by Kaley Campbell, WPIC Office Manager
What a week. Flying back into Toronto after an amazing week in Riviera Maya was more than a dose of reality. I could be seen at the airport with a winter jacket, a maxi summer dress, and a brand new outlook on destination weddings, especially to Mexico. Love Mexico had outdone themselves, again, and definitely showed us wedding planners, travel agents, and everyone else in the industry what Mexico has to offer.
Touching down in Mexico around 11am, I was greeted by the lovely Mexican climate and about a dozen WPIC members. For me, this was the first time I had met the majority of these ladies, and I instantly felt welcomed. After our bags got searched and we got questioned why in the world we brought so many candles and pens to Mexico, we were off on our Olympus shuttle to the Hard Rock in Riviera Maya.
After all of us piled out of the shuttle, there was a ton of staff there to greet us with big smiles and welcomed us to the resort. Our check in consisted of fruity drinks, excellent spreads of food, and a well decorated lobby. We were given some Love Mexico Swag, our room keys, and the afternoon to rest up before the meet and great. And by rest, I mean the afternoon at the swim up bar with a great stage show and getting acquainted with my fellow WPIC ladies.
That evening we had the chance to check out the Young Leaders Pre Cocktail, which was held at the Heaven Lounge. It was a great chance to mix and mingle over cocktails, before the main meet and great started. The main welcome Cocktail happened in the lobby where we registered. You could find collections of travel agents and planners finding people they haven’t seen in quite some time and it had the feel of a high school reunion, but with better food and without the drama.
Our first Mexican feast followed, and what a feast it was. This was my first real Mexican meal, and it did not disappoint. The meat was well seasoned and cooked, and the buffet style set up allowed us to get what we would like, and leave the food that we couldn’t pronounce. After this meal we all found ourselves over at the Heaven lounge where we all had more drinks, a few shots, and a ton of laughs.
Day 2 came way too early, but with all the information that was to come we needed to start this early. We woke to sun shining in our patios, and if everyone else did the same as I did, I started my day with room service and a soak in the Jacuzzi. We all met at 8 am for breakfast at the convention centre, and the sweet, sweet coffee that was aplenty. I know I wasn’t the only one needing it.
We started our day in a huge room that had beautiful linens, a grand stage, and amazing décor. Our morning started with hearing from the Mexico tourism board, and moved into hearing from Tracy French, Elyse Elkin, and Frank Maduro. All three talked about the wonders of Mexico, and how to get the most while booking a destination wedding. Frank specifically talked about the Hard Rock and showed us its style with engaging videos and lively stories. Next we had a panel discussion about how to best engage your clients with destination weddings lead by my good friend Nancy Barkley and answered by Lili Anciola, Sarah Prease, and Sam Combs. Our next panel explained why to go to Mexico for your destination weddings and how to best sell the value of “you”. This was led by Jane Custer, and had Tracy French, Brenda O’Neale, and Elyse Elkin speaking.
Next we moved right into our appointments with the Mexican suppliers, AKA: the HUGE room filled with booths that were captivating, interactive, and some even had great giveaways. It was hard to move from one booth to the next because each vendor had its own captivating spell making you want to check out each location personally.
Lunch was served in the lively Verve Ballroom, and was decked out top to bottom like a Mexican fair. This included some of the staff dressing up in Mexican celebration attire, beautiful colors, and fake mustaches. It made the lunch feel even more authentic.
We then travelled back to our seats from the morning, and listened to Ed Cotton, Lisa Sheldon, and David Wood speak about partnering wedding planners with travel agents and how this could be the key to success, followed by a quick presentation on Los Cabos.
After that some of us went back to our prescheduled appointments, and some of us found ourselves back at the pool.
6:30pm came and we all packed on buses and headed over to the Barceló Maya Beach Resort where we were greeted by the most stunning lobby, and a heard of bongo players. It was rumoured that some members of Love Mexico were even falling in love with the good looking drummers. The drummers personally escorted us in a roundabout way to the Captain Morgan bar, and huge buffet. Barceló also offered free henna to our members, and also there was photo op booth. This was such a nice touch, however with so many Love Mexico participants; the lines were a little too long. They definitely made up for this with the amazing array of food, and fantastic all inclusive trips given out to some lucky guests.
After dinner we all piled back on the buses and headed back to the club. WPIC members could be spotted all over the dance floor, at the bar, and especially dancing it up in the pool until early hours in the morning.
7 am was a tough wake up call, for some more than others. But up we were and back at the conference centre with bread and coffee to soak up the shenanigans from the night before. Tatiana Byron started our day with an amazing presentation on marketing and profiling the average brides’ habits. Lakis Charalambous then spoke about Olympus Tours and Cherie Ronning about networking. We went back to finish up with the suppliers, and headed right out to the beach and the pool.
Our lunch was served at the Ipanema Restaurant, and we went right into a Hard Rock Riviera Maya site inspection. This was a little disappointing to some, after the lively presentation the day before from Frank that talked about all the luxury rooms that Hard Rock has to offer, but the rooms didn’t end up on the tour. However the Hard Rock in itself is anything but disappointing. From the pools to the staff, it is amazing top to bottom.
We then dove right into some networking via the pool party, and everyone trailed away to get ready for the real party: The 70s party.
Walking through the lobby it was quite clear I was the first one in my attire, and I got tons of awkward stares and even some pictures with some guests. But this just made the experience all the more enjoyable. Stepping back in time with our crazy get ups, we all met over at the conference centre for an amazing supper, and the best party starter: Big Party Orchestra. If the drummer didn’t get you with his looks, the band definitely did with their personalized variations of popular music. We danced until we heard the club calling our name, and then we danced at the club late into the night.
The next morning was both a happy and sad one. Getting to the airport in our dresses and beach attire, and getting off the plane to a winter storm surge in Toronto was not the most favorable feeling, however coming home with all the information that Love Mexico provided and the new connections I have made, made the trip’s experience irreplaceable. Love Mexico has provided me with a brand new outlook to destination weddings, especially in Mexico, and has provided me with all the tools and contacts needed to plan any sort of Mexican destination event.
A special shout out to all of the Love Mexico employees. I have never seen such passionate and dedicated staff, (besides myself of course: P), that made this experience the amazing one that it was.