by Padraic Gilligan, Vice President, Ovation Global DMC
I Like Mexicans
In a previous post I stated that I’d never met a Neapolitan that I didn’t like. The same applies to Mexicans and probably for the same reasons. It’s their relentless humanity, their passionate joie de vivre, their cultivation of chaos. This week I’m back in Mexico, or, at least, I’m back in Cancun as some people might protest that this place is as typically Mexican as Disneyland Paris is French.
Cancun and The Meetings Industry
Mexico in general and Cancun in particular have always enjoyed a strong relationship with the meetings industry at large. For this reason I’ve been here many times as every industry association to which I belong has held a Board Meeting and/or an Annual Conference here in the past 10 years. And for good reasons too. Firstly it’s a sun, sand and sea destination, surrounded on all sides by history, heritage and culture. So, technically speaking, you could swim up to the pool bar, order a Mojito and make small talk with your bar tender about ancient Mayan culture. The meetings and events infrastructure in the wider Riviera Maya has enjoyed astonishing growth and now comprises some 75,000 hotel rooms, over 50% of which have been created within that 10 year time frame. Air lift into Cancun International is excellent from key source markets in North America and Europe and transfer distances from airport to hotel are short and efficient. Finally, factor into the mix the financial incentives offered by the Mexican government to corporations and associations who stage their meetings in the country – full VAT rebate of between 11% and 18% – and you can see why it’s a great place for meetings.
Cancun and Las Vegas
The hotel zone in Cancun is a bit like the strip in Las Vegas except there’s a continuous sandy beach, an aquamarine coloured ocean, no casinos and no Celine Dion or Donny and Marie show. With some exceptions, the hotels are “fully inclusive resorts” where your room rate includes all food and beverage, sometimes even Pringles. The resorts butt up against each other along a super-narrow, ribbon-like lagoon. In fairness, you couldn’t claim it was mold breaking as urban planning or pretty in terms of aesthetics. Inside however, is another story with the more recent developments decidedly “design-led” much like Red Rock Resort and the entire City Center development are in Vegas.
Secrets in Cancun
I was privileged to enjoy a short pre-event stay at Secrets The Vine Resort, under the management of AMResorts, sister company of Amstar, Ovation’s strategic partner in Mexico and the Carribean. It’s the most recent new hotel opening in Cancun and the fifth Secrets for AM Resorts. Designed by Mahattan based Rockwell Group, who also did The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, W Paris and the spanking new JetBlue terminal at Kennedy airport, Secrets is confidently contemporary with lots of glass, stone and wood. The stunning lobby with its huge fireplace and clusters of intimate seating welcomes you “home” to a strangely familiar place, at once excitingly exotic and reassuringly known. The check-in area and the concierge desks are set to the side, not intruding on your sense of arrival. Soon your gaze is drawn outwards to the water.
My sense of homecoming was greatly enhanced by the warm smiles and heartfelt greetings of Maru Suarez, property based Director of Sales for Secrets The Vine. Knowing I was coming off a long flight she arranged for a speedy dispatch through check-in formalities and soon I was luxuriating in the beautifully pleasing spaces of my room on the 22nd floor. There I was captivated by Gregory Colbert’s short movie “Ashes and Snow” which is the default presentation on the in-room entertainment system at all AM resort properties.
Next morning, following a veritable cornucopia-style breakfast buffet, Maru arranged for her colleague Ana Rueda to take me around the property and to highlight, in particular, the facilities available for meetings and incentives groups. While predominantly a property for honeymoners, adult couples and small groups of friends, Secrets does have an impressive suite of meeting rooms including a ballroom that seats 550 on rounds of 10. Design-wise this room is magnificent with a dark wood art installation making up one entire wall and natural daylight streaming in from the West facing elevation. As you might imagine the latest LED technology has been incorporated into the design in a seamless, unobtrusive way. My MCI colleague, Guy Bigwood, will be relieved to hear the Secrets will shortly be certified by the Rain Forest Alliance for its sustainability practices.
In Vino Veritas
The underlying theme at Secrets draws on viticulture – hence the resort is called Secrets The Vine (and NOT Secrets Divine as an Irish person, incapable of pronouncing the “th” might say it!). This theme is expressed by the Art Work imbedded in the glazing on the front elevation and also by the central position in the lobby of the Wine Cellar which stocks 4500 bottles at the correct temperature. Leonardo, the F&B Manager, showed me around and recommended that I try Mexican Wine – his own favourite is a full bodied Vino Piedra produced by the Casa da Adobe. The wine theme continues to the Spa where one of the premium products is the d’vine range which are formed from wine and grape seed extracts. There is even an amazing wine based therapy.
[FURTHER EDITING AND PICTURES TO FOLLOW]
Padraic Gilligan is in Cancun as a sponsor of the Incentive Research Foundation’s annual invitational.