Most employees don’t expect to hear live mariachi music, sip coconut water served in actual coconuts and see driftwood signs promising “The Beach Cures Everything” while on a group work trip. Then again, most work trips don’t take place in Playa del Carmen, the third-largest city in Quintana Roo, Mexico. And while ocean waves and stunning sunsets might not be the ideal setting for getting hardcore work done, they’re perfecto for companies seeking a combination of business plus leisure.
“We get many corporate and incentive groups with a leisure component— best sellers in the company, top performers, that sort of thing,” says Henar Gil, General Manager of the Thompson Playa del Carmen, a boutique property just off the famous pedestrian-only Quinta Avenida. “It’s less ‘traditional meeting;’ more ‘reunion.’”
The Thompson Playa del Carmen has two luxury resort experiences with more than 28,000 square feet of event space across seven distinctive venues. That includes the actual Thompson Playa del Carmen (92 rooms and suites), its rooftop oasis with panoramic ocean views, and the nearby bohemian Beach House beachfront refuge.
Opened in 2016, the two properties together are 13 to 15 percent group business, with a goal of 25. Their combination of luxury, attentive but laidback service, and trendy, upscale cuisine—all set against a backdrop of dreamy weather (May, Playa’s hottest month, averages 83°F; the coldest, January, averages 74°F)—mean they’re on their way.
For instance, for three years straight, the same Canadian IT company has bought out the Thompson Playa del Carmen’s rooftop for three days, treating 200 employees to a work-and-play rewards vacation. Cinco, an open-air section with swim-up bar and tables (a “water waiter” delivers food and cocktails) is turned into a relaxed work lounge where laptops mingle with margaritas.
“The nice part about our groups is that everyone has a history behind them,” Gil notes. The boutique feel fosters further connections among guests…as well as staff. “By the time they leave, everyone is hugging everyone.”
The Thompson’s 5,820-sq.-ft. open-air rooftop restaurant, Catch, serves global cuisine: Local-caught seafood, sushi, steak, vegetarian options and more, plus inventive, Mexcal-tinged mixology. (Catch was named one of the top 10 hotel breakfasts worldwide by Conde Nast in 2016.) Groups of 50 to 300 can buyout Catch for a $25,000 food and beverage minimum on Friday or Saturdays nights; weekday nights and smaller groups cost less, and multiple seating arrangement are possible, from long, more formal-feeling 30-person tables to a casual sushi buffet.
Across the rooftop, past lounge beds, colorful wicker rocking chairs and cabanas, sits Cinco, which will spend the summer being converted into a more meeting-friendly space. The renovation project will enclose the 2,421-square-foot area with floor-to-ceiling glass windows with black-out capability; outfit it with A/V capability; and install air conditioning. The result: Groups will still be able to enjoy ocean views, complete with ever-present parasailers, and they can step out onto an adjoining terrace to soak in the breeze. Cinco has its own kitchen and can accommodate groups of up to 150 for $8,000-15,000.
A 640 sq.-ft. meeting room on the lower level can accommodate up to 30 people. Just opened last Christmas in a former gym space, the Sala de Juntas has A/V and projection capability and groups can order coffee and food from the on-site restaurants. “Typically groups are in here four hours maximum,” Gil says. “People don’t often come to Playa del Carmen only to work.”
Just a block away, past gelato and swimwear shops, taco stands and the Frida Khalo Museum, sits the 27-unit Beach House. The pool is smaller; the vibe, more tranquil. The entire Beach House can be rented out for $10,000 per night with a maximum occupancy of 60 people (three night minimum; not including F&B, which is $5,000 minimum per day). Its signature restaurant, C Grill, serves contemporary Mexican cuisine like black seafood aguachile and whole grilled red snapper. (F&B pricing similar to Catch.) This June, an automobile group displayed their newest vehicle on the beach, as 170 employees and potential customers mingled, nibbled at C Grill cuisine stations and wiggled their toes in the sand.