All-inclusives offer a streamlined option for planners and premium experiences for groups
An ideal environment for a corporate retreat, meeting or incentive trip immerses attendees in unforgettable experiences without leaving them mired in logistics. Wish-list qualifications include a perennial favorite destination, luxury amenities, top-tier food and beverage offerings, and standout activities.
A planner determined to deliver all of the above must be resigned to an enormous amount of legwork with multiple venues and vendors—unless that planner chooses an all-inclusive resort. Think of them as workhorses dressed in couture. Choosing an all-inclusive resort not only simplifies the process for planners, who can craft a custom all-inclusive itinerary with the help of a centralized team, but also expands attendees’ access to a range of activities and adventures, minus logistical hassles and the expense of a la carte pricing.
Also, there’s no need to sacrifice quality in exchange for this kind of convenience and choice. All-inclusives, knowing that they are completely responsible for a group’s experience, devote considerable energy and resources to exceeding attendees’ expectations for facilities, programs and service.
“They’ll have a group coordinator dedicated only to them, who will be helping in every step of the planning, organization and execution of the program, with a whole team of experts helping them behind the scenes to create unforgettable experiences,” says Talia Guerrero, senior group sales manager for Grand Velas Los Cabos in Mexico, summing up the all-inclusive advantage.
Mexico and the Caribbean contain a wealth of all-inclusive options easily accessible by air from the United States. Read on for a list of resorts capable of capturing attendees’ imaginations so fully they forget the outside world exists.
The Latest from Los Cabos
In Los Cabos, where many properties boast breathtaking seascapes, luxury accommodations and inventive, modern cuisine, meeting facilities can be the tiebreaker for planners. In December 2016, the area’s all-inclusive market welcomed two new additions with flexible, state-of-the-art meeting spaces so lavish and refined attendees may not even mind being called away from the spa or pool. Designed for maximum memorability, event spaces at Grand Velas Los Cabos sprawl across 16,370 sq. ft. The larger of the property’s two ballrooms measures more than 10,700 sq. ft. and can be divided into 20 breakout rooms. Signature outdoor spaces include a waterfront terrace overlooking the Sea of Cortez, where groups of up to 600 can gather for cocktails.
Designed for maximum memorability, event spaces at Grand Velas Los Cabos sprawl across 16,370 sq. ft. The larger of the property’s two ballrooms measures more than 10,700 sq. ft. and can be divided into 20 breakout rooms. Signature outdoor spaces include a waterfront terrace overlooking the Sea of Cortez, where groups of up to 600 can gather for cocktails.Groups booking more than 10 rooms per night receive special concessions tailored to attendees’ needs and preferences. Experiences showcase the best of turf and surf, as Grand Velas Los Cabos sits at the dramatic convergence of desert and the Sea of Cortez, and is ideally positioned to access both. Available excursions include snorkeling, sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, whale watching, flyboarding, backcountry off-road driving and hang gliding.
Groups booking more than 10 rooms per night receive special concessions tailored to attendees’ needs and preferences. Experiences showcase the best of turf and surf, as Grand Velas Los Cabos sits at the dramatic convergence of desert and the Sea of Cortez, and is ideally positioned to access both. Available excursions include snorkeling, sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, whale watching, flyboarding, backcountry off-road driving and hang gliding.
The former Melia Cabo Real emerged from a $35 million renovation and upgrade as Paradisus Los Cabos, home to more than 13,500 sq. ft. of meeting space. Meeting and event facilities equipped with the latest audiovisual technology seamlessly bridge indoor and outdoor spaces. Inside, Gran Baja Room holds 1,100 in theater-style setup, while the expansive beach accommodates banquets for up to 5,000 guests.
There’s much more to Paradisus Los Cabos than meeting space. Oversized rooms and suites, lush gardens, four pools, six restaurants, six bars and a fully equipped gym offer space and variety. The property’s spacious strip of sand lures guests eager to lounge, play, dine or take a swim in the Sea of Cortez. Attendees can show off their moves at dance classes and water Zumba, or head to the kitchen for a workshop on making guacamole, cocktails or sushi.
Additional recent updates include the massive expansion of Krystal Grand Los Cabos, unveiled in March, which increased the property’s guest room roster from 167 to 450. With six pools, seven new restaurants and bars, and more than 40,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space, the revamped property offers planners myriad options.
Planners, watch for a new luxury resort to debut in late 2017. Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos, a Palace Resorts property, will feature 373 elegant guest rooms, world-class restaurants and the rejuvenating Awe Spa. Sure to be a haven for incentive trips and meetings, the property will include banquet halls seating up to 630 guests, an intimate boardroom space and Blanc Wind terrace.
Beyond Baja, many more enticing all-inclusive resorts await in Mexico. Several are clustered around Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Riviera Maya. Grand Velas and Paradisus both operate luxury all-inclusives in Riviera Maya, and Grand Velas has one in Puerto Vallarta, too.
Groups bound for the calm, clear waters of the Caribbean will find a sumptuous home base at Barcelo Maya Grand Resort. The all-inclusive package at five-star Barcelo Maya Palace includes access to all five resorts in the complex, which contains 22 restaurants and 20 bars. All Barcelo Maya Palace rooms are suites or junior suites, ensuring ample personal space, even for groups opting for double occupancy.
