Meetings in Mexico gather further steam following the pandemic as hotels and resorts rebound with new openings, refurbishments and innovative offerings for MICE groups.
"As with everyone, we are in the midst of recovery, but that of course did not stop the AIC Hotel Group," says Kevin Edmunds, VP of group & incentive sales, AIC Hotel Group.
By the end of 2023, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana will have completed its renovations to all guest rooms, restaurants and activity areas. Renovations have also begun at Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, in addition to adding guest room plunge pools and new restaurants Umo (Mexican-themed restaurant) and Wai (Thai-based cuisine).
"Mexico is easily accessible from anywhere in the U.S. and Canada, so many gateway cities provide easy access to a destination that offers so much for attendees," says Edmunds. "AIC Hotel Group provides a one-stop shop to get everything each group needs to produce a top quality event. Depending on the type of participant or the demographic, there are various opportunities throughout our portfolio."
"Meeting and incentive programs are back in a major way," says Edmunds. "It's that built-up demand for travel, and companies are now relying on travel once again to reward their people. For the bigger groups, 2023 is going to be a tough year to find space because of the compression in all market segments, but there are definitely deals to be had and top quality locations."
Iberostar Hotel and Resorts has been working on several renovation projects and new developments in Mexico during the past year, including its ongoing refurbishment of all rooms at the Iberostar Selection Paraiso Maya Suites and Iberostar Selection Paraiso Lindo. A total of 882 rooms will undergo a transformation that extends to soft goods, upgrades to bathrooms and some common areas. The same project also extends to the Iberostar Selection Cancun that is currently upgrading its total inventory of rooms slated to complete by end of 2023. The property's Convention Center is also undergoing changes to enhance its meetings experience.
"Iberostar in Mexico has great value because we have so many hotels to offer groups and many levels to choose from," says Julie Vieyto, director of group sales - Americas, Iberostar. "Grand is our adults-only highest level, followed by Coral, Selection and then lastly Iberostar. We have something for every group budget and need and are always looking to expand our reach in the MICE market. Currently, we have a promotion called One Promotion Countless Options that has many great concessions for groups that qualify. Some concessions include complimentary reception, private dinner and meeting space and staff room for meeting planners for the duration of the group event."
Expected in 2024 is the new Iberostar Grand Playa Mita, located in the Riviera Nayarit region, adjacent to the Iberostar Selection Playa Mita. The 305-room property will be part of Iberostar's Grand luxury line of hotels, which will deliver the same level of service as its other Grand properties in Riviera Maya, Dominican Republic and Jamaica. The resort will offer more than 7,500 sf of meeting space with capacity for up to 700 people, as well as international and local gastronomy through a variety of restaurants.
"We are seeing that some markets are picking up their growth, like medical education or corporate customer appreciation trips, while certain segments in the industry are booking less, i.e. tech markets," says Vieyto. "Iberostar has seen tremendous growth post-COVID with 2022 being very strong, and 2023 the highest revenue year ever in groups. We are still booking groups for 2023 and have a great availability for new inquiries."
"Mexico has long been recognized for world-class service with a friendly, casual, genuine vibe," says David Schwartz, director of meetings & incentives, Haven Resorts. "Haven Riviera Cancun perfectly fulfills those attributes, providing an authentic, personalized all-inclusive experience in a contemporary, oceanfront relaxed Mexican ambiance. The Haven experience allows each guest to freely enjoy fine dining, crafted cocktails, wellness and cultural activities with a variety of nightly entertainment. MICE planners are able to ensure all clients have a premium experience while staying on budget, without the surprises of hidden fees."
In 2022, Haven Riviera Cancun Resort added 102 Serenity Club suites offering a choice of balconies with whirlpool tub or a swim-out suite with private terrace. Other new amenities provided exclusive to Serenity Club guests include a private concierge service, a new oceanfront heated pool, a rooftop gym open 24 hours, as well as a creative Middle Eastern-style restaurant, Tahani. The resort also added the new Pure Wellness Suites room category in 2022. Suite features include the freshest air quality involving a 7-step process and state-of-the-art technology designed to eliminate viruses, bacteria and airborne particles, ensuring a better night’s sleep.
"Mexico, as a destination, and particularly the Mexican Caribbean area, continues to thrive in the meeting and incentives markets," says Schwartz. "The unmatched value combined with modern infrastructure, authentic vibe, archaeological and environmental adventures, fine dining and casual elegance are unique to this area. Mexico loves and appreciates tourism and it shows in the attitude of the people that serve our guests and ensure unforgettable experiences. Haven Riviera Cancun continues to have an unprecedented demand for higher category suites, longer stays and exceptional events that repeat year after year."
The resort has already broken ground on its new convention center, slated to open late 2023. The space will offer a flexible floor plan with capacity for up to 1,000 attendees, pre-function space filled with natural light, hi-speed WiFi throughout, banquet facilities, as well as privacy from the public resort areas. Then in 2024, the resort will break ground on an adjacent family-friendly resort, located north of the property but within easy access to the conference space.
