Successful Meetings MAY 2006: Luxury resorts beckon with their world-class spas and meeting rooms that cater to groups large and small. recovering fast from Hurricane Wilma, Cancun is returning with a brand-new seven-mile beach, new amenities, and a new dedication to tourism. The Riviera Maya's 89-mile-long coast embraces platinum sand beaches, calm lagoons, coves, inlets, and, just offshore, a splendid coral reef just waiting to be explored. Its heartbeat, Playa del Carmen, is a beach town with funky hotels, restaurants, and destination shopping.
Essential Tool Box
Cancun Center, 77,900 sf of dedicated exhibit space, 37 meeting rooms, largest accommodates 3,000 theater-style.
Riviera Maya: Playa Paraiso Convention Center with 15,683 sf of function space along with eight conference rooms with a total of 1,242 sf. Merida: Yucatan Siglo XXI Conventions and Expositions Center offers a 38,594-sf divisible ballroom and 80,287 sf of exposition space.
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Cancun International Airport (CUN), Chetumal International Airport (CTM), Cozumel Airport (CZM), Isla Mujeres Airport (ISJ)
For More Info:
Mexico Tourist Board
Riviera Maya CVB
*Business Travel News 2006 Corporate Travel Index
The Big News
Rodolfo Elizondo, tourism secretary of Mexico, announced earlier this year that "Cancun is not only ready for the upcoming summer season, it is ready now. The city is receiving tourists, and its hotels are currently operating at a 92-percent occupancy rate." And at this year’s Tianguis tourism summit held in Acapulco, John McCarthy, Fonatur’s managing director, announced that the city has been revitalized with $250 million of public sector reinvestment. Calling it "the best Cancun in the city’s 30-year history," McCarthy cited the city’s all-new signage, landscaping, bicycle paths, and the most modern technology in urban infrastructure and fixtures, such as light-emitting diode (LED) lighting. On the drawing board is a master-planned city center, a half-mile-long bridge across the Bojorquez Lagoon to alleviate the traffic from Punta Cancun, and an environmentally conscious park.
Following the disaster left by Hurricane Wilma, which slammed into the coast last fall, the destination has paid more than $20 million to restore Cancun’s world-famous beach. A dredging company, Belgium-based Jan de Nul, recovered more than 95 million cubic feet of sand from the ocean and placed it onto a seven-mile stretch of waterfront. The new beach is expected to be shorter, but wider, in order to offset some of the erosion that Cancun has been experiencing over decades.
Many hotels are already open, and most meetings properties are expected to be open by summer. Scheduled to open this month: the 426-room Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort (following a $40-million renovation) and the 448-room JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa. Scheduled to open in Jun: the 226-room Hyatt Cancun Caribe Villas & Resort and the 379-room Westin Resort & Spa Cancun. The 452-room Marriott CasaMagna Cancun Resort and the 365-room Ritz-Carlton Cancun will also reopen in Jun following the installation of special glazed, hurricane-resistant windows.
The Riviera Maya is also up and running. According to Dario Flota, head of the Riviera Maya Tourism Board, "The Riviera Maya recovered very rapidly. Now 95 percent of the rooms are in service." The rest will be ready in summer, he adds. The storm did little to slow down new hotel growth, however, which always means new meeting facilities. Flota reports that the number of rooms has skyrocketed in the last 10 years, from a count of around 1,500 to over 30,000 by the end of this year.
Within the additional room inventory, which includes 87 three-star to five-star properties, meetings have grown 11.6 percent, Flota said. And most of the groups are incentives ranging from 15 up to 2,300 attendees. He calls the Riviera Maya "ideal" for them: "The region’s natural beauty, tranquil ambiance, and hotel variety—from all-inclusive resorts to boutique properties to serene beach hotels surrounded by exuberant jungle—are the attractions."
*The 260-room Le Blanc Spa Resort, which debuted in September 2005, reopened in Dec and features 10,760 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including an 8,000-sf conference center.
* The 322-room Barcelo Tucancun reopened in Apr with four recently remodeled restaurants that can be used for meetings.
* The Sheraton Cancun Resort & Towers, will be the site of the future Westin Lagunuamar. Phase I, which comprises 66 villas, is expected to open in 2007.
*Opening in Apr, the 397-room Fairmont Mayakoba expects to accommodate groups with 40,000-sf of indoor and outdoor function areas, including two ballrooms and seven conference rooms. The Mayakoba is part of a master-planned luxury development, which will also include Laguna Kai Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, La Casa Que Canta, Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, and Viceroy Riviera Maya Resort & Residences. The new 18-hole, par-72 golf course at the Mayakoba, designed by Greg Norman, will host the 2007 PGA Tour.
* Two new hotels added to the Barcelo Maya compound—the Maya Tropical Beach and Maya Colonial Beach with 476 rooms each—share three meeting rooms for up to 900 attendees.
* In Feb, the $40-million, 350-suite El Cid Riviera Maya, debuted in Puerto Morelos as an all-inclusive with a 200-seat theater.
*The Villa Mercedes was reflagged in Nov as a 127-room InterContinental property with 9,798 sf of function space, including a ballroom for 450 and an exhibit area totaling 4,755-sf. The recovered beach area is expected to be shorter, but wider by about 70 feet.
Groups Should Consider these recommendations from Successful Meetings’ Home Team* experts. Top choices include the 365-room Ritz-Carlton Cancun, the 401-room Fairmont Mayakoba, the 602-room Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach, the 71-room Secrets Capri, the 440-room Secrets Excellence, the 448-room JW Marriott, the 769-room Grand Occidental Xcaret. For activities, try the Tulum Mayan ruins or Xcaret park.
One Home Team member has this to say: "Cancun is coming back stronger than ever. They are committed to rebuilding everything to a higher level. We are looking forward to seeing great things come from this destination in the coming months and over the next year. With all the new upscale brand-name stores, restaurants, and activities, the well-traveled executive crowd is embracing Cancun as a win-win for their companies and clientele."
Recommended for Dining
The restaurants below have group facilities and were selected from the OpenTable reservations database (www.opentable.com) of Cancun: La Parrilla (Mexican) and Ruth’s Chris Steak House (steak house).
Our subscribers gave Pinnacle Awards to the following:
Mexico Tourism Board
CasaMagna Marriott Cancun
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On Site: Yucatan
For those seeking high adventure in the low jun-gles of the Yucatan, the answer is Alltournative, an award-winning eco-tourism outfit. Perhaps it was the lure of venturing off the beaten path or the chance to interact with an isolated Maya community. Whatever it was, I was ready at eight in the morning for the pickup.
An hour later, our group was at the gates of Coba, a Maya ruin set deep inside a tropical forest. The high point was scrambling up a 12-story-high temple and getting a look at the site from above the trees. Afterwards, we biked around the ruin for a while before returning to the van, which took us to the hidden Maya community. Kayaks were waiting on the lagoon for a turn on the water before lunch. Grilled chicken, rice, beans, and hand-patted tortillas—cooked by the local women—made up our repast and we fell upon it hungrily.
Sated and energized by the meal, we walked to a cenote (sinkhole)—a mystic place for the Maya—for the first of the afternoon activities. Descending a small ladder into its cave- like opening, we came to a river of transparent blue waters. It was time for a swim.
Later, heading for a zip line, we met up with the village shaman who initiated us into a Maya purification ceremony. My first view of the zipline was stomach churning, as I was afraid of heights, but soothed by the village elders who had dealt with fears like this before, I finally leapt from the cliff and soared into space. It was pure exhilaration. Later this same cliff was used for rappelling, the perfect ending to a perfect day.