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by Leo Jakobson | August 11, 2016
If you want to bring a group to Cancun, you would be wise not to wait until the last minute to book it.

The Mexican resort city's popularity has been growing steadily in recent years, but 2015 marked a milestone, with the popular destination attracting a record 5 million visitors, up 200,000 from the previous year. And the hotel occupancy rate is 82 percent.

The white sand beaches, bright blue waters, and multitude of resorts are reason enough to attract planners and attendees to Cancun, but there's more to do than just stay on the slender "Zona Hotelera" strip separated from the city proper by Nichupte lagoon.

"There's the hotel zone, which is the touristy part, but you're seeing people go downtown, to the Mayan Riviera, and to places like Isla Mujeres more and more," says Kevin Edmunds, vice president of meeting and incentive sales for AIC Hotel Group, which owns the all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotel Cancun and Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya. "The Mayan Riviera has all the eco tours, the water sports, the catacombs and ruins, the wine tastings -- all of the different things you can do. And the level of restaurants and cuisine downtown has improved. Even in the all-inclusives, we are finding that people want to go out into the city."

Of course, there are plenty of new properties in Cancun, among them the 547-suite Hyatt Ziva Cancun (pictured), a family-friendly all-inclusive sister property to the adults-only Hyatt Zilara Cancun. Its offerings include 17 restaurants and bars, a spa, and 16,000 square feet of meeting and event space, as well as an on-site microbrewery and dolphin encounter.

The Thompson Playa del Carmen is divided into two parts, the 92-room downtown resort with a 30,000-square-foot rooftop "pool playground" and the 27-suite oceanfront Beach House two blocks away. There is a total of 28,000 square feet of meeting space at the two hotels, including part of the "pool playground." The 314-room Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort has more than 15,000 square feet of flexible event space, including 18 meeting rooms. The all-inclusive Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya has 434 luxury suites with Jacuzzis and 8,100 square feet of meeting space.