Head for the Border

Mexico resorts add spice to MICE

By: By Dawna L. Robertson

Additional Hotels

Brisas Hotels & Resorts 
Camino Real
Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts
Palace Resorts
Presidente InterContinental 
Quinta Real
Sol Melia Hotels & Resorts
Starwood Hotels 


Grand Velas’ outdoor function space adds a Mexican flair to meetings. // (c) Grand Velas
Grand Velas’ outdoor function space adds a Mexican flair to meetings. 

Certainly, there’s great appeal to Mexico’s mellow manner that defines relaxation. When it comes to meetings, incentives, conventions and events (MICE) travel, however, this U.S. doorstep destination is all business — with south of the border flavor that spices everything up a notch.

As a traveler’s paradise, Mexico continues to gain momentum with U.S.-based companies seeking ease in exotic travel. Literally hundreds of daily flights allow business travelers to leave home with their morning latte, then review spreadsheets on Pacific sands with a cerveza in the afternoon.

What’s not to like? Steeped in diversity, Mexico is a tapestry of stunning snow-capped volcanoes and stark desert landscapes, quaint colonial towns and bustling cities, archaeological sites and modern marinas. Toss in almost 30 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and visitors are assured there’s always something new and exciting to experience.

Aesthetics aside, planners are bestowed with a bevy of practical considerations as well. Amid a flurry of development, Mexico continues to add fresh gathering options to complement an already impressive hotel and resort roster that just keeps improving.

Mexico currently offers 55 state-of-the art convention centers in 56 cities, more than 245,000 hotel rooms in 3,100 luxury hotels available for meetings and more than 6 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space.

In fact, the Mexico Tourism Board (www.visitmexico.com ) reported earlier this year that 58 hotel projects were either under construction or renovation for the meetings and conventions industry — representing an estimated investment of more than $600 million.

New and expanding convention facilities add to the picture, creating the most advanced meeting infrastructure in Latin America. A testament to this is Acapulco’s mega Il Duomo Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Center at the Mundo Imperial Resort (www.mundoimperial.com ). Opening in phases through March 2009, the massive development brings 730,000 square feet of meeting and event space to the city’s ultra-exclusive Punta Diamante district.

Mexico City has made its meetings mark as well with the 440,987-square-foot Centro Banamex (www.centrobanamex.com ), while Guadalajara’s Expo Guadalajara (www.expo-guadalajara.com ) will become one of Latin America’s largest convention facilities when it bolsters square footage to 530,000 in 2009. Both Cancun and Mazatlan have jumped on the bandwagon with enhanced events facilities as well.

Here’s a look at some of the major hotel and resort players helping to make Mexico’s MICE market a booming $1.5 billion industry.

Riu Hotels & Resorts
Known for its all-inclusive convenience and impressive architecture, Riu (www.riu.com ) continues to respond to guest demands by providing meeting and function space at its Mexico properties. In fact, the company has the MICE market covered in fine form with conference facilities at eight of its 14 Mexico hotels. As a bonus, guests staying at one Riu can enjoy signing privileges at other Rius in the same destination.

In Riviera Nayarit, Riu serves up a trio of beachfront properties geared to different niches. The newcomer is Riu Palace Pacfico, a 445-junior-suite hotel with 2,800 square feet of interior function space and outdoor function areas throughout its lushly landscaped grounds. Just steps down the beach, the 550-room Riu Vallarta serves up 5,500 square feet of space handling up to 250 for cocktail parties and 130 for banquets.

The Maya-style Riu Caribe in Cancun presents the company’s most generous function space with 10 rooms ranging from 344 square feet to 4,950 square feet. Cocktail receptions can be arranged for up to 500 guests, with banquets for up to 250. With 506 oceanview guestrooms, the beachfront property offers a Renova Spa, fitness center, kids club, two swimming pools and a scuba diving pool.

In Cabo San Lucas, the 902-room Riu Santa Fe provides 17,440 square feet of flexible function space, with its 8,700-square-foot ballroom handling up to 800 in theater format. Part of a two-property enclave, it offers up to 20 percent savings for group bookings made by Dec. 15 on stays through 2010.

"We normally offer special ‘goodies’ depending on the season, such as complimentary function space, special spa discounts, complimentary rooms for certain number of rooms paid, VIP treatment for the group leader and upgrades," said Rosy Dominguez, senior sales director, groups and e-commerce for U.S., Canada, Latin America and Mexico.

Dominguez added that Riu intends to focus on additional growth with MICE business, especially with the May 2009 opening of the Riu Emerald Bay in Mazatlan.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts
Hilton (www.hilton.com ) enjoys solid representation in Mexico, with several properties especially geared for MICE.

Located on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, the 426-room Hilton Cancun Golf & Spa Resort has all the angles covered with an 18-hole golf course, plush spa with fitness center, full-service business center, in-house audio-visual company and a separate group arrival and check-in area. Accommodating up to 2,000, more than 30,000 square feet of meeting and function space includes 10,000- and 15,000-square-foot ballrooms, plus 5,000 square feet of breakouts.

Across the country on the Sea of Cortez, the 375-room Hilton Los Cabos Golf & Beach Resort offers a state-of-the-art business center, 7,445-square-foot ballroom for up to 680 in a theater-style setting, junior ballroom and outdoor terraces and pool area for private events.

Considered the first "Building Management System" hotel in Latin America, the Hilton Guadalajara is located within the business complex of the Guadalajara World Trade Center. With 450 rooms and suites, the modern property includes a 600-square-foot business center with eight conference rooms, an exclusive floor with personalized concierge service, function space and spa with fitness center.

