Teams can learn about ancient Maya ceremonies and traditions. // © 2015 All Tournative
Feature image (above): The Rio Secreto cenote is a hot spot for groups. // © 2015 Journey Mexico
The Riviera Maya, on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, has long been a popular spot for meetings, thanks to the region’s wide selection of hotels and resorts with corresponding facilities.
In fact, new properties — both large resort chains and smaller, boutique hotels — that cater to the meetings market are constantly popping up in the area. These include the recently opened 314-room Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort, the soon-to-come 119-room Thompson Playa del Carmen and the 434-suite Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya, which recently joined the ranks of the area’s all-inclusive resorts.
Yet, it isn’t just the many meeting-friendly accommodations on the Riviera Maya that attract groups; the region’s indigenous offerings are ideal for team-building activities that are available through many local DMCs.
“The Riviera Maya is a top destination for meetings and incentive groups because of the natural and ecological attractions here, as well as the cutting-edge hotel infrastructure, many with the large capacities that planners are looking for,” said Esteban Gutierrez, sales manager for Alltournative, a tour operator that offers eco-adventures in the area.
Following are just a few of the unique team-building experiences found in the Riviera Maya.
Discover the destination’s culture and natural beauty within the contained comforts of a local eco-theme park.
“Use one of the many eco-parks that can build just the right activities for your group,” said Michael Butler, director of business development for Irving, Texas-based Spear One. “One of my favorite team-building activities at [eco-park] Xcaret is the Mayan Village scavenger hunt, where 20 figures are hidden and the team that finds the most scores the most points.”
Butler notes that participants can also test their team-building skills at checkpoints with questions about local history, famous sites, prominent people and local customs.
Grow team spirit underground.
The Riviera Maya’s "cenotes," or sinkholes, offer an optimal setting for team building.
“Rio Secreto is our most popular activity,” said Lillian Aviles, director of marketing for Journey Mexico, a luxury tour operator. “As if exploring underwater caves and navigating through the waters as a team isn’t captivating enough, there is a special route in an extremely extensive area of the cave not generally used in normal tours. Our custom-made journey captivates all the senses, and the difficulty level is decided by the team as we work with them to map out their journey.”
Solidify staff dynamics through ancient cultures.
With the philosophy of “Get Out and Go Native,” Alltournative invites teams to learn about ancient Maya culture by commemorating traditions such as Hanal Pixan, a celebration similar to Mexico’s Day of the Dead, or the Mayatlon, an annual triathlon that takes place within a Maya community and benefits locals in the area.
“All funds raised are used to strengthen educational activities,” Gutierrez said. “We have contributed to the construction of a teacher’s home, as well as helped build two classrooms and provided the community with a school bus.”
Strengthen group morale with thrill-seeking adventures that take advantage of the Riviera Maya’s great outdoors.
Ziplining and rappelling are among the destination’s more adventurous pursuits, but there are also other ways to enjoy open-air activities in this part of the Mexican Caribbean.
“Our most popular events generally include a bit of adrenaline,” said Michael Freedman, director of international group sales for Amstar, a destination management company for Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. “Formula One, which involves races in team-built cars, proved to be last season’s most popular activity.”