IMEX-ico …. a trip of firsts
No …. the image above is not a last day snapshot of event planners heading home from Vegas! It is an eye catching art installation at a recently discovered hip joint in Mexico City depicting the Calavera, the Spanish word for skull – a symbolic image from Mexican culture.
Wow ….what a week. My first IMEX USA … combined with my first ‘fam’ in a few years.
I have a love/hate relationship with Sin City. For many years, I have been responsible for numerous incentives to this crazy epicentre of madness which is Vegas. In my experience, it can be the one of most testing of destinations … but also much fun for the right groups. The events industry being one. For all its madness, it has pulling power and I understand its magnetism … and the success of hosting an international trade show such as IMEX where social and hospitality are key ingredients, there is no better place in the world.
So this year, in my first year of independence, and branching back into corporate events, I decided to take my new little brand and enjoy the luxury of attending my first IMEX America combined with a rare experience of late … a fam! Two-in-one …. more time/cost effective for my new business I convinced myself.
Thanks to terrific hosts at Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, not only did I experience a top few days under their guidance, a lucky group of us headed South across the border to discover a new and unchartered destination … Mexico City.
As our industry social media was awash with IMEX so I resisted my daily urge to post and splatter my every move. Despite a 24 hour blip with a cancelled flight, the pain was eased by the presence of other jolly eventprofs whilst we enjoyed a day at Terminal 3 and overnight at nearby hotel.
Eventually arriving, I discovered a quality trade show, conveniently connected to our host hotel Palazzo at the Venetian. I still managed two very productive days of appointments, new connections and some old, friendly faces. Plus a stronger measure of North American product which suited my incentive quest for new experiences in one of my favoured continents. Despite much talk of the Presidential debate coinciding with one of the days, it hardly got any attention in my circles as the industry revved up for their evening social programmes. This is not a place for FOMO sufferers.
Hyatt did themselves proud with a super private event in the shadows of the High Roller (Vegas equivalent to the London Eye) where we managed to take to the skies with beverages in hand to see spectacular night views of the Strip. Other great social events included London & Partners at the Wynn as well as the MPI Rendevous at Drais Beach Club. Fun to see the industry letting their hair down as they whoop it up in these hip clubs. Being private events, and lacking the usual cool crowd, it was ‘Dad Dancing’ heaven! No inhibitions as middle aged folk took to the floor in Strictly fashion with their conference lanyards swaying to the tunes of Timberlake and Jacko (think they tipped off the DJs about the older crowd as music was far removed from the regular nights!). Great fun.
But to the main purpose of this blog. To highlight and recognise some special places and people deep down Mexico way. I must confess, I had no prior experience or deep knowledge on Mexico City. I was only aware, like most travel professionals, of the negative press. But with no place on earth living up to positive press nowadays, I like to fact find for myself.
For me, it was at most, a gateway to the west Mexico coastal resorts. My event experience to date was solely limited to Cancun in the early days and most recently Riviera Maya. It was not a pulling ingredient to the IMEX invitation. But like most travel pros, I like to travel with an open mind … and to satisfy my appetite for all things new in travel in the hope I discover great event possibilities.
Despite a little scare mongering from a local guide at the airport upon arrival, indicating the hotel transfer could be 1 – 2 hours depending on traffic, I should have put my trust in my Hyatt Host who indicated it would be approx. 45 minutes at most. It was 45 minutes on the dot!
The Hyatt Regency is located in the heart of the “Beverly Hills” of Mexico City. A tree lined, green, clean business and residential suburb of Polanco. We were welcomed in true Hyatt style by its management, time to freshen up before embarking on a teppanyaki extravaganza at the exquisite Teppan Grill. Thinking our day was over, we were lead out of the hotel for a short stroll to a neighbouring bar for a nightcap. We arrived at a mysterious venue, where we queued in the thick of a regular cafe style restaurant, busting at the seams with locals. Perplexed why we were queuing to step inside a butchers cold room – we soon discovered we were lead to a prohibition/speakeasy style underground bar and nightclub which wouldn’t have looked out of place in downtown, trendy Meatpacking District in NYC.
The next day, a cultural blitz on this historic and fascinating city. We walked through green parks the spectacular Chapultepec Castle, towering over the park of the same name. With several centuries of rich history, it is now a magnet for visitors to marvel at is art, architecture and spectacular views over the city. For us eager event planners, the variety of spaces are a dream for the most spectacular of private events in a great setting.
Also deep in the historic quarter, we were hosted a true gem of a restaurant. Azul Histrorico was a dream venue for both private visitors or small groups. A stunning internal courtyard dining space under trees and candles, we enjoyed stylish, delicious Mexican specialities from ceviche to mole – with no sight of a typical tourist taco or fajita to be seen.
A walking experience around the historic centre, many streets utilised in the opening scenes of the recent Bond epic Spectre, revealed a host of stunning landmarks, palaces, stylish eateries, cafes, shops, epic churches … and people! Lots of people. Mexico City has over 24 million. With streets I likened to some images of Old Havana, we turned a corner to discover a breathtaking parade. As a warm up for the legendary Day of the Dead parade on 31st October, we were lucky to experience the Mexico City Alebrije Parade; an annual event to honour Mexican handcrafts and folk art, especially a hard kind of papier-mâché called “cartonería” and the creation of fantastic figures with it called “alebrijes.” It was colourful, spectacular and fortunately, amazing timing on our part.
More nighttime capers courtesy of a lively and popular Mexican restaurant perfect for visitors requiring the more classic Mexican flavours. With a bucket of margarita, I could visualise many groups whooping it up with Mariachi music and the fun spirit of the venue. The evening was rounded off in true style, with a nightcaps at another stylish, trendy hangout for the locals. Gin Gin starts the evening as a vibrant, fashionable eatery before erupting into a DJ fired night dance club into the early hours.
