In 1999, John Youden was traveling through Mexico when he
discovered a problem. Many small, independent hotels all seemed to
have a similar struggle: The cost of running a 20- to 30-room
operation was becoming prohibitive, and local hotel associations
were not meeting the smaller inns’ specific needs. Youden found
that many properties were willing to put the money they were giving
to their local hotel associations into a single pool to market
themselves as a group. Youden was mulling this situation over when
he attended Tianguis in Acapulco in 1998.
“Travel agents began coming up to me and saying ‘these are the type
of hotels my clients are looking for, this is the information that
I’m looking for,’ ” said Youden.
At the same time, Youden says, small hotel owners were coming up to
him saying, “these are the kinds of clients we want to
“That’s when I realized we had something,” he said.
From the moment you arrive at a Mexico Boutique Hotel,
you know you’ve come to someplace special. Each property is unique
from historic haciendas to rustic beach locales to upscale
hideaways. Forty-one of these special properties located in 23
Mexican destinations are now united in a special collection known
as Mexico Boutique Hotels (MBH).
For six years, founder and director general John Youden has been
refining this product and, in 2004, Mexico Boutique Hotels saw its
largest growth ever, becoming an influential force in Mexico’s
At the beginning of 2005 six new hotels joined the collection,
adding two new destinations to MBH, and the company inked a deal
with Puerto Vallarta-based Vallarta Adventures to add scheduled
flight service to four properties on the secluded Costalegre, the
stretch of coast south of Puerto Vallarta. And, according to
Youden, MBH continues to grow by about 20 percent each year, doing
nearly $2 million in revenue in 2005.
To add to its success, in December of last year, MBH drew even more
recognition with three accolades from readers of Conde Nast
Traveler in the magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards. Casa Natalia, in
San Jose Del Cabo, earned the number four spot on the magazine’s
list of the top 10 Central American/Mexican hotels. Casa de Sierra
Nevada Quinta Real, in San Miguel de Allende, was number eight on
the list. And readers chose Zihuatanejo’s Villa del Sol as number
10 on the list of the top 15 Mexican resorts.
Currently, MBH is made up of 41 member properties, all
hand-selected by a team of hospitality professionals, including
Youden and his wife. Properties are chosen for their unique ability
to deliver personal service and a home away from home for clients
visiting Mexico. They are usually small frequently they have less
than 50 rooms.
“We feel that it’s a little difficult to get that personalized
service where, from the moment you walk in, you are greeted by
name” if the properties have more than 50 rooms, said Youden.
Some hotels are quaint, local hideaways like El Tamarindo, tucked
away in the tropical forest of the Costalegre, while others are
centrally located Hacienda San Angel overlooks Puerto Vallarta but
they all have one thing in common. They are, according to Youden, a
destination unto themselves.
“At many of our hotels you can go and not worry about what’s
outside. The hotel itself is sufficient,” Youden said. “Our guests
are looking for something unique and better than their last
vacation. And that’s what we offer.”
Potential hotel members can apply for membership to the
organization by filling out a form, but according to Youden,
acceptance is based on a feeling. Youden, a photographer, writes
down his impressions and uses his camera lens to guide him in his
decision about whether or not a property qualifies.
“It isn’t a money thing. You can’t buy membership and we’ve
certainly had hotels that have tried you have to earn it,” he
Over the years membership has become tougher to obtain. Some
borderline hotels have been dropped, but in Youden’s eyes, this has
served to improve the collection.
“We had a clean-up in 2004 where we dropped more hotels than we
took in and that actually helped us,” said Youden. “After that, we
saw that the whole quality of the group was better.”
MBH really is a one-stop shop for an agent looking to
give clients an intimate, one-of-a-kind experience. In fact, a
primary goal of the Puerto Vallarta-based organization is to make
Mexico and its unique properties and secluded locales more
accessible to agents. Member properties enjoy the benefits of a
centralized call center, national and international marketing,
promotion and reservations to make obtaining information and
booking easy and accessible to agents.
One of the most important things for agents to note, according to
Sylvie Laitre, director of Mexico Boutique Hotels, is that the
organization is not an agency but a group of qualified hotels.
“The hotels that are a part of Mexico Boutique Hotels have
qualified to be part of Mexico Boutique Hotels so, no matter what
they choose within that, we are really marketing that concept,”
When a property first becomes a member it takes only a short time
to process and get them into the system with a GDS number.
According to Youden, once paperwork is completed, a property will
be accessible to agents within weeks.
Although an illustrated color handbook is available, agents will
find everything they need on MBH’s Web site, which is carefully
designed for research and planning and provides the most up-to-date
information on properties.
The Web site also allows agents to find hotel rates, check
availability, find packages and make bookings.
Mexico Boutique Hotels also takes pride in its highly trained
reservations staff, which personally visits properties as often as
possible. Agents can call and talk to one person who knows 41
boutique hotels in Mexico. According to Youden, you can’t get that
“I think it can be very handy, not only for the public, but for the
agents themselves, to have that security,” he said. “We’ve gone out
and done the homework.”
