by Michael J. Shapiro | May 15, 2019

Incentive groups have countless reasons to head south of the border, as Mexico is a wonderfully diverse destination with an enormous range of experiences to share. For much of the U.S. populace, the country might be most closely associated with beach resorts -- and on that it delivers. From the dramatic desert landscape and luxury accommodations of Los Cabos on the West Coast Baja California Peninsula, to the soft white sand and turquoise Caribbean waters of Cancun -- and all down the raggedly contoured coasts on both sides - the country offers a beach experience for everyone.

Event planners should note, as well, the wealth of opportunities between the oceans. The hip Colonial style to be found in Guadalajara and the cosmopolitan culture and food of Mexico City, for instance, only begin to scratch the surface of what the country has to offer

Even with the recent change in the presidential administration and some uncertainty concerning how the tourism sector will be marketed, infrastructure continues to grow. Tourism Secretary Miguel Torruco Marqus anticipates visitors will spend about US$23.2 billion in Mexico this year, a 4 percent increase over 2018. Nearly 23,000 new hotel rooms are expected to open over the next five years, according to STR -- a lot of which will be in the upper-upscale and luxury categories, in destinations such as Mexico City, Los Cabos, Riviera Nayarit, and Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

For incentive resort experiences, Los Cabos offers an amazing array of luxury options in a relatively small area on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula and mostly along the coast of the ecologically diverse Sea of Cortez. Properties like the 304-room Grand Velas Los Cabos, which opened at the end of 2016, demonstrate just how luxurious all-inclusive resorts can be.

A 3-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio means answers or assistance are never far away; neither is memorable food and drink, as the property has seven truly gourmet restaurants on-site. Among the options is Michelin-starred chef Sidney Schutte's Cocina de Autor, which offers an exquisite tasting menu for dinner that's included in the room package.

Every guest room is at Grand Velas Los Cabos includes:

  • An expansive ocean-view suite
  • A minimum of 1,180 square feet of space
  • A private terrace
  • Some have a private plunge pool on the terrace


For healthy-living VIPs, half a dozen duplex wellness suites come with the services of a personal wellness concierge, as well as a wide variety of fitness amenities and healthy food and beverages -- like a fresh-juice bar -- all within the suite.

An unprecedented amount of luxury development is happening in Los Cabos, to boot. Nearly 3,400 high-end hotel rooms are expected to open over the next few years.

Los Cabos Properties Opening Soon

Among the resorts that debuted over the past year is the impressive 128-room Solaz, a Luxury Collection Resort, defined by angular, soaring modern buildings and edgy contemporary Mexican artwork.

Cancun Beckons Incentive Groups

Now open: Renaissance Cancun Resort & Marina
New and improved resort options are likewise appearing at a rapid clip in Cancun, on Mexico's Caribbean coast. The country's first Renaissance hotel was unveiled recently in the Puerto Cancun development, adjacent to a Tom Weiskopf-designed golf course, an array of movie theaters and plenty of shopping options. The 180-room Renaissance Cancun Resort & Marina features Mayan-influenced contemporary artwork throughout. It is also home to the new Cancn outpost of the popular Mexico City restaurant Merotoro, noted chef Jair Tellez's creative take on Baja California cuisine. There's locally inspired food here, as well, in the form of the Mayan-influenced menu at Kajal Restaurant.  

The 447-room JW Marriott Cancun recently wrapped up a US$40 million renovation of all of its guest rooms and debuted an exclusive club lounge on the 14th floor. The 4,000-square-foot Presidential Suite is a highlight of the upgrade, with:

  • Floor-to-ceiling windows
  • Full kitchen
  • Dining area
  • Luxurious oak detailing
  • Ceramic work

A sample tasting from the new "150 Margaritas" menu in the lobby bar is an activity in itself.

The JW Marriott is particularly well-suited for larger groups; its adjacent sister property, the 450-room Marriott Cancun Resort, invested approximately US$25 million in an extensive upgrade just last year. Together, the properties are known as the Marriott Cancun Collection, and they can accommodate events for as many as 2,000 people.

New on the scene: Haven Riviera Cancún in Puerto Morelos
Just south of Cancun, in Puerto Morelos, is the recently opened Haven Riviera Cancun joined Preferred Hotels & Resorts. The all-inclusive adults-only property offers:

* A glamorous setting with half a dozen restaurants and nine bars
* A 15,700-square-foot, full-service spa
* All 333 guest rooms have spectacular ocean views
* 88 rooms are swim-out suites with wide terraces

Puerto Morelos is conveniently located just south of the airport and in close proximity to Playa del Carmen and the ferry to Isla Mujeres.

Riviera Nayarit an Ideal Incentive Destination

Auberge's Susurros del Corazón is a 59-suite luxury boutique property, on 33 acres of beachfront in Punta de Mita.
Back on the Pacific Coast, there's a stretch of beautiful beach towns just north of Puerto Vallarta where the jungle meets the sea. The Riviera Nayarit, as this area has been dubbed, features large all-inclusive-resort-laden communities (such as Nuevo Vallarta), as well as bohemian surfer villages (see Sayulita) and a good variety of colorful destinations falling somewhere in-between.

Punta de Mita is home to a number of luxury resorts, the 120-room St. Regis Punta Mita Resort and 173-room Four Seasons Punta Mita among them - and it will soon welcome another. Auberge Resorts recently began construction on its third property in Mexico, a 59-suite and 30-residency luxury boutique property called Susurros del Corazón, on 33 acres of beachfront in Punta de Mita

The eco-conscious resort (whose name is translated as "whispers of the heart") is slated to open in March 2021, complete with:

  • A full-service spa
  • Four F&B outlets
  • A fitness center
  • A yoga studio
  • Three cascading pools leading to the ocean
  • A large outdoor patio
  • An event lawn

 

Guadalajara Gaining for Groups

The country's second-largest city is due east of Puerto Vallarta, easily accessible from the Pacific Coast by a 50-minute flight from the Puerto Vallarta Airport or a 4- to 4.5-hour drive from most locations in Riviera Nayarit. Guadalajara has a mix of traditional Mexico and contemporary design, where mariachis and vintage Colonial architecture serve as a backdrop for trendy startup tech companies and hip boutique hotels.

That sensibility is on full display in Tlaquepaque, a town in Guadalajara's extended metropolitan area that is home to traditional artisans who sell their wares in boutique shops. The Juana Bautista Hotel Boutique recently opened its doors amidst these shops, a seven-room luxury property in a lovingly restored Colonial landmark building. It was in this very building in 1821, in fact, that General Celestino Negrete signed a plan to ratify Mexican independence. Each of the rooms in Juana Bautista is named for a famous Mariachi song; "Nube Viajera" is a particular gem, a two-level suite with a spiral staircase leading up to a loft-style bedroom and out onto a spacious rooftop patio, with a jacuzzi and stunning views of downtown Tlaquepaque.

Juana Bautista was designed to accommodate buyouts easily; each suite opens into a central area with a small bar and a pool. A wraparound balcony on the hotel level overlooks an expansive caf below, likewise available for events.

Back in Guadalajara proper, in a new multi-use development called Midtown Jalisco, the recently opened Hilton Guadalajara Midtown offers a full slate of modern comforts. The 225-room property sits alongside a new shopping mall with a multiplex movie theater, and provides a rooftop pool and lounge with views of the city, as well as a chic executive lounge for guests in executive rooms and suites.

The 348-room Hard Rock Hotel Guadalajara is now open, as well, featuring a rooftop lounge, an infinity pool, a Rock Spa and all the rock 'n' roll touches the brand is known for.