Even amid travel advisories and the ongoing border wall controversy, Mexico’s most popular tourism region, comprising Cancun, Cozumel and Riviera Maya, continues to thrive. Lori Gold, a travel designer with Toronto-based Twil Travel and full-time Playa resident, tells us that, “Everything has expanded here, from [Costa Mujeres to] Playa del Carmen to Akumal, Tulum and Mahahual. There are still places people haven’t touched yet. In the meantime, restaurants are full, hotels are full. Tourism is strong.”
“No matter what was happening in the media over the past year, it never truly hurt my [Mexico] business,” says Donna Alkarmi, president of Lone Star Travel. She adds that, “If you want an ocean-view room, you can’t beat the pricing and the views” in Cancun, which, she also notes, has “the best beaches.”
Cancun continues to expand on multiple fronts to keep up with client demand, says Cancun Tourism Board Director and CEO Lizzie Cole, who spoke to Travel Agent about some noteworthy trends.
“We’re seeing something new with hotels downtown,” says Cole. “A lot of them have been open less than three or four years; many appeal to business or budget travelers. But an increasing number of leisure travelers are staying downtown for a few days to do all their touring. They’re going to use the hotel just to sleep in, so why pay for the all-inclusive amenities? They’ll move to the all-inclusives after they’ve done all the archaeological sites and other destinations.”
Another option growing in popularity, says Cole, is a cooking school excursion for small groups.
“Mexico Lindo cooking school close to Puerto Morelos, south of Cancun is one very good choice. The Ritz-Carlton [Cancun] also has a great school. You can call and make a reservation. They have an amazing chef and culinary center. They take you on a journey to discover ingredients and really experience the flavors of Mexico,” says Cole.
Cole also touts Isla Holbox, on the northern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, as “one of the hidden treasures of our area. Agents should know that there are new hotels there, such as Villas HM Palapas del Mar,” she tells us. The 52-room property includes junior suite-level accommodations with private pools. And, its sushi bar terrace is an island hangout.
“The island is small and it’s a very fragile environment. There are no paved roads. You have to use golf carts or bikes to get around. It’s a great option for visitors to Cancun,” says Cole. “If possible, stay one night there. The kids will love it, especially during whale shark or turtle seasons. What is lesser known is that Holbox has some incredible bioluminescent beaches. You can see them at night in the summer and in January. It is a wonderful experience.”
With nearly half of Millennials surveyed in MMGY Global’s 2017-18 Portrait of American Travelers citing “adults only” as an influential factor when selecting a hotel or resort, it’s worth noting that yet another such property is under construction in the region.
Spain-based resort company Hipotels has announced that its first North American hotel, Haven Resorts Cancun, is set to open in September, approximately nine miles south of Cancun International Airport. Once complete, Haven Resorts Cancun will offer guests 333 rooms, some of which will have direct pool access. There will also be a 24-hour concierge, a spa, five restaurants, two snack bars and nine bars, two of which will be swim-up.
The adults-only resort will offer many different suite accommodations, each with amenities such as complimentary Wi-Fi, personalized drink menus, champagne breakfast, private terraces, spa treatments and more. Dining experiences are set to range from casual Mexican fare in the all-day eatery, Flavours at Haven, to a “multi-sensory” Asian Fusion experience at Satsu. Smaller bites will be available at the Vistas Snack Bar, just steps away from the resort’s pool.
Haven Resorts Cancun will also offer venues and planning services for weddings, including a luxury Bridal Spa Suite.
The remodeled Playacar Palace has 201 rooms. Shown here is a Deluxe Resort View room.
Farther south, in the Riviera Maya town of Playa del Carmen, Palace Resorts has reopened Playacar Palace following a $14 million remodel. The transformation included upgrades to guestrooms, lobby, front desk, restaurants and lounge areas.
Each of the all-inclusive resort’s 201 rooms has a new décor with modern furnishings, enhanced showers and vanity areas, and new jets added to the in-room double whirlpool tubs. The property’s existing “Walk Out” suites now have a private terrace. Suite access is now available via wristbands, allowing guests to open the door to their rooms with a wave of the hand. Guests can also use the Palace Resorts app to unlock their rooms via their mobile phones.
Playacar Palace has also updated Café del Mar and there’s new cold-show cooking where guests can watch food being plated. In addition, the Italian restaurant formerly known as Terraza has reopened as Bocelli, with a new style and a new menu with dishes such as Controfilleto e Formaggio, Ribeye con Grani di Pepe and the Petit Filet. The third restaurant, Momo, also has a new menu with items such as Maki sushi, Nigiri, Special Sushi Cakes, Temaki and more. Palace Resorts has also announced an exclusive partnership with Certified Angus Beef, making the brand the first all-inclusive resort chain in Cancun to serve only Certified Angus Beef brand product.
In other culinary news in Playa del Carmen, Royal Hideaway Playacar, a Barceló Hotel Group property, has introduced Alejandro Sanchez as its new gastronomic director. The Andalusian superstar chef’s eponymous restaurant in Roquetas de Mar, Almería, holds a Michelin star.
The chef’s arrival will gradually shake things up at the luxury resort’s five specialty restaurants. Menus at the Royal Club Theater will change once each week to complement thematic shows, and the “Chef’s Table” offers the opportunity to interact with the charismatic Sanchez up close. The adults-only Royal Hideaway Playacar is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World.
Ibersostar has introduced Fit & Fun, a new program offering a wide range of activities for guests in the gym, in the pool, on the beach or in nature. Spinning, yoga, cardio abs, kick boxing Pilates, Zumba, TRX training and more are available at the Paraiso Complex and Iberostar Tucán y Quetzal in Riviera Maya (as well as at the Bavaro Complex in Dominican Republic, and Rose Hall Complex in Jamaica). In addition, kids stay free with a minimum three-night booking at Iberostar hotels in Mexico from May 1 to October 31.
Looking further ahead and still farther south, Dream Hotel Group will make its first venture into Mexico with a Tulum property. Called Unscripted Tulum, early details reveal that the 97-room boutique property will have two pools, an al fresco dining concept, a spa and wellness center, a lounge for meditation and yoga, and three different rooftop areas. It is set to open in 2020.