Vibrant, multi-hued, evocative—it's the perfect meeting backdrop
Mexico bursts with color—in its cuisine, clothing, handicrafts and landscapes.It’s no wonder that this vibrant, diverse culture is one of the world’s leaders in hosting meetings and conventions. With 12 million sq. ft. Of event space, nearly 500,000 hotel rooms, 57 international airports and huge tax savings to offer, the Mexican meetings and conventions industry generates some $18 billion per year. Visitors can choose from action-packed, glorious beach resort towns, incredibly verdant mountain villages, quiet colonial medium-size cities and large metropolises with every sophisticated touch imaginable. Wherever the venue, it will offer classic Mexican hospitality, superb cuisines and myriad pre- and post-meeting activity options for attendees.
A big plus is the financial benefit: In addition to lower prices, planners save money through the 0% Value Added Tax (VAT) and other tax breaks.Exemption from the VAT—a sales tax applied to meetings, exhibitions and conventions organized in Mexico by foreign companies—also eliminates the 16% tax on lodging, airport and transfers nationwide.Also tax free are related event services, such as setup, registration, masters of ceremonies, translators, hosts, A/V equipment, decorations, security, cleaning and food and beverages supplied by the hotel or the convention center as part of the event. Conventions, seminars and meetings held in Mexico are fully deductible for U.S. federal income tax purposes.
Mexico is a choice for many top-level governmental, association and corporate functions. This past spring, Merida hosted the tourism-focused T20 forum, with ministers of tourism from all over the world as attendees, and the G20 Leaders Summit was held in Los Cabos in June.
Raymond James & Associates, a financial services company, held its annual conference in April at the Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort. “The response from the 380-some attendees was extremely positive,” says Carrie Mayer, CMP. “They indicated on survey results that this was the best trip they’d been on. The responses were different than for past locations as the majority expressed the desire to return.In most years, they note how great of a time they had but don’t request to return the next year.”
Mexico inspires that kind of enthusiasm, so follow its brilliant, welcoming colors to the meeting destination that calls to you.
Cancun & Riviera Maya
Dreams Resort Cancun seaside dinner
Other than its glorious coastline with warm Caribbean turquoise water and sugar-white sand, Cancun is almost unrecognizable from its infancy 42 years ago. Today, Cancun, along with Riviera Maya to the south, is Mexico’s No. 1 tourism destination, each year drawing more than 3 million visitors to its luxurious hotels and resorts.
Attendees have their pick of aquatic activities, unsurpassed nightlife, Mayan archaeological zones and world-class gastronomy, as well as renowned golf courses, upscale shopping and Five-Star spas.
Mexico’s leader in international meetings, with more than 27,000 hotel rooms and 23 hotels that specialize in groups and events, Cancun has hosted many international congresses, such as the 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: COP 16 and the Kyoto Protocol CMP 6. The Cancun Center is the largest convention and exhibition center with 154,000 sq. ft., located in the heart of the hotel zone.
At the end of 2012, a new hotel is slated to be opened by the Costa Maya Group. Alma Lopez, the group’s director of sales, says the property will be the first in the hotel zone specifically designed for businesspeople. “It was conceived as an extension of the convention center with the idea of participating in the congresses, conventions and business meetings that are part of the center,” she says.
Just outside Cancun, the immense Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort has 2,457 guest rooms and 120,000 sq. ft. Of space. Some Palace hotels are being converted to the company’s new Hard Rock All-Inclusive brand, including Cancun Palace.
South of Cancun along the state of Quintana Roo’s coast, facing the Caribbean, is the well planned resort area of Riviera Maya, also a superb meeting destination with 213,254 sq. ft. Of event space. In May, the inaugural Regional Summit of the World Travel & Tourism Council convened here at the Grand Velas Resort.
This archaeologically and ecologically rich zone extends from Puerto Morelos to Punta Allen and includes Playa del Carmen. It’s the location of the visually arresting, historically inspiring seaside Mayan ruins at Tulum. Visitors to Riviera Maya can choose from a variety of excursions such as scuba diving beside coral reefs, snorkeling in majestic subterranean rivers called cenotes, and exploring all of the Yucatan’s Mayan ruins, including Coba, Uxmal and the recently named New Wonder of the World, Chichen Itza.
