Mexico is the world’s fastest-growing tourism destination, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The latest World Tourism Barometer ranked Mexico as the eighth most-visited country in 2016, up from the 15th position in 2013.
Those numbers reflect a growth rate that’s twice the global industry average. And 2017 promises to come in even stronger: international direct flights to Mexico have added two million more seats to Mexico in the past year.
Tourism officials have a goal of 50 million visitors (up from 35 million in 2016) by 2021. Playa del Carmen alone welcomes about 4.5 million visitors yearly. The destination is adding to its list of attractions for those visitors.
Among them: the new Frida Kahlo Riviera Maya Museum. It opened at the end of July, on the 110th anniversary of Kahlo’s birth. While the museum at present does not have original paintings. It does display original photos and authorized reproductions in an interactive format. Multimedia exhibits, immersive sensory experiences and even holograms bring visitors into Kahlo’s world.
For clients with an interest in gaming, Playa del Carmen is also opening its first casino. Located at the former Tequila Barrel on Fifth Avenue, the new four-story casino is set to open this December.
Midway between Playa del Carmen and Cancun is the town of Puerto Morelos. It’s an option for those not necessarily interested in the busy shopping streets and nightlife of its neighbors.
Grand Residences by Royal Resorts Master Suite
Travel Agent spoke recently with Daniela Trava, onsite manager of Grand Residences by Royal Resorts in Puerto Morelos.
“Cancun has grown so much in the last 40 years. Playa del Carmen has grown a lot in the past 20 years. Because of that, sometimes people look past us in Puerto Morelos. It’s an amazing little fishing village in the middle of these two massive destinations. We still have the charm of a small town and a lot of our guests are looking for that. We offer a beautiful, secluded beach and only have three hotels here. It’s really a gem of the Riviera Maya,” Trava tells Travel Agent.
A member of Leading Hotels of the World, Grand Residences is composed of suites and villas up to four bedrooms in size. Some have private pools, Jacuzzis and barbecues. The Master Suite category has a full kitchen with Wolf and Subzero appliances, a laundry room, wine fridge and dining for up to eight people.
Guests can choose EP or all-inclusive options. There’s a gourmet market on site to buy groceries, and a chef is available to prepare meals en suite.
“We cater to all types of guests in the luxury market who like service, amenities and attention. We aren’t a spring break-type of party hotel. Families love features such as our private pools. You just open the sliding door from your living room. This summer, we’ve had lots of families coming to celebrate graduations,” says Trava.
Grand Residences is also popular in the destination wedding arena.
“We can do weddings of up to 150 people. We have a big Indian wedding in December, which is three days of parties. For 2017, we’re aiming for 50 weddings, or one per week,” Trava says.
Before the wedding comes the engagement, which has become a special occasion event in and of itself. Call it an engagement-moon or get-engaged getaway, it’s a thing.
Mahekal Beach Resort infinity pool
On track with the trend is Mahekal Beach Resort’s “Amor Aficionado” program.
Concepts include a “Marry Me” margarita garnished with a diamond, a “Take the Plunge” underwater diving proposal, and a private beachside dinner.
The Playa del Carmen resort (Mahekal is Mayan for “magical”) has palapa-style bungalows surrounded by jungle and walkways leading to the beach. Resort amenities include four swimming pools, a seaside hot tub, a new Mayan-inspired spa and fitness center, three completely renovated restaurants and four bars.
Newly-added is the Mayan Culinary Casita. Located in a jungle alcove and staffed by Mayan chefs, guests help prepare an authentic meal.
Diving is another long-standing tradition in the area. The oldest existing dive center in Playa del Carmen is located at Mahekal. In addition to diving and snorkeling to Mesoamerican Reef and nearby cenotes, guests can also try kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding.
Mahekal’s Aventura section is a resort within a resort. It’s available for exclusive buy-outs and wedding groups. Bungalows in Aventura are clustered together in a prime location near Las Olas restaurant and bar and the property’s infinity pool.
“Mahekal Beach Resort has always been a hotspot for destination weddings. Couples are simply drawn to the tropical weather and carefree, bohemian ambiance of the resort,” resort manager, Urs Bacsa tells Travel Agent.
Indeed, the property is known for hosting celebrity weddings. Country superstar Jason Aldean celebrated his nuptials there last year.
“We pride ourselves on our top-of-the-line creative planning services to help guide dynamic duos through every step of the wedding process,” Bacsa says. "However, we also pride ourselves in staying on top of trends and we wanted to provide our guests with a truly extraordinary service before they even say, ‘I do.’ The rise in getaways specifically to get engaged spurred the idea for ‘Amor Aficionado.’ We want to alleviate any stress involved by offering couples everything they need to ensure a seamless affair that will not soon be forgotten."