Not that attendees will spend all their time indoors. Groups can square off in friendly competition on the resort’s professional soccer field, complete with locker rooms. Water polo, water tricycles and a new 18-hole miniature golf course offer additional outdoor challenges.
Meeting facilities meet the same standards of quality and abundance. With event space that includes 37 conference rooms, three theaters and five business centers, the resort stands ready to bring your event to life. The Chichen Itza Room can accommodate groups of up to 1,350 and features an outdoor terrace, a separate entrance and attached kitchen.
March 2017 marked the debut of Unico 20°87° Riviera Maya, a posh, locally focused addition to the all-inclusive landscape. This is no cookie-cutter beach resort. The adults-only property embraces regional culture and traditions by infusing local touches into the guest experience via cocktails, cuisine and artwork.
In this elevated environment, every element is carefully considered, from the personal anfitrion (host)—replacing traditional butler service—to the Esencia signature spa treatments, to custom-designed events held at the property’s 11,603-square-foot ballroom, breakout rooms and outdoor areas.
Scenery steals the spotlight at Hyatt Ziva Cancun, which is bordered by sparkling Caribbean waters on three sides. During downtime, attendees can stroll the white-sand beach, soak in one of the property’s three infinity pools and enjoy a sommelier-guided tequila tasting. Meeting spaces, which cover 16,000 sq. ft., are just as distinctive—especially the rooftop terrace, which boasts unbeatable views amid ocean breezes for up to 650 attendees.
On Mexico’s Pacific coast, planners will find equally beautiful beaches and refined resorts. The AAA Four Diamond Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort offers amenities both expected—such as Bay of Banderas beachfront and a 7,320-square-foot ballroom—and unexpected—such as Ki Spa’s floatarium, which suspends guests in a calming, hydrating whirlpool bath.
4 All-Inclusive Spa Resorts
Cal-a-Vie Health Spa, Vista, California
Clear blue water and dramatic scenery make Mexico and the Caribbean prime territory for all-inclusive resorts, but there are plenty of options that don’t require a passport. Planners looking to impress their groups without having to clear customs will appreciate these standout domestic destinations, where all-inclusive experiences know no bounds.
Cal-a-Vie Health Spa: Set 40 miles north of San Diego, Cal-a-Vie boasts accessibility and international ambience. Its 200 private acres are home to vineyards, lavender fields and 32 antique-filled, Mediterranean-style villas. A 5:1 staff-to-guest ratio and more than 17,000 sq. ft. of meeting space ensure your group will not want for attention or space.
Canyon Ranch: With locations in Tucson, Arizona, and Lenox, Massachusetts, Canyon Ranch offers a choice between a Sonoran Desert oasis and a mountain retreat in the Berkshires. The Tucson property features 10,590 sq. ft. of meeting space and Lenox boasts 6,959 sq. ft. Both environments are guaranteed to send attendees’ creative thinking, productivity and optimism soaring.
Dunton Hot Springs: Thirty miles southwest of Telluride, Colorado, lies Dunton Hot Springs, a restored ghost town turned all-inclusive Rocky Mountain resort. A perfect buyout opportunity for corporate retreats, the property’s rough-hewn log buildings include cabins, a saloon and a dance hall. Instead of mining for ore as the area’s earliest arrivals did, attendees hike mountain trails, fly-fish in pristine rivers and relax in natural hot springs.
Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa: Match your group’s itinerary to its intentions at this renowned resort located in the Santa Catalina Mountains outside Tucson, Arizona, where the sun shines 350 days per year. Serenity reigns at spa- and wellness-based activities, adventure awaits on the property’s challenge courses and nourishing know-how is just one clean cooking class away. Indoor and outdoor meeting and event spaces span more than 7,000 sq. ft.
Hard Rock to Expand All-Inclusive Offerings
Both hotel chains and meeting attendees have matured since the 1990s, when the go-to conference souvenir was a Hard Rock Cafe T-shirt emblazoned with the destination of record. Now, the Hard Rock Hotels All-Inclusive Collection provides more than rock ’n’ roll memorabilia at its trio of Mexican resorts in Riviera Maya, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, and another in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
In striving for pure incentive experiences, Hard Rock Hotels aimed to eliminate the fine print. “When we planned our all-inclusive product, we wanted to ensure it was truly all-inclusive,” says Kevin Edmunds, vice president of meeting and incentive sales for AIC Hotel Group, which operates the Hard Rock All-Inclusive Collection. “Your group’s meeting and function space includes taxes, gratuities, Wi-Fi, room service and much more.”
A high-energy, active vibe pervades each enormous property, and the activity programs reinforce that Hard Rock hallmark. For example, this summer Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya will unveil Woodward Riviera Maya (pictured below), an action sports facility where corporate groups can participate in creative team-building events involving skateboarding, BMX biking, and snowboarding or skiing into foam pits.
“It will be fun to see corporate groups step out of their comfort zone a bit,” Edmunds says.
Two new all-inclusive resorts from Hard Rock Hotels are set to debut in late 2018. Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos will feature 600 guest rooms and 54,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Cancun will house 1,800 opulent, oceanfront guest rooms and have an 8 million-gallon, lagoon-style pool.
Courtney Peter is an award-winning writer who has covered travel, food, history and preservation for a variety of print and online publications.