Chileno Bay will feature two 18-hole Tom Fazio golf courses, a private beach club, and a spa.
A 2010 opening is planned for Montage Los Cabos on the site of the former Twin Dolphins Hotel. It will feature a full-service spa.
The planned community Quivira Los Cabos will offers two Jack Nicklaus-designed courses, scheduled to open for play in early 2010. Also under development is the Ritz-Carlton, Los Cabos, Quivira, set for a 2011 opening.
Mazatlán International Center opened in July 2009 with more than 80,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space.
The 716-room, all-inclusive Hotel Riu Emerald Bay has opened. The beachside resort offers four restaurants and three conference rooms.
The 189-room St. Regis Mexico City has opened on Paseo de la Reforma. The hotel offers three restaurants, spa, indoor pool, four meeting rooms, and two ballrooms with more than 12,000 square feet for group functions.
The $43 million Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center has opened with 105,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space.
The 229-room Dreams Villamagna Nuevo Vallarta has opened on Banderas Bay. The resort, divided between two 10-story towers, features a 10,000-square-foot spa, six restaurants, and more than 6,600 square feet of meeting space.
The 445-suite Riu Palace Pacifico has opened nine miles from downtown Puerto Vallarta.
The 245-suite Villa la Estancia Luxury Resort & Spa has opened on Banderas Bay. All suites feature a full kitchen. The resort offers two restaurants, two spas, and a 17,036-square-foot convention center.
The St. Regis Punta Mita has opened with 120 rooms and suites. It features a spa; two adjacent Jack Nicklaus golf courses; and eight meeting spaces, including a 2,600-square-foot ballroom.
A 2013 opening is planned for Mii amo Punta Mita, a destination spa in a master-planned resort community located 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta. Along with a residential component, the spa will include a 30-room boutique hotel.
Mexico's Taso Cero, or Zero Tax policy, gives rebates for VAT expenditures for meetings (not incentives) held in Mexico. Meetings must be coordinated by a Mexican organizer at a venue or hotel certified by the Mexican government and must be paid with a credit agency headquartered outside of Mexico. Also, attendees must state in their immigration documents upon entering the country that they are in Mexico to attend a congress, convention, or.
For more than half a century, divers have climbed the cliffs at La Quebrada, one of the best-known attractions in Acapulco. They time their dives in order to strike the water at the moment when the surf is deepest. Crowds gather several times throughout the day to watch the dives from vantage points on the cliffs as well as from boats.
Cozumel's development as an international destination began when diver and documentary film producer Jacques Cousteau introduced the world to this island's clear waters. He produced a film, “Cave of the Sleeping Sharks,” about a location where sharks, which usually must continue swimming to force oxygen-bearing water past their gills, come to rest. Today Cozumel remains a top diving destination due to the Palancar Reef that extends southward to Belize.
The Riviera Maya's Xcaret recently completed a new wine cellar, available for small group functions. Vino de México, a $1 million facility, is designed to share the history of Mexican wine and is the only wine cellar in the world that stocks Mexican wines exclusively. The Sommelier's Office, stocked with the most exclusive vintages, is available for groups of 10, while the tasting room can accommodate groups of 25 persons. A third room is filled with exhibits on winemaking.
Xcaret also recently opened the first phase of Hacienda Henequenera, styled like an authentic henequen (sisal) plantation, which will be able to accommodate groups of up to 1,000 attendees when completed in December 2010. Other facilities at Xcaret include a 6,000-person theater. 52 (998) 883-0470; www.xcaretgrupos.com/home_en.html
Acapulco Destination Marketing Office
52 (744) 484-4159
Cancún Convention and Visitors Bureau
52 (998) 881-2745(998) 881-0040
Los Cabos Convention & Visitors Bureau
52 (624) 143-4777(866) 567-2226
Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board (FIDETUR)
(322) 224-1175 (888) 384-6822
Mexico Convention Bureau
52 (555)-278-4200, ext. 1500
The Mexican Caribbean has long been a draw for meetings, thanks to its convenient location, spectacular beaches, rich history, and variety of accommodations. In February 2009, the region's Aqua Cancun played host to an executive seminar arranged by Valerie Moore, president of Executive Meeting Consultants in Cedarhurst, N.Y.
“One of the deciding factors in choosing Aqua over a competing property was its fabulous outdoor space,” recalls the New York?based meetings executive. “At the competing property, if we wanted to host a dinner on the beach, we would have had to bring in lighting, décor, seating — virtually everything. At Aqua, we took over the open-air, thatched-roof, beachfront restaurant Azur. The only thing we added was entertainment. This resulted in tremendous savings — well over $10,000.”
During the event at the 371-room resort, “We also did something different that the hotel referred to as a ‘happening.’ While the group enjoyed cocktails poolside, a mermaid was placed in the pool and she swam over to greet the attendees. It made for a great photo op,” Moore says.
Created in 2004, Aqua is Grupo Posadas' first lifestyle brand. For Moore's group, Mexico made sense in terms of finances, time, and the fun factor. “Although Mexico is our neighbor, it's still a foreign country, and that — along with its easy access from both East and West coasts — makes it an attractive destination. Mexico is a country that boasts ancient cultures and civilizations, pristine natural beauty, cosmopolitan cities, and world-class resorts. It has something for everyone,” she says.
Savvy meeting planners are looking to Mexico to provide unparalleled deals.
According to Mark A. Benson, CMP, vice president of sales, North America, Posadas USA Inc.,
“Those who can see through to 2010 and 2011 and purchase now are doing the best job for their company and their customers.”