Taking the all-inclusive
plunge can be a scary decision for a planner.
Pay-one-price resorts generally are not thought of as meetings
destinations, and a perception persists that they are not equipped
for special events or gourmet meals.
But don’t let that image sway you,
advises Nancy Larson, senior buyer, meetings and events, for
Minneapolis-based Carlson Marketing. “They have changed from the
old image of all-inclusives,” she says. “Now they have lots of
restaurants and activities. It’s much more deluxe.”
Though only a portion of all-inclusive
resorts cater to meetings and incentives, the ones that do can be
better choices than European-plan properties. Because the rate
includes meals, drinks, and at least a portion of meeting and
banqueting costs, planners almost always will find a savings when
bringing groups to these properties.
M&C asked the top
all-inclusive resort companies which of their properties were best
for meetings and incentives in Mexico and the Caribbean. Following
are their recommendations.
Beach Resortin Mexico
Barcelo Riviera Maya Beach Resort
Riviera Maya, Mexico
(866) 853-5720; www.barcelo.com
Resort overview: This
resort really is a complex of four properties in one, comprising
more than 1,900 rooms. The most upscale of the four, the Barcel
Maya Tropical Beach Hotel and the Barcelo Maya Colonial Beach
Hotel, each with 474 rooms, opened in 2006.
Free scuba diving lesson
Why it’s great for
groups: The resort complex features a new freestanding
convention center accommodating up to 850 attendees. It includes a
12,000-square-foot ballroom, five meeting rooms and a business
center. More importantly, it has a staff that bends over backward
for groups, says Margaret Miguel, events coordinator for Optometric
Services Inc., in Montreal. She recently brought a 160-person
meeting of equipment buyers to the property, and the response was
overwhelmingly positive. “The personnel, down to the last bellboy
and chambermaid, were unfailingly polite and willing to go the
extra mile for absolutely no incentive whatsoever.” Miguel’s
attendees appreciated the new conference center, as well: “It’s
very airy, and the acoustics were good.”
Recent news: The
756-room Barcelo Maya Palace Hotel, the fifth property in the
complex, is under construction, to open late this year.
Grand Lido Negril
Grand Lido Negril
(800) 467-8737; www.superclubs.com
Resort overview: The
210-room property features a 3,600-square-foot meeting room for up
to 200 guests. Children under 16 are not permitted.
Manicures and pedicures; dry cleaning
Why it’s great for
groups: According to Shari Wallack, president of Buy The
Sea, a group travel buyer based in Plantation, Fla., the property
is perfect for an incentive group, ranging from just a few
attendees to a complete buyout. “It is probably the friendliest
property and the most service-oriented,” she says. “It makes a huge
difference when you’re bringing a program there.” Wallack adds that
private functions are creative and well executed, although the
surcharge for special events is perhaps more than other
all-inclusives would ask for.
Wallack notes that it might not be the
perfect property for meetings (as opposed to incentives), because
the resort is an hour away from the airport. Groups that have loved
it most have been those that traditionally went on upscale (but not
luxury) cruises, she says.
Recent news: Breezes
Runaway Bay, another SuperClubs property in Jamaica, completed a
$20 million renovation and expansion last December, adding new
restaurants and pools, and bringing the number of rooms to 266.