Cancun Eyes Meeting Business

Cancun is pulling out all the stops to make sure convention goers come back to the seaside resort

By: By Monica Poling


Cancun is also investing in reestablishing its beaches.// (C) Cancun Tourism Board

Think of Cancun, and images of sandy beaches and a tropical climate come to mind. Located on the Caribbean Sea, this scenic resort destination consistently ranks as one of the world’s most popular places to visit.

In fact, Cancun is the number-one destination for Americans traveling outside the U.S., according to, and it is the third-most popular destination overall, placing just behind New York and Las Vegas.

Unfortunately, however, 2009 was not so kind to resort destinations, especially in the eyes of meeting planners. Excessive corporate spending, which received much media attention earlier in the year, made it nearly impossible for meeting professionals to convince higher-ups that meetings in “fun” destinations were actually a necessity. While Las Vegas tended to be the most notable victim of what became known as the “AIG effect,” resort destinations such as Cancun also felt the pinch.

Although meetings aren’t the top inbound market for Cancun, they are still important to the city. Group travel comprises 25 percent of the city’s incoming traffic, according to Jesus Almaguer, CEO of the Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau, translating to about 630,000 convention travelers per year. Because each meeting delegate spends about $1,250 per stay — a figure nearly 30 percent higher than the average leisure traveler — the demographic is a lucrative one for CVB professionals.

With 31,000 hotel rooms in Cancun and a recently remodeled convention center, the city has much to offer convention planners. The Cancun Center, which features stunning views of the Caribbean Sea, is located just 20 minutes from Cancun’s International Airport and is within walking distance of 4,700 hotel rooms in the heart of the Hotel Zone. The center offers 13 column-free meeting rooms, which can be subdivided into 36 break-out rooms, accommodating up to 8,000 attendees.

Despite the economy, Cancun is confident of the turnaround in future travel and the city is pulling out all the stops to make sure convention goers, as well as all travelers, come back to the seaside resort.

Recognizing the importance of its beaches to international travelers, Cancun recently started a beach recovery project to the tune of $71 million. The project will pipe approximately 1.3 billion gallons of sand into nearly seven miles of beach stretching through Cancun and into the state of Quintana Roo. The beach-restoration project should be completed by January 2010.

Of even more importance to meeting professionals, the Cancun Airport celebrated the completion of a $67 million infrastructure improvement last month, including the construction of an additional runway, a new control tower and taxiway bridge. The new control tower is now the tallest in Latin America and is among the 20 tallest worldwide.

The second runway runs parallel to the original one and allows for simultaneous traffic, thereby increasing operating capacity to more than 80 takeoffs or landings per hour and doubling the airport’s capacity to approximately 28 million passengers per year.

Cancun Airport is the first airport in Mexico with two runways that can be used at the same time. Despite the turbulent economy, the airport saw growth in 2009, with five airlines adding Cancun to their flight schedules.

“Without a doubt, this second runway delivers a clear message that Cancun and Quintana Roo will receive more tourism, more international flights and major growth for many years to come,” said Quintana Roo Governor Felix Gonzalez Canto.

Meeting professionals seem to be taking notice of all that Cancun has to offer.

In February 2010, Cancun will play host to Meeting Professionals International’s (MPI) MeetDifferent (formerly known as MPI PEC), a leading meetings industry event. Selected from a candidate pool of 12 potential host cities, Cancun marks the first time that MeetDifferent is being held outside of the U.S. and Canada. The event is expected to attract 2,000 visitors, including 900 meeting professionals. MPI is offering free hotel stays and free registration or airfare for qualified meeting planners who book meetings with at least 15 suppliers.

“This event promotes the growth of the meetings and conventions industry not only in Cancun, but also at the national level,” said Fernando Cervantes, director of groups and conventions for Cancun.

The Cancun CVB, which was recently voted as the best international tourism office by readers of Incentive Magazine, has a full-service groups and conventions staff that can help meeting professionals navigate their way through the complexities of hosting an international meeting.