Cancun: Mexico's Number One Tourist Draw Is Also Popular With Groups

Sky view Cancun Hotel Zone

(Pictured) Sky view of the Cancun Hotel Zone that encompasses more than 100 hotels

Colorful culture, beautiful beaches, first-class hotels, nightlife… Cancun has all the components in place to accommodate groups. Plus, Cancun understands the tourism industry.

"Mexico has always been an attractive tourism destination due to its accessibility, affordability, rich culture, and tropical climate," says Juan Perez, vice president of sales and marketing, Barceló Hotels & Resorts for Latin America. Pointing to the recent surge in new direct flights and increased hotel inventory being added in Mexico, he cites this as a reason the country is better than ever able to "accommodate the record number of visiting tourists as the country's economy continues to rebound."

Cancun Appeal
Expectations were exceeded last year in Cancun, Mexico's no. 1 tourist destination, as it received more than 4.8 million visitors. The average hotel occupancy was 81.6 percent, according to the Cancun and Puerto Morelos Hotel Association. That is a 6.6 percent increase over 2013 and an estimated economic gain of $3.3 billion dollars.

"With the rise in interest from airlines from North America and the opening of new hotels and services, as well as the range of international activities and events in 2015, I think it's safe to predict another great year for Cancun," says Jesus Almaguer, CEO of the Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Located on the southeast tip of Mexico, in close proximity to culturally significant sites and Mayan ruins, Cancun is easily accessed via most major cities throughout the United States and Canada.  Major carriers such as American Airlines, Continental, United Airlines, and Delta provide daily direct service to Cancun, and smaller carriers such as Virgin Airlines, JetBlue, and Spirit also provide direct service to there from select cities. The North American market has the most international flights to Cancun.

An estimated 1.8 million visitors from North America visited Cancun last year, an increase of nine percent when compared to 2013.

The Mexican Federal Government plans to invest more than $14 million in the state of Quintana Roo this year that will include beach restoration projects in Northern Cancun, Isla Mujeres, and Holbox.

In February, the state of Quintana Roo officially changed time zones from Central Standard Time (CST) to Eastern Standard Time (EST). This time change means added sunlight each day, strengthening Cancun's competitiveness with other tourism destinations in the Caribbean that run on EST including the Bahamas, Cuba, and Jamaica. So you could say there's no better "time" to visit Cancun than right now.

Cancun received several awards during Tianguis Turisitico, Mexico's largest tourism event, held this March. The award for 2014 Mexico Destination Campaign of the Year went to the Cancun CVB as the destination saw a significant increase in bookings throughout its 2014 campaign. Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun Hotel, an all-inclusive property, was awarded for being Mexico's top hotel producer in Cancun and Isla Mujeres.

An award for Mexico's best nature tour was given to EcoColors Tours for their whale shark swim excursions. Visitors can don a snorkel and fins and swim with the largest fish in the world, an unforgettable experience. The largest congregation of whale sharks gather in the waters here between June and September.

Alltournative, an eco-archeological tour operator, was awarded for being Mexico's best cultural tour for their Coba Mayaville expedition. This excursion allows tourists to visit the archaeological site of Coba, and discover the Nohoch Mul pyramid, the tallest in the Yucatan Peninsula. The tour also includes a visit with real Mayan families and villages to learn about their way of life and to enjoy a traditional homemade meal prepared by one of the local families. Alltournative promotes eco-tourism projects in different local communities and seeks to develop sustainable tourism and preserve Mayan culture in the area.

PLAY - Garrafon
Groups can zip line over the turquoise waters in Garrafon Natural Reef Park, just 25 minutes from Cancun on the island of Isla Mujeres. This natural park offers snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, dolphin encounters, and more, as well as plenty of teambuilding activities for your group.

DINE - Le Chique Restaurant
Arrange for your group to try the eight-course tasting menu at Le Chique at Azul Sensatori, the newest restaurant in Cancun to receive the coveted AAA Five Diamond award. A meal here is a dining adventure featuring cutting-edge cuisine.

MEET - Cancun Center, Conventions & Exhibitions
In the heart of the Hotel Zone, this facility can accommodate meetings of up to 6,600 and exhibitions of up to 40,000 attendees.

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); Los Cabos Convention Center (56,000 sf); Centro Banamax, Mexico City (441,000 sf)

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Pinnacle Awards Go To:

Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort
Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun
JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa
Le Blanc Spa Resort

Meetings and Incentives in Cancun
Cancun has hosting meetings and incentives groups down to a science. Take last year's Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) North America edition. It was held at Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort, Cancun's largest property, Sept. 11-13, 2014.

The three-day symposium, which marked the first time in TBEX's four-year history that it has taken place in Latin America, welcomed 600 attendees, including 42 prominent speakers.

The event kicked off with a Mexican-themed welcome reception at Xcaret Park where attendees enjoyed dinner and live entertainment, followed by unofficial late-night events throughout Cancun, including those at Noir, Moon Palace's nightclub; and Sky Bar, a chic lounge. Friday night's Expedia-hosted party took place at Moon Palace's outdoor Moonlight Terrace.

Palace Resorts recently completed a $100-million enhancement project on Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort, located on Cancun's tranquil south shore. The resort consists of three luxurious sections: Moon Grand, Sunrise, and Nizuc, with more than 2,400 waterside and garden-view accommodations or golf villa suites. Another major new addition was Moon Palace Arena, a 140,000-square-foot convention center.

Hotel News
In an unusual move, the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa and CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort have created a program, called "Heart of Cancun," along with two neighboring resorts, Paradisus Cancun and Fiesta Americana Condesa, to accommodate large groups. Together, the four resorts offer more than 2,000 guest rooms, more than 77,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, and a total of 62 breakout areas.

Barceló Maya Beach Resort, in Riviera Maya, recently completed a $50-million renovation. "Barceló Hotels & Resorts recognizes the increase in demand and influx of new travelers to Cancun as an opportunity to invest in and enhance our guest experience through multimillion-dollar renovation projects, such as the one that was just completed at Barceló Maya Beach Resort in January," says Perez.

ME Cancun has been awarded the Certified Silver Certificate by EarthCheck, a leading international certifier of travel and tourism organizations, for its high standard of environmental performance. The resort has 448 guestrooms, including 36 suites and 6,670 square feet of meeting space.

Questions or comments? Email [email protected]

This article appears in the May 2015 issue of Successful Meetings.