Room to Grow

Marriott’s plans for Mexico are good news for the luxury market

By: By Mark Chesnut

What's Opening

Opening in 2008:
Courtyard by Marriott Puebla Las Animas, Puebla, Mexico, 150 rooms

Opening in 2009:
Mexico City Marriott Reforma Hotel, Mexico City, 320 rooms

Opening in 2010:
Aguascalientes Marriott Hotel, Aguascalientes, Mexico, 286 rooms
Merida Marriott Hotel, Merida, Mexico, 290 rooms
The Ritz-Carlton, Mexico City, 170 rooms

Opening in 2011:
Puerto Penasco Marriott Resort, Puerto Penasco, 250 rooms
JW Marriott Milla de Oro Beach Resort & Spa, Riviera Maya, 450 rooms
Renaissance Milla de Oro Beach Resort & Spa, Riviera Maya, 150 rooms


Only Online

Scroll down to see a timeline of Marriott properties opening in Mexico through 2011

The economy may be slowing, but that hasn’t stopped Marriott International from proceeding with an ambitious plan to nearly triple its presence in Mexico within five years.

This massive growth — focused heavily on the Courtyard by Marriott brand but also including Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton and Renaissance — will dramatically expand the company’s reach south of the border and offer agents and tour operators a number of new choices when booking clients. 

A rendering of thePuerto Penasco Marriott Resort // (c) Marriott International
 A rendering of the Puerto
Penasco Marriott Resort
// (c) Marriott International

Marriott International currently operates 16 hotels in Mexico, with a total of 3,814 rooms and six lodging brands. Its new plans call for 29 branded Marriott hotels in Mexico, bringing some 3,000 new jobs and more than $1 billion in investment funds to the region. The growth in Mexico is part of an overall strategy to add 130,000 new rooms to Marriott’s inventory by 2010.

But what makes this a good time for such an expansion? It comes down to Mexico’s continued resilience as a tourism and business travel destination, according to Chuck Kelley, executive vice president of operations for Marriott International in the Caribbean & Latin America.

“Marriott views Mexico as one of the most important markets outside of the U.S.,” Kelley said. “As a destination, Mexico accounts for almost 16 percent of tourism activity in the Americas, second only to the U.S. Also, Mexico is the primary destination for foreign tourists within Latin America and ranks eighth for international tourist arrivals worldwide.”

Marriott’s plans for Mexico are an indicator of the strength of the luxury travel market, according to Tim MacDonald, president of Classic Vacations.

“As a luxury FIT tour operator, we are delighted to see additional Ritz-Carltons and JW Marriotts in Mexico,” MacDonald said. “Those two brands have consistently delivered the [type of] service levels and product expected by our customers.” MacDonald added, “We would certainly like to see more Ritz-Carltons in the popular and upcoming resort destinations. We are consistently rated as the top luxury wholesaler because we pride ourselves on helping travel agents deliver superior customer satisfaction. To deliver on this, we need partners, like The Ritz-Carlton, that will work with us to ensure our travel agents and their clients are satisfied.”

Marriott International is partnering with multiple Mexico-based companies to achieve its growth goals in Mexico, placing its brands and management teams with projects constructed by other firms.

Desarrollos Turisticos Paso Victoria S.A. is building the 450-room JW Marriott Milla de Oro Resort & Spa — which will have a 14,000-square-foot spa as well as 5,000 square feet of meeting and event space — and the 150-room Renaissance Milla de Oro Resort — which will feature a 10,000-square-foot spa and 3,500 square feet of event space. Both are scheduled to open in the Riviera Maya in 2011.

Grupo Questro is the owner of the 250-room Puerto Penasco Marriott Resort, slated to open in 2011. Located within the Sandy Beach Resort development in Puerto Penasco, the hotel is part of a master-planned community that includes private residences, a marina and golf courses. Grupo Questro is also constructing a 170-room The Ritz Carlton, Mexico City, set to open in 2011.

Also working with Marriott International is Grupo Diestra, which aims to construct and open between five and 10 franchised, Marriott-branded properties in Mexico over the next five years — including the conversion of what is to become the 320-room Mexico City Marriott Reforma Hotel and the 268-room Aguascalientes Marriott Hotel. Grupo Diestra also plans to open the 290-room Merida Marriott Hotel in 2010.

Marriott’s Kelley said Mexico will remain on the radar for even more development beyond the current plans.

“We continue to look for opportunities to invest in the country and are hopeful that our efforts with local business partners will continue to produce beneficial economic results for Marriott, our partners and the communities in which we operate,” Kelley said.

Classic Vacations’ MacDonald, for one, believes there is still room for more growth in the upscale hotel niche in Mexico — for Marriott as well as other companies.

“There are several destinations in Mexico that could use additional luxury product including Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa, Nuevo Vallarta, Punta Mita and even Los Cabos,” he said. “We are encouraged by Marriott’s development plans as well as the new luxury product coming from Banyan Tree, Capella and St. Regis.”

Continued demand for luxury properties will come as a result of current habits of upscale travelers, as well as the particular characteristics of Mexico as a destination, according to MacDonald.

“With the current economic environment, we are seeing two trends,” he explained. “Even affluent travelers are more value-conscious, and they are discovering that they can have a five-star luxury experience in Mexico for a very reasonable price.”

Second, he added, “the very affluent are still traveling and many are even traveling more, so we expect to see growth in the five-star market, especially in Mexico.”