Evolving traveler preferences, as well as pandemic realities, have pushed the definition of luxury travel in new directions. Perhaps one of the best places to explore what upscale globetrotters are looking for today is Mexico, one of the few destinations that’s stayed open to tourism from the U.S.
“Besides your typical COVID-19 hygiene questions, clients are asking if certain activities are open, if spas are operating and whether restaurants are open,” said Jesse Cisneros, an advisor with Ovation Travel Group, a Virtuoso-affiliated agency. “Is it safe to travel and explore the countryside? Are tours to UNESCO sites or Pueblos Magicos being offered? Everyone wants to feel normal again.”
Zachary Rabinor, president of luxury tour operator Journey Mexico, said that high-end travelers are looking for several specific things when they think about Mexico today.
“Given that we are still in the pandemic and will be coming out progressively over the remainder of 2021, we feel that warm weather and more remote destinations, luxury hotels and villas and outdoor experiences will remain popular with the luxury segment,” he said. “That said, we also feel that into the second half of the year, as Mexico City and other more densely populated destinations gradually open, we will see a return to more traditional travel preferences, including urban touring, multi-destination travel and smaller events.”
Here are five ways that the concept of luxury travel is being redefined in Mexico.
Unique Culinary Experiences
Upscale travelers crave much more than a fancy meal, and hoteliers in Mexico are upping the ante when it comes to new ways to delight the senses. In Los Cabos, for example, a new restaurant called Animalon by the Sea debuted in February onboard a 49-foot boat, serving a five-course menu that features farm-fresh Baja California ingredients. And in March, Las Ventanas al Paraiso, a Rosewood Resort, launched a new partnership with Bonberi, a New York City-based “lifestyle market” that specializes in plant-based ingredients, to create Bonberi at Las Ventanas, a year-long takeover with fresh, customized menus focused on well-being.
In the Riviera Nayarit, meanwhile, the recently opened Conrad Punta de Mita offers a variety of unique dining opportunities — including the Zarandeado Experience, which features fresh-caught seafood prepared in front of guests on the beach, live music and dining venue options such as a private chapel and an herb garden. That ties in with the increased number of private dining options around Mexico, at properties including Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort and One&Only Palmilla, to name a few.
Buyouts and Extended Stays
It’s no surprise that after a year of social distancing, luxury travelers still crave privacy. To satisfy that desire, hoteliers are making it easier to reserve extra space, whether for a couple, a family or a group of friends. The W Punta de Mita, in the Riviera Nayarit, offers a mini buyout for guests who reserve all of their 13 oceanfront suites, with amenities including private beachfront yoga sessions, a farewell happy hour and a private pool day with a personal DJ, all included.
In a similar vein, W Mexico City offers a full-floor buyout option that includes private dinners, spa treatments and private mixology classes.
Travelers looking to take advantage of remote working and studying, meanwhile, might do well to consider reserving an extended stay at hotels like Imanta, One&Only Mandarina and Mar al Cielo, all in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, or the Hyatt Ziva Cancun and Hard Rock Hotel Cancun, on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.
Vacationers looking for even more privacy and social distancing should consider private villa accommodations. Journese, the luxury operator of Pleasant Holidays, has increased its focus on luxury private resort residences, with options like two- to six-bedroom ocean-view villas at Chileno Bay Resort & Residences, a Los Cabos property that recently joined the Virtuoso Preferred Hotel program.
In Cancun, Nizuc Resort & Spa is home to the Nizuc Villa, a 5,380-square-foot villa with a private infinity pool, rooftop sundeck and tropical gardens, making it easy for clients to forget about all the other guests.
Private Tours and Transfers
Private excursions are a great way to ensure client satisfaction and comfort, especially during the pandemic. Journey Mexico, for example, recently introduced a series of itineraries for the high-end market, in response to increased interest in bespoke experiences. Among the newest offerings is a “Punta Mita holiday” that includes a private yacht/beach club excursion, private surfing experience and private jet shopping trip to Mexico City.
In addition, Nobu Hotel Los Cabos has reported an increase in guests booking private experiences since the property reopened in July 2020, and as a result, management has created a list of private experiences that are bookable for two or more people — with options such as private DJ sessions, bonfires on the beach and tequila tastings, to name a few.
In Los Cabos, a company called Blue Desert Cabo has also devised a variety of activities for private groups, ranging from swimming with whale sharks to deep-sea fishing and private chef dining experiences.
Focus on Well-Being
After months of pandemic-era living, it’s logical that travelers may be more focused on their own health and well-being. Mexico offers numerous ways to take care of oneself. Careyes, Mexico, for example, has created new wellness programming that includes a Yoga Visiting Practitioner program, which invites top yoga instructors from around the world to stay and instruct for one month at a time; instructors include such yogis as Shayna Hiller, Andrew Sealy, Domick Cole and Caley Alyssa. The property also hosts sound healings, cacao ceremonies, Temazcal ceremonies and breathwork meditation sessions.
In the Riviera Maya, Hotel Esencia this year introduced a new room category called Rooftop Wellness Suites. The duplex accommodations feature private indoor fitness studios equipped with Technogym personal weight kits, an exercise ball, a yoga mat and The Mirror, a virtual, on-demand personal trainer system. There’s also an option to add a Peloton bicycle and TRX suspension trainer for an extra charge.
The advantages of private aviation have never been clearer than during the pandemic, and the number of companies offering this decidedly upscale form of transportation has expanded over the past year.
Among the newest options is provided by JSX, which recently launched seasonal weekend flights for March and April from Dallas Love Field to Los Cabos, using 30-seat jets that are billed as comparable to a commercial flight.
Various hoteliers have begun offering vacation packages that include private aviation, as well. Grand Velas, for example, now offers Grand Velas Journey, a package that features private jet charters provided by Air Partner from the U.S. to Mexico. The 14-day trip includes a variety of day trips and a tasting of the “world’s most expensive taco.”
Marquis Los Cabos Resort & Spa, meanwhile, has partnered with Amalfi Jets for a package that includes roundtrip private flights from New York City and Los Angeles, complete with transportation to and from the departure airport.