The adults-only El Dorado Royale, a Spa Resort is one of many luxury hotels in the region, with 644 rooms and 24,700 sq. ft. Of meeting space. With over 40 hotels designed to accommodate groups of all sizes, Riviera Maya is an unusually beautiful location for a range of events.
Hotel Melia Mexico Reforma meeting room
In a spectacular rocky setting, where the brightblue Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific and the stark Baja landscape, lie the twin cities of Los Cabos: Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, each with its own distinctive appeal. This southernmost tip of Baja California has become one of the most popular vacation and meeting spots in Mexico, with its world-class hotels and renowned deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, diving, whale watching and golf. Between the two towns lies the connecting road and primary hotel zone known as the Corridor.
The Melia Cabo Real, on the Corridor, accommodates events in an all-inclusive setting. It features 21,000 total sq. ft. Of meeting space, 350 rooms and a Robert Trent Jones Jr. Golf course.The 333-room Hola Grand Faro Los Cabos fronts the beach in San Jose del Cabo and offers 20,650 sq. ft. Of space, including a ballroom for up to 1,000 guests. Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort, with 375 rooms and 11,000-plus sq. ft., is another Corridor option.
Raymond James & Associates’ Mayer says, “Los Cabos was chosen as the destination for our top financial advisers’ incentive program because of its distinctive culture, warm climate and tropical beaches. Los Cabos stood out from the Caribbean locations we’ve booked in the past with its combination of beach and desert. The Hilton stood out as a first-class resort. The property is well planned and the staff exemplifies a true service-first attitude.”
Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso
Merida has rich history thanks to both the Spanish and the French, and it’s still influenced by a strong native Mayan presence. The downtown historic center is filled with ornately carved golden-tinged buildings from the city’s colonial past, and you’ll see Mayans in their wildly decorated traditional clothing all over Yucatan’s capital. Azure Caribbean beaches and fascinating archaeological sites are within easy reach. This modern, inviting city is one of Mexico’s charmers, and your attendees most likely will have not fallen captive to its appeal before.
Merida is a modern city that has hosted international events such as the 2009 International Physics Olympiad. In May, it hosted the ministers of the 20 nations attending the Regional Summit of the Worlds’ Travel and Tourism Council.
Merida’s Yucatan Convention Center, Siglo XXI (Century 21), has hosted numerous international events in its seven event halls and 225,000 sq. ft. As for first-class lodging, Fiesta Americana Merida Hotel offers 350 guest rooms, 15,000 sq. ft. Of meeting and function space and a gracious setting. “The Fiesta Americana’s ambience recalls the French influence in our city yet mixes it with contemporary Mexican touches, emanating luxury, comfort and personality,” says Maritza Paredes, sales director for the Posadas-owned resort. The Five-Star Hyatt Regency Merida has 289 guest rooms and suites and can accommodate events for up to 500 people.
Yucatan’s cultural center, Merida offers many quality art galleries and museums, including the Natural History Museum, the Yucatan Atheneum Museum of Contemporary Art and the Merida Theater, along with a diverse selection of restaurants and nightlife. Merida is an easy drive from major archaeological sites, including Chichen Itza,Uxmal and Mayapan, as well as Yucatan’s beautiful beaches and evocative cenotes.
Event setup at Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort
The country’s capital, Mexico City was founded more than five centuries ago. Today, it has nearly 9 million inhabitants and is one of the world’s largest metropolises, attracting millions of international visitors annually, many conventiongoers among them. Zona Rosa, a business and entertainment district, is one of the most popular areas, but Mexico City is also surprisingly lush.It contains one of the world’s most glorious city parks, Chapultepec, and has myriad offerings, from archaeological sites and extraordinary museums to modern art galleries, tiled colonial buildings, glass-and-steel skyscrapers, tony boutiques and vendors offering exquisite native handicrafts.You’ll find some of the finest dining in the world here, from uber-hip to rustic.
