When it comes to international travel, Mexico is by far the top destination for Americans. Whether it’s a family vacation, spring break, destination wedding or romantic getaway, the country’s offerings continue to evolve.
Velas Resorts is one of the most dynamic hotel brands. They’re known for their all-inclusive experiences, winning accolades year after year. The four Velas Resorts in Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit have earned more than 43 AAA Diamonds, including the prestigious Five Diamond Award. Other international awards for their services and facilities include Virtuoso’s “Best Spa”, Conde Nast Johansens’ “Most Excellent Resort” and “Most Excellent Spa Hotel” and the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences’ 5 Star Diamond Award.
The Velas properties include Casa Velas named the 8th Best Hotel in the World on The Expedia 2013 Insiders’ SelectList, a boutique adults-only hotel and ocean club located on the Marina Vallarta Golf Course. Velas Vallarta is a family-friendly all suites resort and spa located on Banderas Bay, both in Puerto Vallarta; and the AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit located in Riviera Nayarit.
Rounding out the list is Grand Velas Riviera Maya, located five minutes from Playa del Carmen, offering an ultra luxury all-inclusive resort experience in the Caribbean with jungle and beach settings. Velas Resorts are known for their spacious accommodations, spas, a unique culinary experience at a selection of restaurants, 24-hour in suite service, fitness centers, butler service, state-of-the-art conference centers, extensive family programs, fully stocked mini bar and more.
Eduardo Vela Ruiz, majority owner, founder and president operate Velas Resorts. His brother Juan Vela is vice president of Velas Resorts.
We recently spoke with Juan Vela about the company’s current plans, outlook and success secrets.
Q: What are the latest major developments at the Velas properties throughout Mexico?
Vela: We are very excited to announce the new Grand Velas Los Cabos opening at the end of 2016. The new property ups the ante for our Grand Velas product with special wine features, commitment to the arts, dramatic ocean views, hard to top wellness suites and more.
This last year Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit completed a $20 million renovation, from upgrades in the spa and gourmet restaurants to new cutting edge Wellness suites, a state of the art teens’ club and stylish lobby bar.
Casa Velas also debuted two new Wellness Suites for travelers seeking an all-encompassing wellness retreat that includes a personal Spa Concierge, in-suite fitness amenities, insuite massages and more. As part of the $2 million renovation a total of 38 suites underwent complete bathroom upgrades, new furnishings, new art, paintings and textiles from leading Mexican artists, and more.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya began offering a new Yucatecan menu inspired by the region’s traditional cuisine at its Chaká restaurant. The resort also opened a new restaurant space for its Italian restaurant, Lucca. At the helm of the latter is Genovese Chef Fulvio Ferretto who, prior to joining Velas Resorts, collaborated with Chef Mauro Elli, a two star Michelin Star chef. The cuisine conjures up culinary visions of what he calls the “Bel Paese,” beautiful country, for guests with his Italian cuisine.
Velas Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta is currently updating its Family Suites with new soft goods and enhanced bathrooms.
Q: What are your latest initiatives for families?
Vela: Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit upped the ante on teens offerings with a new $300,000 Teens’ Club, creating a contemporary space where teens from 13-18 years old can enjoy their own mini vacation. The Teens’ Club features an extensive game room complete with an X-Box Kinect, pool table, air hockey, ping pong, foosball, karaoke set with vintage dance floor and more. More adventurous teens enjoy the new outdoors activities program, which includes kayak tours, snorkeling, and a variety of other outdoor experiences where they are able to enjoy the natural beauty of Riviera Nayarit.
After enjoying the Club’s engaging activities, the Chill Out zone offers teens soft drinks and favorite deli snacks to enjoy while hanging-out with their newly made friends.
In addition to the state-of-the-art Teens’ Club and multiple Kids’ Clubs at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, it also recently added a mini-golf course for families.
In all our resorts we are constantly innovating and adding to our activity programs and services for peak family vacation periods.
Q: What are the distinctive selling points for the different regions in which your properties are located?
A: While Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit are easily accessible from Mid-West and West Coast, Riviera Maya is a straight shot for travelers on the East Coast.
In the Riviera Maya, adventure-seekers enjoy exploring the ancient Mayan ruins of nearby Coba and Chichen-Itza, world-class snorkeling and scuba diving, zip-line tours through the Yucatan’s vibrant jungle, kayaking and Mexico’s best nature reserves. The seaside communities of nearby Playa del Carmen and Cancun offer top shopping, dining, golfing and nightlife.