Grand Velas All Suite & Spa Resorts
With a pair of upscale properties in two uniquely different destinations, Grand Velas (www.grandvelas.com ) pampers MICE travelers in much the same style as leisure travelers. This month, the 494-room Grand Velas Riviera Maya opens for business with a host of fine dining options, spa, fitness center and expansive convention center with a collection of contemporary meeting rooms.

The AAA Five-Diamond property accommodates guests with more than 91,000 square feet of multipurpose space, including 47,090 square feet of indoor space, 32,614 square feet of landscaped outdoor areas and gardens for gatherings of up to 3,000 people.

On Banderas Bay in Nuevo Vallarta, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit claims to be the only family-friendly all-inclusive in North America to receive the AAA Five-Diamond Award. With 25,321 square feet of meetings space hosting up to 800 people, it offers a freshly renovated convention center with four new meetings rooms, business center and 16,500-square-foot Grand Velas Spa. The 6,500-square-foot Grand Marissa Ballroom can be sub-divided into five separate rooms, while the open-air 8,134-square-foot Ocean Garden handles up to 1,500.

Grupo Posadas 
Setting the standard in 2007 as the first hotel to open in the heart of the city’s most exclusive corporate and financial district, Fiesta Americana Grand Guadalajara Country Club (www.fiestaamericanagrand.com ) was designed specifically for group business. The stylish high-rise property features sweeping city views from its 208 guestrooms and suites — each furnished with Wi-Fi Internet connectivity, a 32-inch satellite television, a minibar and a laptop-compatible safe. With sophisticated facilities accommodating up to 450 people, the property also offers a business center, spa and fitness center.

The Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos has been named the 2008 recipient of the Successful Meetings Pinnacle Award for its commitment to excellence in providing superior meeting planning services and amenities. The 250-room property offers nine spaces to accommodate up to 1,100 people, plus four additional open-air areas for parties and receptions.

On the Caribbean coast, Grupo Posadas’ Aqua Cancun (www.feel-aqua.com ) is a new brand of high-end lifestyle hotels. The luxury property offers 371 rooms, three restaurants, a multisensory spa and fitness center, eight swimming pools, two lounges/bars and a business center. Aqua’s 17 meeting rooms accommodate up to 1,000 within 16,500 square feet of indoor space.

While dramatic architecture and design draw many artists to Marquis Reforma (www.marquisreforma.com ), the extensive meeting and conference facilities are a magnet for business travelers. Fresh from a major expansion, the boutique property has added two meeting rooms to handle up to 1,374 people.

A newly expanded business center provides three fully equipped boardrooms for up to 30, as well as three offices and four individual workstations. Spa Marquis has specially developed treatments for overworked business travelers, such as Carpal Tunnel Hand Massage, Power Point Body Massage and the Jet-Lag Body Treatment.

Situated near a pair of championship golf courses, the 237-room Marquis Los Cabos (www.marquisloscabos.com ) is home to one of the largest meeting facilities in the destination. The property’s master ballroom comfortably accommodates up to 1,000 guests or can be divided into nine smaller meeting rooms for greater flexibility.

Pueblo Bonito
Covering all the bases in Cabo San Lucas, Pueblo Bonito (www.pueblobonito.com ) brings four properties into the meetings mix. Reserved for smaller, adults-only groups, the 154-room Pacifica Holistic Retreat & Spa is the first and only luxury resort in Cabo oriented toward wellness and relaxation.

Creating a sense of peace and solitude, the property is designed with a central theme of water and cacti — two natural elements that are in both opposition and harmony. A 2,554-square-foot meeting room is divisible into three smaller rooms with total capacity for 200 persons in theater or banquet format.

A short shuttle ride away is the 327-suite Sunset Beach Resort, a larger and livelier property with 5,329 square feet of interior function space.

"Both of these properties are good for groups wanting exclusivity," said Enrique Gandara, corporate director of marketing.

Gandara added that guests of these two Pacific Coast properties enjoy shuttle service and signing privileges for Pueblo Bonito Los Cabos and Rose. Geared to larger groups seeking more action, this duo is located along the more mellow Sea of Cortez near downtown.

"Each of these properties is different," said Gandara. "So depending on a group’s requirements, Pueblo Bonito has what they’re looking for."

The company also offers meetings facilities in Mazatlan at Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay and Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan, and at Samba Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta.

Barcelo’s (www.barcelo.com ) newest property that has earned high MICE marks is the five-star Barcelo Maya Beach, one of three hotels creating the 2,734-room Barcelo Maya Beach Resort complex on the Mayan Riviera. Surrounded by lush vegetation and turquoise water, the all-suite/all-inclusive property sprawls along a mile-long strand of white sandy beach.

Each of the three properties is geared to a different type and size of group, so flexibility is key. Barcelo Colonial & Tropical Beach is actually connected to a convention center that features a 12,100-square-foot ballroom handling banquets for up to 900 and receptions for up to 1,300.

Set to open late next year, Barcelo Los Cabos will offer 650 guestrooms and over 12,000 square feet of meeting and function space. Pre-sales have been strong, with groups already committed for 2010 and 2011.

Other Barcelo properties that are especially geared to group business include the 304-suite Barcelo La Jolla de Mismaloya, 324-suite Karmina Palace, 340-room Ixtapa Beach and 351-room Huatulco Beach.

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