As the political, economic and business capital of Mexico, the city has several convention centers and hotels able to host major international events, such as the Fourth World Water Forum in 2006 at the Banamex Convention Center and the 2010 Global Business Summit for the Environment in Expo Bancomer Santa Fe.
With its elegant and architecturally beautiful neighborhoods and fascinating historic redbannered city center, or zocalo, Mexico City has more than 50,000 hotel rooms, 3,500 restaurants and 17 congress and convention centers, including the Melia Mexico Reforma, with 489 guest rooms and 26 meeting halls accommodating up to 2,700 guests. One of the city’s largest meeting facilities is the World Trade Center International Exhibition and Convention Center, with 226,042 sq. ft.Of space and 12 meeting rooms.
Guelaguetza in Oaxaca
Oaxaca sits in the southeastern part of the country, and is one of Mexico’s most biologically diverse states, rich in fascinating flora and fauna. Surrounded by mountains, Oaxaca has two nearby major Zapotec Indian archaeological sites, Mitla and Monte Alban, both more than 2,000 years old.The city’s international airport offers direct flights to Huatulco and Puerto Escondido on the southern coast of Oaxaca, good bets for post-tours from Oaxaca City.
Oaxaca is known for its culture, history, extraordinary local cuisine (tamales here are wrapped in dark green banana leaves, not corn husks) and talented local artists and artisans. Its capital, also called Oaxaca, is a bustling colonial city with a large expat community. Travel & Leisure dubbed it one of the world’s top destinations in 2010.
The city has a wide variety of boutique properties ideal for small meetings and events. Casa Oaxaca is one, with nine luxurious suites, an open-air pool, an art gallery and a terrace and patio perfect for events of up to 130 guests. Camino Real Oaxaca, nominated by Conde Nast Traveler in 2006 as one of the world’s best places to stay, is housed in a 16thcentury convent with lush courtyard gardens. Located in the city’s historic center, the Camino Real has 91 guest rooms, 20,000 sq. ft. Of meeting space and five restaurants and bars, plus four indoor and three outdoor event spaces, for a maximum capacity of 600 guests. Nearby, The Hacienda Los Laureles-Spa is a Five-Star, Four-Diamond hotel with 23 luxury suites set around exquisite gardens.Events space at Los Laureles can accommodate up to 600 guests.
Puebla is world-renowned for its unsurpassable contributions to Mexican cuisine, perhaps most notably for the beloved mole poblano, a thick brown sauce made of an intricate mix of chiles, nuts, seeds, chocolate, onions and many spices, served over chicken, pork or enchiladas. If visiting Puebla in late summer, don’t miss the delectable seasonable dish of chiles en nogada. Located southeast of Mexico City, Puebla is also the capital of the state with the same name and has been a strategic point of communication and commerce since its founding in 1531. The extraordinarily decorated Puebla offers visitors the benefits of a modern city with excellent infrastructure, hotels and universities together with five centuries of colonial history and culture. In 1987, Puebla’s historic center, filled with buildings covered in Talavera tile, was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Puebla has some of the best convention space in Mexico, beginning with the Puebla Convention Center in the heart of the historic center, featuring 35,000 sq. ft. Of event space, including an event hall accommodating up to 3,400 and 12 meeting rooms that accommodate 50–600. The University Cultural Complex has an auditorium with space for up to 3,494 delegates, flexible meeting halls and an outdoor esplanade that can accommodate 8,000–15,000.
Puebla has many hotels ideally suited for large groups, including the 153-room Camino Real Puebla Angelopolis. It offers 13,700 sq. ft. Across four meeting rooms that accommodate up to 300. The InterContinental Presidente Puebla has 166 guest rooms and 189,300 sq. ft. Of meeting space that can accommodate up to 600.
InterContinental Presidente Merida reception area
A sunny colonial town on the Pacific Coast of the state of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta is loved for its architecture, wide beaches and gorgeous halfcircle of Banderas Bay, all flanked by the verdant, looming Sierra Madres. Puerto Vallarta offers spectacular sunsets of yellow, orange, pink and purple, a primary attraction for the thriving artist colony here. The palm-lined boardwalk, or malecon, where many artists exhibit their work, was recently renovated and can be used for outdoor events.