Located on the Banderas Bay, one of the largest bays in the world, Vallarta-Nayarit is uniquely situated where the jungle meets the sea and provides tourists with a picturesque landscape that is unique among Mexican resort destinations. This diversity of scenery makes Vallarta more than your average "fun in the sun" vacation spot, giving visitors a wide variety of activities to choose from. Not only will travelers find all of the usual beach activities such as jet skiing, parasailing, surfing, boogie boarding and sunbathing, there is also a wide variety of land and sea tours to enjoy.
From a tropical jungle expedition learning about the flora and fauna indigenous to the area or zipping through the jungle on cables suspended hundreds of feet above the ground, to tours of nearby towns where guests can get a taste of Mexican culture, learn about the area’s history, and the traditions that drive the daily lives of those who have lived there for generations, it’s all here.
If the ocean and marine life is what families fancy, then Vallarta-Nayarit has more than its share of activities to offer. There are many beautiful locations throughout the bay that are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. Fishing is a very popular activity in the bay, which is also a breeding ground for many creatures of the sea kingdom. During winter and spring there are numerous whale watching tours where you will see humpback whales and dolphins that have migrated to the bay in order to reproduce.
During the summer and fall months there are several programs aimed at protecting the endangered sea tortoises that use the shores of Vallarta-Nayarit as their nesting grounds.
Q: Which properties best appeal to the family market? couples? destination weddings?
A: From an extended family traveling together to a couple looking for a secluded romantic honeymoon retreat and groups of all kinds, all travelers can find their ideal spot within Velas Resorts. Casa Velas and Grand Velas Riviera Maya’s Grand Class adults-only section are perfect for couples, while families enjoy the activities offered at Velas Vallarta, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit and Grand Velas Riviera Maya’s Ambassador and Zen sections.
Destination weddings, family gatherings and incentive and corporate groups of every size
Enjoy all Velas Resorts for their unparalleled all-inclusive experiences, comprehensive staffing, state-of-the-art facilities and spectacular ocean views.
Q: What do you think is the overall biggest factor that attracts visitors to Velas properties?
A: We attribute our success to the combination of the finest quality across the board along with service and value, whether it’s the cuisine and spa, the accommodations, activities or convention facilities. And let’s not forget the foodies and spa lovers since our restaurants and spas are among the best in the world.
Q: How do you differ from the competition?
A: We not only stand out from our competition because of the quality of our facilities and services, but also because of our food and beverage – variety of gourmet restaurants, quality of the ingredients, creativity, presentation, and foodie experiences. Food, creativity and presentation comparable to that of top restaurants in world capitals, that’s what reviewers and leading media are writing about Velas Resorts. Name your favorite specialty cuisine – Mexican, French, Italian, Asian, it’s exquisitely prepared by award winning chefs including disciples of Spain’s star chef Arzak.
Cocina de Autor at Grand Velas Riviera Maya is the first restaurant in the world that’s part of an All-Inclusive that won the AAA 5-Diamond Award. Restaurants are led by internationally renowned chefs such as Michel Mustière, named Maître Cuisiniers de France and Xavi Pérez Stone, named “Best Chef in Mexico” and winner of the “Iron Chef 2014.”
While there are some other all-inclusives that have one standout restaurant, they do charge additional for dining there in addition to other fees, so they’re not really all inclusive. This contrasts with what we do. Other than very special selections of wines and spa treatments, we don’t charge extra. So the value equation is very strong.
Plus we have kids and teens’ facilities and programs second to none, Leading Spas of the World at our Grand Velas resorts, and state of the art meeting, wedding and group facilities.
Q: What trends do you see in US travel to Mexico for 2016?
A: Travel to Mexico from the US will continue its steady growth in 2016, with a special interest in Los Cabos. The destination alone has 17 new hotels opening in 2016 and 2017.
As one of the top travel trends for 2016 is bleisure (business leisure travel), we will be offering a new discounted long-term stay option for those looking to get away from the day-to-day routine to uncover their next big idea. We expect this to be of interest for creative types (writers, artists, etc.), entrepreneurs, C-Suite executives, and more.
We also expect to see more travelers looking for new experiences and to develop new skills and talents. Later this year we’ll also be starting a Find Your Inner Artist Series. The series of experiences will include local, authentic artistic elements like glass blowing, painting, embroidery in the style of the Huichols, and mosaics.
And finally, with the growing number of single parent households we’ve seen an increasing number of them coming to our resorts. So we have expanded our single parent promotion which waives the single supplement fee and includes discounts for kids and adventure tour tickets for single parents at several of our resorts.