"Mexico continues to be a very accommodating region for groups offering the tax exemption for meetings and conventions," says Alma Lopez, CCO, Sensira Resort & Spa. "Our All-Inclusive package is very flexible and offers tailor-made services to groups and incentives. Our team of experts in group operations, along with expert and reliable suppliers, have been quite successful in offering a great experience to participants and organizers. We make sure that groups run smoothly and with the desire to return."
Sensira is a new property recently awarded with four diamonds by the AAA Diamond program. It is ideal for groups looking for 50-120 rooms or a maximum of 250 participants. A new service offered by the resort is REMO, a professional private or team office featuring high-quality space, with best ergonomics, privacy, acoustics, fresh air, amenities and high-speed Internet. The space can be rented by the hour or by the day for those seeking to catch up with their business needs.
"I think the meetings and incentives sector is recovering at a rapid pace, gaining momentum throughout 2022," says Lopez. "While most of the world is now open for travel, we continue benefiting from proximity and connectivity to the U.S. and Canada. To this we add our trademark Mexican hospitality and appeal, and you have a destination primed to be a key player and partner for the meetings and incentives community. Here at Sensira we understand these trends and so we are making sure everything from our amenities to our food and beverage venues, and meeting spaces are primed for any organization’s needs. Currently we are seeing an increase in incoming leads and requests for spring 2023 and beyond. We expect to have a 2023 similar to pre-COVID and an even better 2024."
"Since Hyatt’s acquisition of Apple Leisure Group in 2021, we have been thoughtfully integrating brands into the new Inclusive Collection, part of World of Hyatt," says Violeta Sales, corporate director of groups for the Inclusive Collection, Part of World of Hyatt. "As of December 2022, brands that were previously part of AMR Collection including Zoëtry Wellness & Spa Resorts, Secrets Resorts & Spas, Breathless Resorts & Spas, Dreams Resorts & Spas, Hyatt Vivid Hotels & Resorts, Alua Hotels & Resorts, and Sunscape Resorts & Spas brands will now live under the Inclusive Collection, part of World of Hyatt, alongside Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara."
Three new Inclusive Collection resorts opened in Mexico in 2022, Secrets Impression Moxche, Secrets Moxche Playa del Carmen, and Dreams Cozumel Cape Resort & Spa, which equates to more than 800 rooms and almost 20,000 sf of new meeting space. In 2023, two new resorts—Secrets Impression Isla Mujeres and Secrets Tulum Resort & Beach Club—will add a further 426 rooms and more than 13,000 sf of event space.
Secrets Impression Moxche opened in December 2021 as the first property within the new Secrets Impression resort line extension, offering the highest level of luxury all-inclusive service and amenities in the portfolio. The property is located in Corasol, a gated community in the heart of Mexico’s Playa del Carmen, and offers 198 accommodations as well as more than 14,000 sf of meeting space. The second resort in the line, Secrets Impression Isla Mujeres, is expected to open in March 2023, located just 25 minutes from mainland Cancun. It will offer 125 rooms and more than 6,500 sf of event space.
"Mexico as a destination drives the experience for MICE groups, immersing attendees in the country’s rich culture and landscape," says Sales. "Mexico is packed with authentic and share-worthy moments for meetings guests, such as traditional temazcal ceremonies, natural cenotes, historical Mayan ruins, local artistic talents, and more. It is an important market for global events, and we continue to see Mexico trending as a top-choice destination for MICE groups."
Also slated to open in 2023 is the Secrets Tulum Resort & Beach Club located in historical Tulum within the gated community of Aldea Zama. The new adults-only resort will feature 301 suites and over 5,000 sf of dedicated meeting space with capacity for up to 600 attendees in its grand ballroom.
"There is an increasing demand for luxury all-inclusive options in the highly desired location of Mexico and worldwide, both for meetings and incentives groups," says Sales. "All-inclusive resorts offer stress-free planning for an immersive experience where everything is seamlessly included, so MICE groups can do more with less budget and elevate ROI for an unforgettable event."
"All of our Melia hotels in our current destinations, Cancun, Riviera Maya, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta, continue to grow and evolve the hospitality experience for groups with top-tier facilities and services," says Carmelina Iannarone, director of sales meetings & events, USA/Canada & Mexico, Melia Hotels International. "Our goal is to always make the planning and budgeting experience for a planner simple and cost effective. Depending on the time of year the group is traveling, we offer upgraded experiences, special packages and discounted rates."
New from Melia is the ME Guadalajara, set to open late 2023 and the second ME hotel in Mexico, following the opening of the ME Cabo in 2021 after a $10 million renovation. Meanwhile, the new Gran Melia in Riviera Nayarit is slated to open in 2024 and will be the first Gran Melia in Mexico. The Paradisus by Melia brand will debut Nikte in 2023. Guests who book Nikte will receive an elevated suite experience including premium room categories, turndown service, a premium minibar, a personal destination concierge, priority dinner reservations, and a water ritual at the resort’s YHI Spa. Paradisus is also set to revamp its The Reserve offering, which includes access to the resort’s adults-only secluded areas, including private beaches, pools, lounges and restaurants.
