Originally published by Business Traveler.
Choosing a meeting venue involves many factors to assure maximum attendance without pricing out certain travelers. That’s why Mayakoba, the private enclave near Playa del Carmen and south of Cancun in Mexico, packs such a punch with its four luxury properties that share signing privileges at each other’s more than 25 restaurants and four spas.
This means business travelers need not worry about which has their preferred dining venue or spa amenity and can, instead, choose the hotel that fits their needs based on price and room type. And it gives meeting planners greater flexibility for groups while allowing companies to attract more attendees since many might choose to bring along their family to an event.
The combination of business and pleasure, dubbed “bleisure” travel, can mean big business for resort destinations that provide something for everyone at a mix of price points and recreational offerings. Make no mistake about it, Mayakoba is not a budget destination. But it does a remarkable job of meeting the needs of travelers looking for that perfect mix of service and value.
Mayakoba is an eco-friendly destination that has transformed lush mangrove forests into impressive resort grounds while maintaining respect for the natural flora and animal life that abounds here. All it takes is one complimentary electric boat tour through the canals of Mayakoba to get a glimpse of each of the four properties that make up this magical destination. Tour guides point out various landmarks of the grounds as well as notable wildlife – more than 300 native species in total, including crocodiles, iguanas, and an assortment of birds.
The property management works directly with managers at each of the resorts to further the focus on respecting the environment while providing ample entertainment and guest services. Visitors can explore the property on bike, by kayak or boat, via golf cart, or by walking. Mayakoba itself offers activities like archery, tennis and guided hikes on its own nature trail, available to guests of all four properties.
Beyond ample meeting facilities, there is plenty to attract groups here. With Mexico’s only PGA golf course, Mayakoba manages to draw tournaments like the Mayakoba Golf Classic. And sportsmen come year-round, yet another reason (beyond the four spas and plentiful pool and beach areas) to draw meeting goers and their families.
Another unique option for events and activities is El Pueblito, a picturesque model of a Mexican town square, where groups can hold events or simply visit the functioning chapel, numerous shops and cafes, or weekly market that takes place here. A free shuttle is available for guests from any of the resorts, and meeting planners find this is a unique spot for hosting events even if their attendees are staying at different properties. Its cooking school is an entertaining and educational activity that is especially popular with groups.
Here are a few highlights at each of the four properties.
The newest of the four properties (and the first Andaz to open in Mexico), the Andaz Maykoba is designed with youthful energy that attracts couples and young-at-heart travelers looking for music and fun in the sun. Its reception area was designed to look like one of the region’s “cenotes,” sinkholes filled with crystal clear water, which were considered sacred by the Mayans.
There is also an oculus in the lobby where sun beams down to the water, which pays homage to the Mayan’s interest in astrology. So important is this cultural theme here that guests are invited to make their own wish (sacred donation) by throwing a colorful stone into the cenote when they arrive.
Despite the nod to history, Andaz is the most fashion-forward and trendsetting of the properties here. Mexican artist Senkoe is responsible for the Riviera Maya bird-themed murals found on each of the 28 accommodation buildings throughout the resort.
The focus on regional design continues with Casa Amate. The restaurant looks like a traditional Mexican hacienda and is a favorite for private functions. Its pan-American cuisine ranges from uniquely Venezuelan dishes to perfected Peruvian and Mexican ceviche.
Meeting planners will appreciate the ability to hold functions on the beach or in the shaded gardens. A variety of boardroom and conference room setups open to outdoor breakout space allowing guests to appreciate the resort grounds even while working.
Banyan Tree Mayakoba
With the most Asian influence of any of the properties, Banyan Tree wins accolades for its focus on spa, wellness and holistic living. Guests arrive to find the signature banyan tree at the open-air center of the reception building.
This is Banyan Tree’s debut for the North American market, and regular visitors to the brand’s properties in Asia will recognize Saffron. Its southeastern Asian restaurant serves delectable curries and spicy meat and seafood dishes beneath romantically lighted trees along one of the canals. It is one of the many restaurants that draws visitors from other properties.
Most notable for event planners is MK Blue, a massive, new 10,000-square-foot-plus indoor and outdoor space for groups. It has catering facilities and the option for guests to arrive both by land or by canal while creating the ambiance of an event held in the middle of the jungle (albeit one with modern bathrooms).
This is the largest property and a recognized superstar for all of Playa del Carmen and Cancun in general for its variety of meeting space. It includes dual lawns for al fresco events, ballrooms that can be divided into smaller breakouts, and room to host beach barbecues or bespoke events anywhere across the resort.
Most popular for families, there are numerous swimming pools and play areas for visitors of all ages. Accommodations are located in various buildings spread across the grounds, each with views of the gardens and canals. Golf carts assist with the journey to avoid extra time in the sun. The most prized units are those in front of the beach, some of which are suites and come with private plunge pools.
Those with business to attend to will appreciate the oversized guest rooms in the main building, making them the easiest to reach from the event space. Fairmont is the perfect property for hosting large groups thanks to its long roster of recreational amenities and 47,000 square feet of meeting space.
The most expensive – and exclusive by size – property of Mayakoba is the Rosewood. Here guests complete their check-in formalities as they float to their accommodations by boat. While there is no sizeable meeting space here, it is often a popular venue for al fresco events either by the pool or along the beach.
Rosewood targets couples or those looking for doting service. It’s the kind of place where groups might host their VIPs since they can easily travel by golf cart to any of Mayakoba’s other meeting venues. It has a stronghold on the luxury market for the entire region with a top-notch reputation. In addition to its swanky villas, it also has private residences, which can be rented by guests when their owners are away. These are the ideal space to host exclusive get-togethers because they feature multiple bedrooms and full kitchens.
No matter which property you choose, the combination of all four in addition to El Pueblito offers an ideal mix to host successful conferences and gatherings of any size.