By Colleen Isherwood, Editor
CANCUN, Mexico — Together Cancun, Cozumel and Riviera Maya, Mexico form a tourist destination with impressive numbers — there are 24 million arrivals at the Cancun International Airport, a number equivalent to two thirds of the total population of Canada. The area has 101,000 hotel rooms. By comparison, Las Vegas has 150,000 and the whole of Canada has 450,000.
Cancun (from the Mayan: Kan Kun which means “place/seat/throne of the snake”) is located in southeast Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula. Cancun is the most important destination in the Mexican Caribbean coastline and it is a strip of land shaped like a “7”, stretching 15 miles over the Caribbean Sea
The area has grown exponentially since the 1970s. Alfredo Calderón, president of International Incentive Travel, told CLN he came to the area in the mid-70s, when there were just four or five hotels in Cancun's Hotel Zone, a sandbar that is now home to more than 100 hotels, all with easy access to the beach. In 2017 alone, the area added 4,000 rooms.
This year will see projects ranging from 200 to more than 1,000 rooms, said Patrick Beaury, general manager of the Presidente InterContinental Cancun Resort and Spa. There are a couple of empty lots by the airport and Playa Morales is now being developed as a new location opposite Riviera Maya.
“Almost a half-century later, Cancun has transformed into a one-of-a-kind city that satisfies every visitor — be they jungle adventurers, beach-goers, golfers, or party animals,” says Cancun.com, the City of Cancun website.
This hotel got into the market early. “The hotel is 44 years old,” said Beaury, adding that it was a Presidente Hotel when it opened. “There is a picture we found showing the hotel surrounded by sand. There was nothing — just a trail that connected to Cancun somehow.”
The hotel has the best beach in Cancun — that's not just the hotel talking; locals say that too. The beach features crystalline turquoise shallow waters, natural white sand and no sea currents. “Ninety-nine point nine per cent of our customers say that it is one of the best beaches in Cancun,” said Beaury. “There's almost no waves, it's safe for families, there's no algae. It's a safe and small bay for the hotel.”
The hotel also has an excellent location. “We are exactly a 30-minute drive from the airport, we're outside the party hub and walking distance from the convention centre,” said Beaury.
The hotel is made up of two buildings whose 300 rooms have been recently refurbished. One building has 10 floors with 11 spacious rooms per floor, with the exception of the top floor, which boasts 6 suites. The second building has six floors with 184 luxury rooms on 4 floors, plus two floors of club rooms and suites. More rooms overlooking the Caribbean Sea have been built, some of which feature rain showers. All rooms offer the same quality of bathroom amenities, LCD television screens, Internet and wireless keyboards.
The hotel is known for its culinary quality, with two restaurants that are just off the beach. El Caribeño is a restaurant under a palapa, which offers Caribbean-Mexican cuisine, Le Cap specializes in Mediterranean cuisine with the best seafood and fresh dishes; the Deck Bar is ideal for a drink at any time of the day. Epicentre, open in the afternoon, offers a wide range of gins, rums and tequilas. And finally Café Urbano offers a wide International menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner à la carte.
Presidente InterContinental Cancun's Canadian connection
Beaury, who has been general manager at the hotel for a year, came from the Presidente InterContinental Mexico City, a much larger, 700-room property located in the heart of the city. His career, which includes work with both InterContinental and Four Seasons, includes time as director of food and beverage at the Four Seasons Toronto, from 2005 to 2008, before the new Four Seasons opened, and right before the recession hit.
“I spent four winters in Toronto — it's where my youngest daughter was born,” said Beaury. He has also worked in Jordan and Bora Bora and numerous other locations.
The hotel is owned by Grupo Presidente, a Mexican-owned company that manages IHG properties in Mexico, InterContinentals and a few Holiday Inns. The company has three new openings in the Mexican IHG pipeline, Beaury said.
The hotel's clientele isn't tour groups — those groups tend to go to the all inclusive resorts further south in Riviera Maya. Hotel business is 80 per cent leisure and just 20 per cent business travel. “We get a large number of people from the U.S. and a small percentage of Canadians here at the hotel, but we believe Canada can produce a bit more with exposure.” The hotel had close to 89 per cent occupancy during the month of March. Indeed, IHG is encouraging Mexican-Canadian travel by hosting Mexican journalists in Canada and vice versa.
“The airport is playing a big role — the one in Cancun and in Panama,” said Beaury. People are not going through Miami due to visa requirements. Now they go through Panama. Terminal 4 at the Cancun Airport opened eight months ago, and the destination is now well connected by air. Last year, Interjet Airlines announced new nonstop service between Toronto Pearson Airport and Vancouver Airport, and Mexico City's Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juarez as well as Toronto and Cancun International Airport.