Everyone has seen the MTV-produced, spring break side of resort destinations in Mexico – crowded beaches saturated with college students operating off of questionable morals. But nestled in the southern-most peninsula of Baja California del Sur, where the desert meets the sea, there’s a quieter side of the country.
The cities of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas – collectively known as Los Cabos – offer serene coastline waters where the Pacific Ocean joins the Gulf of California’s Sea of Cortez. Getting the chance to lavish in the region’s exclusivity combined with the functionality of its meeting spaces, more conventions, meetings and groups are choosing Los Cabos as a preferred destination.
Reasons to choose the destination are numerous – proximity and associated flight costs, weather, quality of accommodations, services, food and beverage as well as logistical ease. Exclusivity, however, seems to be the key deciding factor.
Meetings and exhibit industries were hard hit during the economic slump of 2008, in turn causing many destinations and venues to rely on revenue generated solely by local events. Now that meetings and conventions are on the rise again, so is the interest in nearby resort destinations.
“I keep hearing the phrase, ‘Mexico is back’ from meeting planners,” said Jayson Stirrup, sales manager, groups and conventions, Sheraton Hacienda del Mar. “Not that Mexico went anywhere, Mexican destinations continued to provide excellent group experiences during the thick of the recession.”
Headlines around the same time regarding the violence in Mexico beared concerns over travel safety for the entire country – unfairly so for San Jose and Cabo San Lucas, as crime rates in Los Cabos remain lower than many cities in the U.S.
“From 2009 to 2013 there seemed to be security concerns with end users,” Stirrup said. “But Los Cabos remains the premier destination in Mexico. Quality of products and services, value, security, proximity to the southwest are all important factors in attracting groups to Los Cabos.”
Offering the largest collection of functional space in Los Cabos, the Sheraton Hacienda hosts groups and meetings year-round, reaching highest occupancy November through February. With a 12,000-square-foot ballroom that can be divided up to three sections, FIT and green meetings programs cater to a variety of group needs. Eight meeting rooms total to suite up to 1,600 attendees.
Modeled after an upscale seaside village, the Sheraton Hacienda del Mar captures the feel of Old Mexico with themed Villas, cobblestone lanes winding around placitas and fountains, restaurants, shops. The Sheraton offers a total of 16,000-square-feet of meeting space,that can also be combined with beautiful outdoor engagements.
Meeting and event planners are also offered the option of The Virtual Planner, a state-of-the-art program that provides the opportunity to completely customize their events online using a 3D interface.
Focusing on green meetings was an important initiative of hotel management, and has been designed to decrease clutter, reduce waste and consumption, increase recycling and preserving the biodiversity of the desert and seas. Guests can walk down the stone steps to the beach and catch a glimpse of the preserved habitat the hotel has created for sea turtle nests to try and protect young hatchlings.
Further down Highway 1 along the tourist corridor, sister hotel The Westin Resort & Spa offers groups an entirely different experience.
With four-diamond restaurants, a world-class spa, recreational sports and architecture built to resemble the famed archway that connects lands-end to the sea, many choose the Westin as a place to meet for business and leisure.
The Westin features almost 12,000-square-feet of indoor function space as well as multiple outdoor event settings for meetings or special events. With a total of 15 meeting rooms, a spacious 4,800-square-foot Baja ballroom features two entrances and enhanced lighting for high-level meetings or end-of-the-night galas.
“The Westin Resort and Spa is a meeting facility like none other,” said Beat Meier, general manager, the Westin. “We offer a wide selection of space and an experienced staff that provides meeting planners and business travelers everything they desire in a magical environment.”
For outdoor functions, the property’s spacious grounds offer scenic views for receptions and other special events, as well as screened viewings projected on the hotel itself. The hotel is currently undergoing redecoration and renovation on some indoor spaces, and recently completed a renovation of the outdoor spaces, finishing the Plaza Cortes and replacing the resort’s nine-hole seaside putting green.
“The new concept is going to be all about Mexico,” said Edward Burgos, tour and travel sales manager. “Each different area will say something about historic Mexican culture such as the Mayans, Aztecs and North Central Mexico. All of the paintings, linen, music, will be of that culture.”
Plans between resorts in Los Cabos to continue to host events with the Los Cabos Convention Center have been in the works since the center’s soft opening with the G-20 Summit in June 2012.
The facility has 72,000-square-feet of functional space and the ability to accommodate 5,000 people for meetings and expositions. It is located 10 minutes from the Los Cabos International Airport and as close as five minutes from the tourist corridor of resorts between San Jose and Cabo San Lucas.
Resorts and conventions in Los Cabos often encourage meeting attendees and guests to explore the area with guided tours, such as the snorkeling and paddle boarding groups hosted by local guide and eco-tourism brand Terramar.
Terramar provides destination management services in both Los Cabas and Panama, and in July 2014 achieved the Accredited Destination Management Company standards.
Los Cabos has also become a celebrity hotspot – with recognizable names such as Eli Manning and Adam Levine choosing to tie the knot on the beach, and property owners Michael Jordan and Leonardo DiCaprio both residing on championship golf courses.