How Cancun Replaced Spring Breakers With Families

As the annual Cancun Travel Mart Mexico Summit sets to kick off on October 12, agents and operators get set to do business in one of the best luxury, family destinations in all of Mexico.

That's right, Cancun is now both glamorous and family-friendly, a far cry from the once MTV-inspired party destination that it once was from the late '80s to 2005. The former mecca for drunken, college debauchery is now - and has been for the last six years - a haven for families and multigenerational travel, replacing the days of wet T-shirt contests with family picnics and wine-pairing dinners.

My first trip to Cancun was as a 20-year-old Spring Breaker in 2000 and my second trip was the following year. For those two trips, I was admittedly among the rowdy crowd of North Americans who pounded Coronas all afternoon, inhaled Jell-O shots by night and slept through all hours of the morning.

But every time I have gone back since, I have seen less and less evidence of this era. A hurricane in 1988 was responsible for the birth of the Spring Break phenomenon in Cancun and it was a hurricane in 2005 that washed it away.

It was Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 that devastated all of the hotels in Cancun and, in turn, scared away every possible market except one, the Spring Break travelers. In many ways, the wave of spoiled college kids who crashed the destination, actually saved it and put in the forefront of Mexico tourism. But as time went on, this same clientele was responsible for driving all other markets away.

That was of course until Hurricane Wilma again swept away most of Cancun’s hotel product in 2005. But this time, instead of simply rebuilding, the hotels stepped it up a notch and upgraded as well. Now, with most hotels leaning toward the luxury side of the market (at least 80 percent of all Cancun hotels are now five-star in rating), the hotels were shutting out most of the Spring Break clients.

Whereas agents were booking packages for about $350-$400 for Spring Break clients, they were soon booking packages of at least $1,200 for families looking for a luxury experience.

Travel Agent is encouraging all agents to keep this destination in mind when booking family vacations this holiday season with hopes of keeping the Spring Break era dormid and the luxury, family market vibrant.