Another advantage Mexico Boutique Hotels offers agents is
protection. Agents know that if they book a MBH property their
commissions are protected. The collection is there to make sure
that it’s not just the client that comes away with a positive
“It is also very important that if [the members] are going to be
working with agents they take care of [their clients],” said
Youden. “We are here to ensure that there will never be a
Mexico Boutique Hotels is also on hand to maintain a standard of
service so that agents know what to expect when they send their
clients to one of its hotels. Although the properties may be unique
and independent, the level of service will be the same. Hotels are
reinspected yearly by staff, and MBH also follows up with guests to
find out how they felt about their experience.
“We expect our hotels to give extremely personalized service and
attention to detail. And that is what we try to do as well,” said
Laitre. “[MBH] is the first experience that the agent or client
will have, so we really have to represent what we demand our
members do, as well.”
One of the most unique ways to enjoy these individual
properties is to combine them in one tour. Clients who have more
time may want to see more than just one city or region. Mexico
Boutique Hotels has devised what they call circuit tours so that
agents can easily book clients in multiple hotels and destinations
with one phone call.
According to Laitre, the best way for agents to start planning a
client’s tour is to send an e-mail to the reservations department.
From there, the staff begins researching what is available at the
“We start proposing different things and working on the file,” said
Laitre. “[Circuit tours] become much more complex sales than just
making a reservation.”
Hotel staff also assist agents in booking add-ons like water taxis
to more remote locations or car rentals for clients who may want to
drive through a region.
“We will always find all the resources that they need. Our hotels
will help them because they are very personalized,” Laitre
Packages can also be tailored to fit a client’s needs. MBH can
individualize trips for travelers who want to see multiple regions,
or a custom tour can be arranged for clients who have picked out
their favorite properties, not just their favorite region.
“It’s not like a package. It’s really a la carte travel,” said
Laitre. “They look at what the agent wants or what the client wants
and go from there.”
As boutique hotels grow more popular with the baby boomer
generation who like to have a unique experience on vacation, one
question that comes to mind is expansion. How big can Mexico
Boutique Hotels become?
Although the growth of the collection may seem exponential thus far
they added six new properties in 2005 alone it is not growth but
quality that is important to Youden. Although there is no limit, he
believes that, in looking at the current market in Mexico, the
collection would likely only expand to about 50 boutique
“What we are really looking for is quality,” Youden said.
Youden added that, for him and his wife, Mexico Boutique Hotels is
more of a hobby and a passion.
“The experience is what makes a Mexico Boutique Hotel. It’s not
about the revenue,” he said.
His advice on selling these properties: “Agents have to take a look
at [their] traveler. Do they want a place where at 10 a.m. there’s
going to be an announcement about beach volleyball in the pool?
They really have to look at the needs of the guest.”
There may not be beach volleyball or the cookie-cutter comforts of
chain resorts, but each MBH property will offer clients a unique
experience, a warm welcome and lasting memories.
" Ana y Jose
" Casa Cid de Leon
" Casa de los Suenos
" Casa de Sierra Nevada Quinta Real
" Casa del Mar
" Casa Las Brisas
" Casa Natalia
" Condesa DF
" Dona Urraca
" El Careyes
" El Tamarindo
" Hacienda de Los Santos
" Hacienda Los Laureles
" Hacienda Puerta Campeche
" Hacienda San Angel
" Hacienda Sepulveda
" Hacienda Xcanatun
" La Casona
" La Mansion de los Suenos
" La Quinta Luna
" Las Alamandas
" Los Juaninos
" Meson Dona Paz
" Meson Sacristia de Capuchinas
" Meson Sacristia de la Compania
" Playa Rosa Hotel & Casitas
" Quinta Las Acacias
" Quinta Real Acapulco
" Quinta Real Huatulco
" Quinta Real Zacatecas
" Villa del Sol
" Villa Ganz
" Villa Merida
" Villa Montana
Mexico Boutique Hotels
Timon #1, Marina Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mex. 48354
Commission: 10 percent
Mexico Boutique Hotels offers circuit tours in several different
regions. The best way to book circuit tours is by e-mailing the
Below are some examples of itineraries offered by Mexico Boutique
Puerto Vallarta - Costa Careyes - Tamarindo - Isla Navidad
This tour combines the Costa Vallarta area and the Costalegre which
links Puerto Vallarta to Barra de Navidad. Seven Mexico Boutique
Hotels line the region from Punta Mita to Bara de Navidad.
Guanajuato - Morelia - P!tzcuaro - San Miguel de Allende -
Guadalajara - Queretaro
This tour explores Mexico’s colonial cities in the Bajío, a region
that embodies the true character of Mexico showcases the country’s
300 years under Spanish rule.
Cancun - Isla Mujeres - Holbox - Merida - Playa del Carmen
This tour includes one of the world’s most popular playgrounds. The
area is home to a white-sand beaches, coastal villages, resorts and
Mayan ruins and several Mexico Boutique Hotels.