Marriott Maintains in Mexico

Three Marriott resorts meet tourism challenges head on By: Mark Rogers
JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa // © 2010 Marriott
JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa // © 2010 Marriott

The Details

JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa has 448 rooms, including 74 suites, all with a private balcony and ocean view. Club 91 is a boutique hotel within the JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa, and offers a more personalized service. The resort has three restaurants, including the AAA Four Diamond Award Gustino Italian Grill; a 35,000-square-foot, three-level spa; and 20,391 square feet of meeting space.

Casamagna Marriott Cancun Resort has 452 rooms, including 38 suites. The beachfront resort has a variety of bars and restaurants, including La Capilla Argentina Steakhouse and the teppanyaki-style Mikado. The resort has over 11,000 total square feet of flexible indoor function space.

The Casamagna Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa is nestled between the Sierra Madre Mountains and Banderas Bay. The Four-Diamond beachfront resort has 404 rooms and 90 suites, 13 meeting rooms, four restaurants, the Ohtli Spa and a children’s club for kids 4-12.

Mark Twain is famous for declaring that “Life is one damn thing after another.” Unfortunately this observation also applies to the Mexican tourism picture over the past couple years where it feels like it has also been one damn thing after another. TravelAge West recently sat down with some of the key players at three of Marriott’s Mexico properties — The JW Marriott Cancun & Spa, the Casamagna Cancun Resort and the Casamagna Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa — to get their views on what lies ahead for Mexico tourism.

“Value added is a thing of the past; in Puerto Vallarta we’re going to see rates being cut,” said Dennis Whitelaw, general manager of Casamagna Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa. “Although we will see value-added offers throughout the rest of the year.”

This was an interesting observation from Whitelaw, since up until now cutting rates seemed to be the proverbial third rail for hoteliers. Whitelaw further noted that California used to account for 38 percent of the bookings at Casamagna Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, and that the state is now 32 percent of the resort’s market.

“The main reason for the decrease is the economy and unemployment,” added Whitelaw.

“The transient booking window is short, basically we’re seeing same month booking,’’ offered Manfred Thievessen, director of sales and marketing of the JW Marriott Cancun & Spa and the Casamagna Cancun Resort. “The fall looks good and stable; not as good as 2008 — but it’s absolutely a stronger fall than 2009.”

The Marriott execs are taking the long view, and are optimistic about the future.

“I’m thinking that 2012 is probably the year that we’ll look back and say business is back to normal,” said Christopher P. Calabrese, vice president & general manager of the JW Marriott Cancun & Spa and the Casamagna Cancun Resort. “I’d like to see our group business grow. We need that base to drive leisure demand.”

Meaningful Vacations
One area that the three resorts are embracing is the development of more opportunities for guests to have meaningful interactions with the community surrounding the resort. This is especially true at Casamagna Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, where they have created a Spirit to Serve program.

“We believe in the experiential vacation,” said Whitelaw. “Groups are looking for more community experiences, such as save the turtles programs and visits to local schools. Guests become aware of these activities through our pre-arrival program.”

The social benefits aspect of the Spirit to Serve program includes overseeing a Toys for Tots Puerto Vallarta program, conducting clothing and blanket drives for those in need, and contributing to local food banks. There’s also a green aspect to the Spirit to Serve program. For instance, in 2009 the program released 31,981 sea turtles into the ocean. In addition, the resort also spearheads fundraisers that combine doing the right thing with having a good time, such as a March cocktail party and a golf tournament and gala dinner.

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