All-inclusive resorts are upping their game with state-of-the-art events tech and a focus on immersive local experiences that connect attendees to the destination, as well as customized offerings that assist planners to shape truly unique events.
“Inclusive Collection Meetings & Incentives teams work with each meeting planner to match a resort to the group’s vision and goals,” says Claudio Zboznovits, VP, international business development and global MICE, Inclusive Collection, part of World of Hyatt. “Through Inclusive Collection’s partnership with Amstar, groups can enjoy culturally authentic and regionally inspired experiences and excursions in many of our destinations.”
New for 2024 is Zoëtry Halkidiki, the first Zoëtry Wellness & Spa Resort in Greece, located cliffside in Halkidiki, Greece, in the vicinity of Sani. The resort features direct beach access and views over Mount Olympus and the Aegean Sea. Secrets Tides Punta Cana is also set to open in 2024, situated on an uncrowded coastline in Uvero Alto. The resort blends modern architecture with lush vegetation, and will offer non-typical meeting rooms to further immerse guests in the landscaping and views throughout the resort.
“In the current landscape where many businesses continue to operate in a remote work environment, the importance of fostering in-person connections and teambuilding experiences is at the forefront of businesses and is considered a valuable and high-priority endeavor,” says Zboznovits. “Within the broader corporate landscape, the incentive business sector is witnessing notable growth. Companies are increasingly recognizing the need to boost company morale, acknowledge outstanding performers, promote team cohesion, and fortify their organizational culture.”
Secrets Playa Blanca Costa Mujeres is expected to open by the end of 2023 and will offer more than 9,000 sf of dedicated meeting and function space. The resort will also offer unique settings for incentives such as the central beach, Preferred Club beach club, infinity pool terrace, seaside terrace, lobby plaza, courtyard plaza and more. Other anticipated openings for 2024 include Secrets St. Lucia Resort & Spa, a beachfront adults-only resort located just minutes from the capital city of Castries, and Dreams Estrella Del Mar Mazatlan Golf & Spa Resort, located 20 minutes from historic downtown Mazatlan, and offering five meeting rooms and a ballroom that can accommodate up to 700 guests, plus a foyer with a capacity for 1,000 guests.
“Today, meeting attendees are eager for more face-to-face interaction with their colleagues,” says Zboznovits. “In an era of personalized marketing and advanced technology, they’re on the lookout for tailored experiences that align with their interests, tastes and preferences.”
“At Velas Resorts in Mexico, innovation takes center stage in the realm of meetings and events,” says Cynthia Kunz, global sales director, meetings & incentives, Velas Resorts. “We seamlessly blend cutting-edge technology, distinctive meeting spaces, and immersive encounters to craft exceptional experiences.”
As well as providing state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment and high-speed Internet connectivity to facilitate virtual and hybrid meetings, Velas offers personalized services such as the Cellphone Concierge, who attends to participants’ phones while they are out-of-pocket in important meetings.
“Velas Resorts is also devoted to creating immersive experiences for meeting participants,” says Kunz. “We collaborate with local experts and artisans to deeply immerse attendees in the culture of our destinations.”
Culinary offerings for teambuilding and celebratory events can include a molcajete workshop, progressive taco tour through different cuisines, interactive guacamole and salsa bars, dinner in a cenote or the exclusive Michelin Dinners Under the Stars experience, featuring a dinner prepared over an open grill by two-star Michelin chef Sidney Schutte in full view of the stars, planets and constellations stretching over the Los Cabos Baja Peninsula.
“Wellbeing is also a huge part of meetings and events at Velas Resorts,” adds Kunz. “We offer wellness options such as mandala-themed coloring and dreamcatcher workshops, complemented by rejuvenating spa services that contribute to attendees’ overall health. Additionally, Casa Velas recently launched a unique amenity for onsite meeting attendees: the Taco Therapy culinary wellness experience. Assisting in anxiety and stress relief, improving sleep quality and boosting antioxidants, this tasting experience features four curated tacos that provide holistic benefits for the mind, body and soul.”
Opening in November 2023, Grand Velas Boutique Los Cabos is a new adults-only all-inclusive resort that will be Velas Resorts’ third property in Los Cabos. Highlights will include 79 suites, a two-star Michelin consulting chef with creative dining experiences, wine selection inspired by the proximity to Mexico’s wine region, and innovative spa treatments inspired by Mexican culture and incorporating sound therapy. Guests of Grand Velas Boutique will also have access to sister property Grand Velas Los Cabos’ five gourmet restaurants led by top chefs and four bars with no additional charge. The property will also feature versatile indoor and outdoor event spaces, including a 8,500-sf event terrace and a nearly 3,000-sf ballroom.
“Meeting attendees now seek immersive and transformative experiences that go beyond the conventional corporate gatherings,” says Kunz. “They’re in search of immersive destination encounters that offer genuine cultural interactions and culinary escapades, creating a profound connection to the local environment.”
“We really curate and customize every event,” says David Manzella, sr. VP of sales & marketing, Fiesta Americana Travelty/Posadas. “We don’t do cookie-cutter anything and no two events are the same. We really try to immerse the meeting attendees into the actual destination, which could be Cancun and the Mayan culture, or the rums and Dominican culture in Punta Cana, or themed wine events in Baja California, the wine capital of Mexico. We really try and tie into the local market, and one of the properties that we’re selling more and more is the Live Aqua Urban Resort San Miguel de Allende.”
