Cancun Calling

With modern infrastructure, beautiful beaches, lots of meeting space, and even Mayan archaeological sites, Cancun has it all

Hard Rock Hotel Cancun

WHERE TO DINE, PLAY, AND MEET
Casa Rolandi
An award-winning, family-owned restaurant featuring international cuisine with a strong North Italian and Swiss influence and slight Mexican flair, Casa Rolandi offers a main dining room and an al fresco terrace featuring panoramic views. The restaurant focuses on top-quality, fresh ingredients, slow-cooking techniques with a wood-burning oven, and old-school recipes. 

JOYÀ
Cirque du Soleil and resort developer Grupo Vidanta have teamed up to present this immersive theatrical and culinary experience that has residency exclusively at the 600-seat theater custom-built for Cirque du Soleil, starting in November. Drawing on Mexico's history and heritage, JOYÀ tells the story of an alchemist and his granddaughter embarking on a transformative quest to uncover the secrets of life. 

Cancun Center
With 78,500 square feet of exhibition space and 75,600 square feet of conference space, the Cancun Center is located in the heart of Cancun's Hotel Zone, only 24 minutes from Cancun International Airport. 

Cancun is Mexico's most popular destination and one of its most treasured gems. With 145 hotels, and more than 34,000 hotel rooms to choose from, easy accessibility via Cancun International Airport, direct flights, beaches, cultural attractions, and over 700,000 square feet of meeting space, Cancun has all the elements to execute a successful meeting. 

Key to all of this is that the destination understands the tourism industry. There is no tax, thanks in part to the Taza Cero (0 percent VAT) initiative for international visitors. Cancun's offerings are growing as the government is planning to invest $13.8 billion country-wide in infrastructure, reports President Enrique Peña Nieto. 

"We have turned tourism into a cross-sectional priority in the government," said Peña Nieto in the keynote speech at the 39th annual Tianguis Turistico, an important platform for the promotion and marketing of Mexico tourism, held at Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort in May. "It is a strategic axle for Mexico's development. Every branch of the government is committed to making tourism a priority." Improvements planned include renovating beaches and colonial districts and revamping roads, ports, and airports. Peña Nieto described the wealth of Mexico's offerings, including historical sites, natural beauty, culture, heritage, and its people.

Giving Back 
The Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau recently announced new "voluntourism" and corporate social responsibility (CSR) offerings to groups and meeting planners who choose Cancun for their events. Travelfuture, a globally focused CSR and volunteer travel activity provider, is now offering its programs in the area. It gives groups the opportunity to meet the locals and give back to the community. 

The Cancun Center has a program in place, Vida Maya, that supports local Mayan communities. Participants can either give donations or offer their pro-bono expertise. For example, medical congress attendees can help train local doctors in Mayan communities as well as offer basic services to the locals while there. Nonprofits can help train locals to develop a variety of artisanal skills that can enable them to promote and sell their products to other visiting meetings and conferences.

Expect the Unexpected 
Offering the unexpected is something Cancun is great at. The 214-room boutique property Sandos Cancun Luxury Experience Resort recently created a new molecular-cocktail meeting break that gives groups the opportunity to learn the art of mixology from on-property experts. Highlights include the explanation of ingredients and techniques used to prepare two different molecular cocktails (drinks using specialized equipment to create futuristic concoctions like flavor-infused gels and foams), demonstration of how the cocktails are prepared, and a molecular cocktail tasting with snacks.  

Most don't think of racecars when they think of Cancun. That is changing with Exotic Rides Cancun, a 10-acre facility that includes a 1.2-mile racetrack, video-equipped classrooms, an exhibition area, pits, a restaurant, and a lounge. Attendees can choose to race the sports cars themselves or ride along while a NASCAR-trained driver whips them around the course. Brands to choose from include Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, Audi, Lotus, Camaro, and Mercedes-Benz. Exotic Rides Mexico features modern indoor and outdoor exhibition facilities that can host from 10 to 3,000 people. Guided road tours are available as well. 

It's All Included 
Mexico has a wealth of upscale all-inclusive resorts. Knowing exactly what a program is going to cost upfront, without any hidden fees, appeals to meeting professionals. Plus, an attendee can get a bite to eat when he or she wants one without having to pay for it. There was a time when all-inclusive cuisine was not something to look forward to, but those days are gone. 

Take the 601-room beachfront Hard Rock Hotel Cancun. Its all-inclusive package includes dining at nine restaurants as well as luxury accommodations, in-room double hydro tubs, top-shelf drinks, 24-hour room service, and entertainment. 