Our departure day allowed more time to discover great culture and history with a drive out of the City to Teotihuacan Pyramids. Thought to have been built circa. 250 AD, this amazing site was an oasis of green and calm. We battled the steps to reach a couple of pinnacles to take in the breathtaking vistas. Selfies and our 100th group photo later, we journeyed onto our final experience. A brief stop at The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a Roman Catholic church, basilica and National shrine of Mexico in the north of Mexico City.
We all headed off to the airport, happily exhausted after jet lag, Vegas, and three packed days in Mexico City. Vegas lived up to expectations. Mexico City exceeded it positively by a considerable length. We expected a busy, polluted, anxious city with a challenge to find experiences and venues suited to the demands of the toughest event planner. Whilst we only scratched the surface, we found a lively city full of rich culture, friendly people, glorious sights, exquisite food and high quality nightlife.
So I returned home, richer for the experience. To consider Mexico in the future – at least explore possibilities beyond the eastern coastal resorts of Cancun and Riviera Maya. For UK groups, with BA flying directly into Mexico City and Cancun, I would definitely consider the possibilities of an open jaw air itinerary with a stunning two centre programme combining the best ingredients of this colourful country – mixing the city culture and high life with the beauty of the beach resorts.
A massive thank you to our top class host Sylvia Smith from Hyatt Global Sales and the Hyatt Regency Mexico City sales management Shyla and Erick for organising a great, whirlwind experience of their great city. You changed perceptions and have a happy band of event organisers spreading the word. Muchas gracias!
About the Hyatt Regency Mexico City
Hyatt Regency Mexico City is an elegant downtown hotel overlooking scenic Chapultepec Park, located steps from Mexico City’s leading cultural attractions. From the hotel, you can easily explore the charming streets of Polanco with good shopping and dining options
- Rooms – 755 spacious guest rooms and suites, with view and club level spaces as well as a top-floor presidential suite
- Dining: Inventive dishes at Rulfo, authentic sushi at Yoshimi, and exciting culinary experiences at Teppan Grill
- Business services: Full-service business centre and unique, collaborative meeting spaces.
- Events: 28,350 sq ft of meeting and event space, including the elegant Regency Ballroom
- Features: Indoor pool with outdoor sundeck and a fully equipped fitness centre with fitness coaches and tennis courts
eveology liked: the large, cool spaces with a contemporary style. The newer La Residencia meeting rooms and hospitality suites were great spaces with a light modern, contemporary touches with flexible space options. Food in Teppen Grill expectional. High bedrooms offer stunning city views on both sides. Service and staff faultless in the little time there.
LUNCH AT AZUL HISTORICO
Walking through the main entrance alone offers a sight to behold. The 17th-century building, once the palatial home of colonial-era nobility, has ancient, carved wooden doors that open to a high-ceilinged hall that ends in a beautiful, open-air courtyard filled with trees. On the tables, small, hand-carved bowls, made from calabash gourds, are found beside each place setting. As our waiter explained, the bowls are the traditional containers used in the Mexican state of Oaxaca for drinking mezcal, of which the restaurant carries several different types.
CLIMB THE MOON … TEOTIHUACAN PYRAMIDS
Leave early to avoid the crowds but definitely worth a visit. It is about an hour to Teotihuacan, a UNESCO-listed site, also known as the City of the Gods. A former Mesoamerican indigenous civilisation that predates the Maya and Aztecs, Teotihuacan was once the largest city in Mexico, reaching its heyday in the 1st century CE (AD) when the Sun Pyramid was constructed. Huff your way up the Sun Pyramid and the Moon Pyramid, the main axis of Teotihuacan. From the top, enjoy your bird’s-eye vantage point of the Avenue of the Dead.
NIGHT CAPS & SOUNDS AT GIN GIN POLANCO
The new concept of cocktail with gin in Polanco has made it one of the most acclaimed places thanks to its interior design, atmosphere, music, but above all, the quality of food and beverages. Gin Gin, besides being the flagship drink of the house, is the name of the bar which has influences from around the world, mainly the United States and Spain. The bar has more than 30 labels and is popular for creating some of the best cocktails in the City.
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY
Mexico City has at its heart one of the most important museums in Mexico, Museo Nacional de Antropologia. The Museum contains one of the world’s largest collections of archaeological and anthropological artifacts from pre-hispanic Mayan civilizations to the Spanish conquest. Located within Chapultepec Park, the Museum is one of the most comprehensive and impressive (almost 20 acres) facilities in the world.
ENTER A FRIDGE …. TO PARTY
To get to this cleverly concealed speakeasy, you’ll need to head through the refrigerator door of La Surtidora restaurant. Inside, an intimate black-and-white space with wooden and silver accents serves as the backdrop for mixology lessons, live jazz sessions and all-around coolness. Try cocktails like a mezcal Negroni, La Pinta (Zacapa 15 rum, port wine, lime juice, simple syrup and angostura bitters), or Falda Escocesa (gin, Drambuie, cucumber, lime juice and rose syrup). We loved it!
WALK, EXPLORE, DISCOVER
Just exploring the historical centre on foot was one of the best ways to experience the vibe and culture of the city. We loved a brief stop at Museo de Arte Popular, a white washed stunning art deco building located in the hardware district amongst a mish mash of buildings with facades covered with gaudy signage. The museum brings together folk art from all over Mexico, from traditional to contemporary pieces, representing the country’s cultural and geographical diversity. A stunning venue for private events.
Paul Evans, Founder of eveology, is a leading incentive travel specialist. For more information, visit www.eveology.com