San Miguel de Allende is a UNESCO World Heritage site with a rich history dating back more than 450 years. Groups can immerse in the destination with an architectural tour of the colonial-era buildings in downtown San Miguel, explore the city’s vibrant culinary scene and regional wine offering, or even take a hot air balloon ride to view the unique historical landscape from above.
“This year we rebranded and brought our different divisions together under the new name Fiesta Americana Travelty,” says Manzella. “What that allowed us to do was set the stage for future growth. We’re at 198 hotels as of [this interview], and within the next 3-5 years we want to double in size. We’re going to be growing exponentially over the next few years, and some of those projects—when it comes to the MICE market—are just breaking ground now.”
In September the company broke ground on the Live Aqua Riviera Cancun and Grand Fiesta Americana Riviera Cancun All Inclusive Resort & Spa. Located just south of Cancun Airport, the new resort will offer 1,052 rooms between the two brands. As well as featuring 19 restaurants and bars, the new development will also add a 45,000-sf convention center with capacity for up to 2,000 attendees, which will be shared by the two hotels.
Funeeq by Fiesta Americana is a new development anticipated to open in late 2025-early 2026 in Punta Cana. The all-ages resort will be located next to the adults-only Live Aqua Beach Resort Punta Cana, and will add almost 500 rooms plus additional meeting space that will double the existing space at the Live Aqua.
Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun has extended its culinary offering with the addition of three high-end restaurants that can be used for group events as well as dine-arounds.
Grand Fiesta Americana Los Cabos will open a brand-new SOMMA WineSPA by the end of 2023; it’s the only spa in Mexico that incorporates the healing benefits of wine into its treatments.
“Attendees want to get immersed into the culture and the local destinations,” says Manzella. “A lot of companies like to incorporate CSR programs to give back to the local schools or a local animal refuge. People want to feel good about going to events, and they want to make it purposeful and meaningful.”
“In the last three years we have seen more requests for cultural experiences from our attendees versus pre-pandemic,” says Carmelina Iannarone, CMP, CMM director of group sales, MICE North America, Melia Hotels International. “Paradisus by Melia has now transformed into Destination Inclusive resorts. Throughout each resort, guests are now more connected than ever to the local communities. As part of this program, guests of The Reserve and Nikte suites have access to Destination Inclusive experiences—one-of-a-kind off-property excursions. So far this year, thousands of guests have participated in these unique excursions, from visiting a cenote guided by a local shaman in Cancun to exploring the unique beauty of a canyon in Los Cabos that has been there for thousands of years.”
Opened in March this year, the all-inclusive Falcon’s Resort by Melia in Punta Cana is the first resort jointly developed by Melia Hotels International and Falcon’s Beyond. The property brings the new concept of “resortainment” to the Caribbean by blending premium resort amenities with entertainment experiences. The resort is located next door to the new Katmandu Park, one of the Caribbean’s only theme parks.
“Our all-inclusive resorts feature impressive meeting facilities, equipped with the latest technology with a 360-degree video projection for immersive presentations and meetings,” says Iannarone. “To meet the changing work landscape, we also offer hybrid and video conferencing to ensure meetings are effective for both in-person and remote. To keep attendees engaged and informed, we can also offer important updates on the agenda or program for the attendees attending the event through the Melia app.”
“We love to create experiences and unforgettable moments through our events and hotel entertainment,” says Pilar Arizmendi-Stewart, VP of sales & marketing of the Americas, Palladium Hotel Group. “We have amazing dinner shows like Chic Cabaret & Restaurant, available at TRS Hotels, featuring more than 30 artists that deliver a unique experience. Groups have the option to book the show for opening or closing nights, exclusive for their group. In the next few months, we are launching a new dining experience to be available at Grand Palladium Hotels & Resorts—The Bravo Dinner & Dance Experience, an enchanting and immersive event that promises an unforgettable evening filled with delectable cuisine and captivating entertainment.”
Grand Palladium Kantenah Resort & Spa in Riviera Maya is currently undergoing a full renovation and will reopen in December 2023, following the $600,000 renovation to its meeting spaces that was completed just eight months ago. In March 2024, renovation will commence on the Grand Palladium Colonial Resort & Spa in Riviera Maya, as well as the second phase of Palladium’s Costa Mujeres Complex.
“The essence of our industry lies in its human-centric approach, encompassing both the front-of-house interactions and the behind-the-scenes operations,” says Ana Bolio Lutzow, regional MICE sr. manager, America, Palladium Hotel Group. “We remain committed to realizing aspirations and crafting one-of-a-kind experiences that lead to unforgettable memories. The pandemic underscored the profound impact of in-person connections—nothing surpasses the engagement and value that a face-to-face meeting, conference, or incentive trip imparts to both employees and clients. There’s an irreplaceable quality to these interactions that transcends any virtual alternative.”
velasmeetingsmexico.com; meetings.hyatt.com/en/meetings-conventions.html; fiestamericanatravelty.com/en/meetings; www2.melia.com/meliapro/en/meetings-and-events.html; palladiumhotelgroup.com/en/meetings-and-events