The biodiversity in the bay and surrounding hills make Vallarta a great ecotourism destination, with bird-watching tours in the tropical forest, snorkeling and scuba diving excursions, and humpback whale-watching trips during the April migration. This very popular destination is well-kept, safe and clean and offers a plethora of luxury hotels, spas and championship golf courses.
It also has excellent infrastructure for hosting meetings and conventions, including the new Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center with 63,300 sq. ft. Of space, located just 15 minutes from the international airport. Already, it has played host to major events, including Tianguis 2012, the annual Mexican travel trade show that attracts thousands of tourism operators, agents and press from all over the world; the United Nations World Tourism Organization Parliamentary Forum; and the National Congress of Gastric Endoscopy.Among its 120 hotels offering a total of 18,000 guest rooms is The Westin Resort and Spa Puerto Vallarta, with 280 rooms, 16,000 sq. ft., 10 event halls and outdoor areas that accommodate up to 900 attendees.
Guest room, Holiday Inn Queretaro
In hilly, central Mexico, away from the usual tourist destinations, monument-filled Queretaro is a hub for business and new development and offers gorgeous colonial architecture and baroque sculpture along with renowned gastronomy, recreational and cultural venues and contemporary urban sophistication. This is also one of Mexico’s wine producing regions, where both purple and green grapes are made into a variety of still and sparkling wines. Among the options for pre- or post-meeting tours is the wine-and-cheese-tasting tourism route of Tequisquiapan.
Attendees love the variety here. Other experiential options include thermal baths, ecological reserves, waterfalls and the Franciscan Missions of Sierra Gorda. It may be hard to leave town, however; the historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and wandering its narrow streets or taking a guided walking tour are among Queretaro’s sublime treats.
Queretaro Convention Center covers more than 354,000 sq. ft. And can accommodate meetings of up to 9,000 attendees. The exhibition area has 96,014 sq. ft., and the 49,557-square-foot convention area holds 3,000 people. The state of Queretaro has 288 hotels providing 10,090 guest rooms, and many of the properties offer spacious and functional event rooms as well as garden and patio spaces. Also worth considering is the city’s collection of luxurious former haciendas and colonial mansions, which can accommodate small groups and events.
Main image: Quite scene at a lagoon in the Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo
Mexico: Safer Than You Think
On Feb. 8, 2012, the U.S. Department of State issued a new travel advisory report on Mexico (travel.state.gov/travel), broken down by state. “Providing U.S. citizens traveling to and living in Mexico with accurate information about the security situation there is a high priority for us,” the statement reads. Mexico is an enormous destination for U.S. travelers, 4.7 million of whom visited from January through October 2011. The report was compiled at the request of American business groups concerned about employee security.
Statistics show that out of 2,500 municipalities, only 80, fewer than 5%, have been affected by the drug war.Mexican cities are safer than some U.S. urban centers.Mexico City, for example, has 8.3 homicides a year per 100,000 people, fewer than Miami (14.1) and Chicago (16.1).
The report begins with this summary: “Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that transnational criminal organizations have targeted U.S. visitors and residents based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes.”
No matter the destination, use common sense.Don’t walk in the dark alone, keep flashy jewelry at home and don’t over-imbibe alcohol. Meeting-goers should also keep laptops and cell phones close to them in crowded convention centers and exhibit halls and use hotel safes.
–Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau: cancun.travel/en
–Los Cabos Convention and Visitors Bureau: visitloscabos.travel
–Merida Tourism: merida.gob.mx/turismo
–Mexico City Conference and Convention Bureau: mexicocity.gob.mx
–Mexico Tourism: visitmexico.com
–Puebla Tourism: turismopuebla.gob.mx
–Puerto Vallarta Convention and Visitors Bureau: visitpuertovallarta.com
–Queretaro Conference and Convention Bureau: occ.queretaro.travel
–Riviera Maya Destination Marketing Office: rivieramaya.com