"New packages have been designed to offer our groups different and exciting experiences," says Iannarone. "These include events that put an emphasis on the local culture, group wellness with a taste of spa experiences during check in, and most importantly a big focus on sustainability and CSR activities, giving back to the local communities, all of which can be organized with our Convention Service Managers."
"The corporate name Posadas is going away," says David Manzella, senior VP of sales and marketing, Posadas/Fiesta Americana, discussing the company's upcoming change of name, not revealed as of press time. "The actual logos of the hotels and our 10 different brands are not going to change—it's just the corporate name. Posadas has been around since 1969, and it's been a lot of things. They've always been in hotels and hospitality, but they also owned Mexicana Airlines, they owned retail, so they're trying to branch away from that and become a pure hospitality company. I would even say it's a different positioning with a focus on building up our loyalty program and rewarding loyal guests."
Upcoming properties include the 452-room, adults-only Live Aqua Beach Resort Riviera Cancun, and the 600-room family-friendly Grand Fiesta Americana Riviera Cancun. The two properties will share more than 45,000 sf of meeting space and are slated to open in late 2024. Also in the works is the new Live Aqua Beach Resort Playa Mujeres, offering 421 rooms and more than 35,000 sf of event space, as well as the boutique Live Aqua Valle de Guadalupe, located in northern Baja’s wine country, and boasting 69 rooms and more than 17,500 sf of event space.
"We're really moving forward," says Manzella. "The hotels are back, and even the city hotels now, because we have close to 200 hotels and resorts, and everyone always talks about all our beautiful resorts, but the main part of our portfolio are the city hotels. They represent a big portion of Posadas' business, and they're back and exceeding 2019 numbers."
Fiesta Americana's City Collection includes properties such as Live Aqua Urban Resort San Miguel de Allende, offering 153 rooms and a ballroom with capacity for 900; and Grand Fiesta Americana Oaxaca, located in the heart of Oaxaca's historical downtown area and offering 144 rooms and meeting space for up to 850 attendees.
“We are a hospitality and entertainment company—so what we're doing is we're bringing an experience that is totally different to our guests," says Mauricio Ramirez, commercial & marketing director, Mundo Imperial. "Not only the room, the pool, the restaurant, which are great, but through our experiences as an entertainment company with our many venues, we are enhancing their visit.”
Mundo Imperial's properties include the Pierre Mundo Imperial, located in the upscale Riviera Diamante area of Acapulco. It features 229 guest rooms, three swimming pools, five tennis courts, a spa and fitness center. Meeting space includes the Salon Conquistadores that can accommodate up to 500 attendees, and Salon Las Fuentes with space for up to 160.
For smaller, high level meetings the Wayam Mundo Imperial offers 52 suites as well as a ballroom that can accommodate up to 100 and several smaller executive rooms. The eco-friendly property is the first hotel in Merida to receive LEED certification, and is located just 20 minutes from Merida’s International Airport.
Also in Merida, XIXIM Mundo Imperial is a boutique wellness resort located in an ecological reserve bordered by a white-sand beach, located 90 minutes from Merida's airport. It offers 32 luxury suites with palapa roofs, bio-constructed bamboo shelters and views of the jungle and sea. Outdoor spaces can be used to host events, and the resort has space to accommodate up to 80 attendees in auditorium format. In 2023, the resort will add to its accommodations with 27 biomimetic double cocoons with sunrise and sunset views.
"At Riviera Maya we have one of the largest spas in Latin America. It's about 80,000 sf—just for the spa—and it's incredible," says Cynthia Kunz, global sales director, meetings and incentives, Velas Resorts. "We have a water ceremony—that's how we start all of our treatments—with a water ceremony, and you won't find that anywhere else. It's very different. By the time that you get to your appointment at your treatment time, you're completely Zen, you're ready for that massage."
The AAA five-diamond Grand Velas brand boasts three properties in three Mexico destinations. Grand Velas Los Cabos offers 307 suites and 26,152 sf of meeting space; Grand Velas Riviera Maya offers 539 suites and 46,660 sf of event space; and Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit offers 267 suites and 15,064 sf of event space. Velas Resorts also has two boutique properties, including the Casa Velas Puerto Vallarta, with 80 suites and 6,058 sf of meeting space; and the Mar Del Cabo, with 48 suites and a small meeting room. Lastly, the family-friendly Velas Vallarta offers 345 suites and has a 10,000-sf convention center.
"We do buyouts all the time if it's the right client and the right time of the year," says Kunz. "We do that a lot as a matter of fact. Riviera Maya has 539 suites, so the ideal group is anywhere between 50 suites and 350, if we want to leave a little space for our leisure clients. Grand Nayarit has 265 suites, so it's great for a buyout. We're actually having a few incredible events with companies that are doing nothing but buyouts."
aichotelgroup.com/meetings; havenresorts.com/gatherings/meetings-corporate-events; iberostar.com/en/experiences/mice; sensiraresorts.com/events/meetings-and-groups; meetings.hyatt.com; www2.melia.com/meliapro/en/meetings-and-events.html; grandmeetingsmexico.com; mundoimperial.com/meet-celebrate/meetings; velasmeetingsmexico.com