Cancun: A resort haven on the Yucatan Peninsula ripe for events market

The glamorous resort of Cancun offers luxurious hotel, idyllic white sand beaches, and lively nightlife, reports Belinda Booker.

David Marks, managing partner of MM and Company DMC is waxing lyrical about the possibilities of Cancun as an event destination for UK groups. “Mexico has something mystical and exciting about it,” he notes. “It’s associated with sun, fun, and adventure, but it’s relatively undiscovered and untapped.  While Cancun and the Riviera Maya are well visited by the leisure market, it’s still quite unknown from a UK C&I perspective.”

With a flight time comparable with Miami (around ten hours) Marks thinks that Cancun can get overlooked in favour of its US cousin, but he says that the destination offers clear advantages for groups. “Apart from the great value one gets, the government tops it with a tax refund of 16% on all accommodation.  The process is undemanding to organise and can save a lot money.  Additionally the year-round amazing climate helps,” he points out.

Sofia Bentinck, director of global relocation firm Anchor, which has offices throughout Mexico, agrees that Cancun’s tropical climate is a big pull for the UK market. “It offers business people a complete retreat from everyday life,” she says.   “While the region provides warm weather all year round, the hurricane season runs from August to November, so the best time to visit is when the UK is typically at its gloomiest. For a teambuilding event, conference or a retreat, an escape to a beautiful and culturally rich beach resort with winter temperatures well into the mid-20s cannot be beaten.”

Chichén Itzá is a complex of Mayan ruins.

Chichén Itzá is a complex of Mayan ruins.

There is also plenty to do, adds Bentinck, with spectacular sites for diving and deep sea fishing, as well as opportunities for rib boating and jet skiing.  The region also offers several eco-parks ideal for snorkelling, swimming with dolphins or nature watching, plus the region’s natural limestone sink holes, known as cenotes, make for a unique and interesting option when it comes to taking a dip in the azure waters.

Other popular activities for groups include visiting the incredible Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, and the less-crowded archaeological site at Uxmal, around 90km south.  Further off the beaten track, visitors can watch for whale sharks in Holbox while soaking up rustic island life, or head to Rio Lagartos, a small working fishing village, famous for its flamingos.  Golf options are plentiful too, with around ten top-tier golf courses in and around Cancun and, for those seeking foodie experiences, the region offers an array of fine dining and authentic local cuisine, including traditional pork tacos known as cochinita pibil and ceviche, a cold seafood cocktail soaked in lime juice.

For conferences, Cancun’s appeal has been boosted significantly in recent years with the extensive renovation of its International Convention Centre, which now offers 14,200 sqm of flexible hall and exhibition space, hosting a wide range of global congresses each year.

On the accommodation front, there are more than 35,000 hotel rooms in Cancun alone, mainly at four and five-star level, while further down the coast the upscale beachside development of Mayakoba includes properties by Banyan Tree, Fairmont and Rosewood.

New hotel openings include the adult-only, all-inclusive Unico Hotel Riviera Maya just south of Cancun, with 448 guestrooms and a 1,078sqm ballroom, while new openings for late 2018 include the five-star, 529-suite Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres Resort located around 30 minutes south of Cancun. In Tulum, which is around a two-hour drive south, new boutique resort Awakenings will give guests the chance to stay in luxury eco treehouse cabins on the banks of the Nopalitos Lagoon.

David Marks, managing partner, MM and Company DMC

Meeting for 500: The Grand Velas Riviera Maya.  This luxurious resort offers 2,787sqm of meetings space including two grand salons.

Gala dinner for 250: The Hacienda La Esperanza is a breath-taking private home, with colonial mansion, large gardens, stables and majestic fountains. (No website available)

Incentive activity for 50: The underground Río Secreto is a protected nature reserve where you can safely explore the Yucatan Peninsula’s most awe-inspiring subterranean universe.

Alex Agertoft, proposal writer, Black Tomato

If you’re looking for spectacular white sand beaches, warm seas, ancient Mayan ruins and a great foodie culture, then look no further than Cancun and the Mayan Riviera. The region is very well set up for groups with a vast choice of all inclusive resort hotels, lots of activities on offer including every type of water sports you can think of and plenty of unusual venues for amazing events.

Alex Agertoft.

Tulum is ideal for smaller incentives as it’s less developed than Cancun, or try Isla Mujeres, a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun. Chichen Itza at sunset makes for an incredible setting for dinner.

 Michael Freedman, director of international sales Amstar
Cancun and the Maya Riviera is popular with the UK market, and Brits love the beaches, the diverse night life, interesting activities and friendly culture.

It’s also well priced and most top resorts and venues have multilingual staff, large function spaces and are typically experienced in hosting international events.

The new Terminal 4 at Cancun Airport opened last year. If there are any downsides, I’d say that flight times from the EU can be an issue, and there’s a perception of crime amongst travellers. In the summer, be aware that humidity levels can be high.

Laura Trundle, Fusion Conferences

Conference:  3rd DNA Replication/Repair Structures and Cancer Conference

 This four-day conference attracted 160 delegates from all over the world, and was one of a series of seven scientific based conferences we held in Cancun this spring, for those working at the forefront of physical, medical and life sciences.

Laura Trundle.

Laura Trundle.

There are many advantages to using Cancun as a destination – it’s accessible with a good volume of international flights, there are heaps of venues to choose from varying in budget and hotels offer a wide range of function space catering to almost any event size.

The climate and beaches are also very appealing. For this particular event, we used the Fiesta Americana Condesa which is a large resort-style all-inclusive property in the hotel zone, near the beach.  It offers 12 different conference rooms and 2,000sqm of meeting space.

During the four-day programme we ran morning and evening conference sessions with an extended afternoon breaks to allow guests to enjoy the climate and hotel amenities, as well as go on excursions off-site with delegates able to choose snorkelling sessions, or trips to Chichen Itza and Tulum.

As two-thirds of our delegates came from the US and Canada, Cancun’s accessibility was a key consideration for us, but I’d point out that the area is fairly saturated by leisure tourism so hotels perhaps aren’t as reliant on group business as other destinations. Rates are increasing year on year, but in some instances properties are reducing their flexibility and customer service levels.

Who to contact:
Email: Rocio Gonzalez
Cancun Convention Bureau