by Jonathan Vatner | April 01, 2007

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.

Barceló Riiera Maya Beach Resort

Riviera Maya
Beach Resort
in Mexico

Barcelo Riviera Maya Beach Resort
Riviera Maya, Mexico
(866) 853-5720;

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.

Surprise inclusion: 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 in Jamaica


Grand Lido Negril
in Jamaica

Grand Lido Negril
Negril, Jamaica
(800) 467-8737;

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.

Surprise inclusions: 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.