Exploring Mérida's Rich Mayan Heritage at Destination Mexico

Meeting planners at the Northstar Meetings Group event connected with suppliers from across Mexico while experiencing the culture and history of Yucatán.

Destination Mexico Merida Monumento a la Patria
Monumento de la Pátria, a sculpture and central landmark that depicts the history of Mexico dating back to the Mayans. Photo Credit: Michael J. Shapiro

International travel to Mexico is surging, particularly in popular resort destinations, such as Los Cabos and Cancún, which are welcoming travelers in record numbers. But the incredibly diverse country has much to offer beyond its stunning beaches, as the 75 participants at Northstar Meetings Group's Destination Mexico event discovered firsthand in Mérida, the charming colonial capital city of the state of Yucatán. There, planners met with suppliers from across the country while gaining a deeper understanding of the many experiences Mexico has to offer, from beachfront to urban and the incredible variety in between.

Participants learned about the indigenous Mayan culture, traditions and cuisine of Yucatán, located in southeastern Mexico, as well as Mérida's rich colonial history through its remarkable architecture and the haciendas on the city's outskirts. They also experienced the unique geography of the Yucatán Peninsula, and many swam in a cenote — a bracing freshwater-filled natural limestone sinkhole, very common to the region — before the meeting agenda got underway.

In fact, Mérida's modern Yucatán International Congress Center, the host venue for Destination Mexico, has a naturally occurring cenote on its grounds. In a courtyard and not open for swimming, the cenote is a unique spectacle to find at a meeting facility.

Off-site dinners — including at the El Pinar mansion and the Hacienda Santa Cruz Palomeque — provided planners with the opportunity to see more of the region. "It was a surprise to learn about the variety of haciendas and the possibilities for incentives in the destination," commented Cathi Lundgren, CAE, CMP, vice president of global accounts for HPN Global. "So many of my incentive groups are seeking out more historical and cultural learning experiences, and since Covid it seems many companies are looking for more destinations on this continent."

Speaker Lee Rubin, who appeared thanks to Goodman Speaker Management, addressed the group on the broader subject of "Building Extraordinary Teams" — a timely topic, given both the intensified focus on collaboration in our industry and the challenges in retaining a talented staff. Based on his expertise as both a former Big 10 student-athlete and corporate human resources executive, the engaging Rubin reminded attendees not to lose sight of the pillars of team-building: being competitive, sharing a common goal, communicating openly and honestly, building chemistry, and maintaining consistency.

And on that topic of teamwork and collaboration, Destination Mexico was a success thanks to the partnership of Yucatán Meetings, as well as the support of Fiesta Americana Mérida, Hyatt Regency Mérida, Villa Mercedes Curio Collection by Hilton, Club Med, Visit Los Cabos, Hoteles Xcaret, Maui Jim, Essential Bodywear, Stova (formerly MeetingPlay + Aventri + Eventcore) and PC/Nametag.

Following are some highlights from Destination Mexico 2022. All photos by Michael J. Shapiro.


Day One

Yucatán Secretary of Tourism Michelle Fridman welcomed Destination Mexico participants during the opening reception.

Mayan performers in traditional warrior dress demonstrated the ancient Mayan ball game — with a flaming ball — in front of the modern Yucatán International Congress Center.

Event attendees participated in traditional Mayan rituals before posing with performers.

Day Two

Lee Rubin, who appeared thanks to Goodman Speaker Management, led a session about building extraordinary teams.

Event participants, shown here on the rooftop terrace of El Minaret, explored some of the city's historical mansions that can now be used for events.

No visit to Mérida would be complete without sampling freshly made marquesitas, a crunchy crepe-like specialty traditionally made with Nutella and Edam cheese.

Attendees enjoyed fantastic al-fresco dining on the grounds of El Pinar, a landmark mansion in central Mérida.

Day Three

The Yucatán International Congress Center is the only convention facility known for having a naturally occurring cenote inside the building.

Just outside of Mérida, the Hacienda Santa Cruz Palomeque is a picture-perfect event destination.

Destination Mexico's closing dinner was arranged in a central courtyard of the Hacienda Santa Cruz Palomeque.

Participants were serenaded by enthusiastic musicians, closing out the event on a perfect note.