Report on the First Mexico Luxury Travel Expo

Luxury in Mexico is not news anymore; it is a reality that is gaining force with the widespread development of luxury resorts and attractions all throughout the country, said event organizers at the opening of the first Mexico Luxury Travel Expo, which took place at the Aventura Spa Palace in the Riviera Maya, October 5–6.  Aventura Spa Palace in the Riviera Maya, host hotel for the Luxury Travel Expo

After a successful first show, the Mexico Luxury Travel Expo will become an annual event, said John McMahon, group publisher for Questex Media Group, one of the event's sponsors. "It was a high quality turn out," he says. "We received a lot of requests but we ran a careful selection in order to be sure participants were agents selling upscale travel," as select agents were hosted. An international press corps comprising 60 journalists were also in attendance. The ratio of attendees was three participants to one exhibitor.

Mexico is one of the most appropriate places in the world to discuss high-end tourism products, especially in the Riviera Maya, which is the fastest-growing region in Latin America for luxury offerings, said Magdalena Carral, director general of the Mexico Tourism Board.

"Mexico stands alone as a provider of world-class tourism products, with top-notch Mexican hotel chains as well as multinational hotel companies such as the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons, together with luxury boutique hotels, members of the Small Luxury Hotels and Relais & Châteaux and luxury haciendas that include the Starwood Luxury Collection," Carral said.

Mexico has 142 golf courses, including the Camaleón in Mayakoba—the newest development in the Riviera Maya—which will host the PGA tournament in February, the first such event to be held in Mexico.

"The Riviera Maya is growing at a fast pace, and the trend now is towards luxury European Plan resorts," Dario Flota, manager of the Riviera Maya Tourism Board, told Travel Agent. "If a destination has a luxury flavor, even if there are choices in the mid-market, everybody will come to share the experience of being in a luxury destination."

Among the emerging trends highlighted at the expo's sessions was travelers' mandate to experience new and exciting things. "Travel agents are not disappearing; they are becoming consultants of life experiences," says Cathy Holler, director of destination sales at Virtuoso. "We are going into a new world; consumers are demanding it."

Quintana Roo Governor Felix Gonzalez announced the Riviera Maya would soon have an international airport to be located near Tulum, where an airstrip now exists. The dates of construction were not announced.

In other news, the Paraíso de la Bonita, an ultra-luxury boutique hotel in Puerto Morelos, 12 miles south of Cancún, has purchased two new 38-foot, three-cabin yachts to join its existing 40-foot catamaran; all have the services of a full crew and private butler. Guests will be able to rent the vessels for day tours, as well as overnight excursions. Packages combining nights at the hotel with nights at sea in one of the luxury yachts will be available in December.

In addition, The Royal Hideway Playacar, an Occidental Hotel & Resort in Playa del Carmen, has been awarded a Five Diamond rating. It is the first luxury all-inclusive hotel to achieve this.

Three new hotels have opened in Playa del Carmen: Aqua Luna, MosquitoBeach and Los Itzaes. In Mayakoba, a luxury development in the Riviera Maya, a new Fairmont opened in May, to be followed by Banyan Tree, Laguna Kai and Rosewood properties, all in 2007, plus a Viceroy resort in 2008.

The Expreso Maya, a luxury train offering gourmet dining and other high-end pleasures, is selling two new packages: a six-night program called "The Classic" and the seven-night "Wonders of the Maya." Both include overnight stays at five-star hotels and visits to museums, archaeological sites and other attractions throughout Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo. The Expreso Maya has also partnered with Virtuoso.

Event sponsors included the tourism promotion boards of the Riviera Maya, Yucatán and Mexico, the Cancún Convention and Visitors Bureau, Sol Meliá Hotels and Resorts, Grupo Ultrafemme, Virtuoso Mexicana and AventuraSpaPalace.