In Cancun, all-inclusive properties are taken to a whole other level. There is Le Blanc Spa Resort, a Palace Resort that is AAA Five-Diamond, with accommodations that range from Royale Deluxe to Royale Presidential suites. The property also offers the Ultimate Luxury Yacht Experience onboard a sleek vessel called Impulsive. In addition, Palace Resorts recently launched the Casanova, a new, 51-foot yacht at Isla Mujeres Palace that transports guests from the pier in Cancun directly to the island. Transportation on the yacht, which has mahogany finishing and seating for 10 passengers, is included for guests at the hotel. 

Even those hotels that have historically just offered the "European plan" now have all-inclusive options. The JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa and CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort, adjacent to each other in the heart of Cancun's Hotel Zone, combine to offer 900 guest rooms and more than 80,000 square feet of event space. What's new is the resorts' "groups all-inclusive" options with add-on perks, something Marriott properties don't traditionally offer.

These two properties -- the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa and CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort -- have a new partnership with two neighboring resorts, Paradisus Cancun and Fiesta Americana Condesa, called the "Heart of Cancun." 

ESSENTIAL Tool Box
CONVENTION CENTERS  & FACILITIES
Cancun Convention Center (152,852 sf); Cancun Messe exhibition center (341,121 sf); Cozumel Convention Center (18,837 sf of exhibit space in one hall) 

ROOM TAX 
0 percent VAT 

PINNACLE AWARD WINNERS:
 Hard Rock Hotel Cancun 
Le Blanc Spa Resort

New Hotels 
In hotel news, Grand Oasis Viva resort is converting to Dreams Sands Cancun Resort and Spa, following an extensive renovation. It will be officially rebranded on Sept. 1, 2014, and will have 441 rooms and suites, all with ocean views.

Planners have a new tool at their disposal with the launch of a new website for the Peninsula Convention Center at Iberostar Cancun, which offers visuals of event spaces, capacity charts, venue diagrams, video tours, photo galleries, and details on the amenities at the center as well as the adjacent 426-room Iberostar Cancun and golf course. The 49,000-square-foot convention center itself boasts 22 meeting rooms and three ballrooms, including the 16,000-square-foot Grand Caribe Ballroom and 9,700-square-foot Miramar Ballroom.

The Club Med Yucatan completed a $14-million renovation in June and now includes 60 new beachfront accommodations, two redesigned and expanded restaurants, and a trendy lounge. RIU Cancun is undergoing a renovation that will be completed this month and will feature upgraded restaurants, pools, guest rooms, and a new theater. 

Zoetry Villa Rolandi Isla Mujeres was officially renamed and inaugurated in December of last year. This property offers a private marina with a 42-foot yacht that transports guests between Cancun and Isla Mujeres.

The 379-room Hyatt Ziva Cancun, rebranded from Dreams Cancun, will go through a renovation that will maintain the resort's pyramid-style Mexican architecture. Renovations are set to conclude July 2015.

Wellness Suites 
Palace Resorts' signature property, Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort in Cancun, has introduced 19 Palace Wellness Suites.

"Wellness programs and health-conscious offerings have evolved from a niche subcategory to the new standard," says Gibran Chapur, executive vice president of Palace Resorts. The new suites are located in the Sunrise section of the property and feature direct access to a private pool via each room's expansive terrace. 

The new Wellness Suites join the property's new convention center, Moon Palace Arena. The 140,000-square-foot convention center underwent a $55-million renovation. The multi-functional space includes eight versatile meeting rooms, approximately 11,000 square feet each, exhibition area and foyer, an outdoor terrace for events, a mezzanine level with offices and boardrooms, snack areas, easily accessible loading docks, and the latest A/V equipment. 

This September, the property will host the world's largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, and content creators. TBEX North America 2014 is a three-day event that will take place from Sept. 11 to 13. 

"Cancun's renowned cultural and adventurous experiences, spectacular scenery, and warmth will create a wonderful background and lots of editorial content for attendees," says Rick Calvert, CEO of NMX Events, producers of TBEX.

The Cancun CVB, along with Palace Resorts officials, has worked closely with the TBEX team on the event. "As the host destination, we want to show visitors and their readers the variety of experiences that travelers to Cancun and Moon Palace can expect, including the destination's culture, gastronomy, pristine beaches, renowned service, and world-class entertainment options," says Jesus Almaguer, CEO of the Cancun CVB. "We are honored to be this year's host for TBEX North America 2014."

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