Over the past 20 years all-inclusive resorts in Mexico have evolved to emphasize fine dining and eco-friendly options. Travel Agent spoke with John Long, vice president of sales and marketing at Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary of operations in Mexico, on how the all-inclusive market has changed over the past two decades.
“When I started with the company about 21 years ago, all-inclusive meant an all-you-can-eat buffet and a couple of restaurants where you changed the tablecloth at night and called it a la carte dining,” Long said. “That’s evolved to fine dining and specialty restaurants throughout.”
Even traditional buffets will often incorporate entertaining elements such as show cooking. “It’s all you can eat, but gourmet all you can eat,” Long said.
Looking ahead, Long said he expects this focus to continue, as resorts expand and continue to roll out more amenities for family travel.
“We’re going to be unveiling a whole new kids’ club concept called Star Camps,” Long said. The new program will be broken down into different age groups and offer more engagement with resort counselors.
Butler service for families, along with an increased focus on fitness, are other areas Long sees as developing in the future, along with a focus on sustainability. Iberostar, like many other hotel groups in Mexico, is working to eliminate all plastics throughout its resorts in an effort to help protect the world’s oceans. The company has already eliminated plastic straws, and other items, such as plastic water bottles, will also be replaced with sustainable alternatives.
When asked about the recent security concerns in Cancun and other destinations in Mexico, Long said that the company has taken steps to install more cameras throughout its properties.
“We at Iberostar take security very seriously,” Long said. “I can’t say we’re guaranteeing 100 percent security because nobody can really do that, but we’re making them as safe as possible.”
And while Mexico has also been in the headlines recently due to the Trump administration’s harsh stance on immigration, Long says he doesn’t see this as having an impact on travel to the destination.
“As far as the administration and its relationship with Mexico, that’s just ongoing,” Long said. “I don’t foresee anybody’s going to boycott Mexico – it has the best beaches in the world and strong ties to Latin communities throughout the U.S.”
Long also noted that most travelers to Mexico have already been there two to three times. “They’re going to go back because they love the people,” Long said. “It’s always going to be the number one international destination for Americans to go to.”
New Hotel, Travel Agent Updates
Iberostar opened its first hotels in Mexico in 1997, in Playa del Carmen: the Iberostar Tucan and the Iberostar Quetzal. The brand later expanded with the opening of the Iberostar Cozumel in 1999, and, in 2001, it began construction on the Iberostar Playa Paraiso Golf and Spa Resort project. For another 10 years Iberostar would continue to add to that complex, beginning with the Iberostar Paraiso Beach and the Iberostar Paraiso del Mar, and later the Iberostar Paraiso Lindo in 2003. The company also opened the Iberostar Paraiso Maya in 2005 and the Iberostar Grand Paraiso in 2007.
Looking ahead, Iberostar plans to expand its presence in Puerto Vallarta with its second resort in that area, which Long describes as a more upscale all-inclusive property. The company is also opening a new adults-only tower in Iberostar Cancun with its highest Star Prestige level of service. With 156 rooms, all oceanfront, as well as its own restaurants and bars, the new tower will open the first week of November.
Finally, Long said that Iberostar has started promoting its new Star Agent loyalty program at tradeshows throughout the United States. The program allows agents who register to get bonus points that they can spend on future stays. One unique feature, Long says, is that points redeemed for free stays can also be combined with discounted agent rates on other room nights. Iberostar will be running several bonus points promotions throughout the next few months to focus on specific resorts.
“The last 20 years have been a tremendous success for Iberostar in Mexico, and that’s something we never could have done without the support of the travel agent community,” Long said. “We’re going to continue to support them, and we ask for their support as well because without them we won’t be successful. They’re our best salespeople.”