How to Get More From an Event in the Caribbean and Latin America

Marriott International’s Louise Bang offers insights on how to create a memorable meeting in this special place.

Planet Hollywood Cancún offers groups both expansive leisure offerings and a range of meeting space for getting down to business.
Planet Hollywood Cancún offers groups both expansive leisure offerings and a range of meeting space for getting down to business. Photo Credit: Planet Hollywood Cancún

Few regions are as enticing for meeting planners as the Caribbean and Latin America. Whether their attendees are seeking relaxing beaches, culturally enriching outings, mouth-watering culinary experiences or stunning outdoors, this region boasts a vast range of options. Plus, the level of service and venue options are at a level higher than just about any other place in the world.

To illustrate what is available to planners and how they can get the most from an event held in the Caribbean and Latin America, we spoke with Louise Bang, regional vice president, sales and distribution, Caribbean and Latin America for Marriott International. She shared some highlights of the region, shifting preferences of attendees taking part in events there and tips for how planners can ensure their gatherings make the most of this remarkable region.

What would you say sets the Caribbean/Latin America region apart as a destination for events?

Zadun, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Los Cabos, offers plenty of spaces for gatherings both indoors and outside.
Zadun, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Los Cabos, offers plenty of spaces for gatherings both indoors and outside. Photo Credit: Zadun, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

This is a region of unmatched diversity: diversity of seasons, culture, and heritage. 

The geographic diversity of Latin America allows for varied experiences within short distances. A quarterly review meeting can take place at Zadun, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Los Cabos; an incentive experience can be given to a top performing salesperson at the Delta Hotels Riviera Nayarit, an All-Inclusive Resort; and an event with over 300 attendees can take place at the Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel Hotel. There is a hotel for each meeting or event size. 

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Planning an event in the Caribbean or Latin America? Download this desk reference for the key steps involved in planning a gathering here, from site selection to post-event follow up.

But the region isn’t overly commercialized, allowing guests to immerse themselves in the local culture and enjoy authentic, unique experiences. Meeting attendees are also going to enjoy the region’s unparalleled service. Latin America’s orientation to service culture is an intangible element that makes a difference in providing attendees a memorable and impactful experience at meetings and events.

You can add to all this the fact that travel is a breeze. There are many day flights and connections to major cities in the US. Time zones are aligned to the U.S., and a Visa is only required for Brazil.

Additionally, the dollar reaches further in the region thanks to favorable exchange rates and tax programs, making the region an affordable destination to visit and hold meetings and events. Because of this, meetings and special events are more accessible – planners and attendees have the ability to select higher categories of hotels and hotel rooms and spend more on dining and special activities and events. 

What would you say are the top requests you’re hearing from planners bringing their groups to the Caribbean/Latin America region?

Planners are booking and developing purposeful meetings. They are looking for authentic experiences and spending extensive time and effort on planning the details and designing the event in order to ensure that the events are achieving their objectives. They and their attendees want to explore new and unique destinations and experiences. Since the Caribbean and Latin America have not been visited by as many attendees, the region offers unlimited new experiences and opportunities.

Currently, sustainability is of great importance to planners — they are looking for partners who source products locally, hire locally, and attempt to use environmentally friendly products and processes. There is also a greater focus on wellness, from mindful meeting breaks to time for attendees to relax in their room or at the pool, enjoy a spa treatment or take a yoga class.  

How does Marriott help planners address these needs?

At the Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel Hotel, guests can enjoy entertainment as well as dishes layered with flavor, care of Chef Julio Gomez.
At the Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel Hotel, guests can enjoy entertainment as well as dishes layered with flavor, care of Chef Julio Gomez. Photo Credit: Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel Hotel

If people are traveling for a meeting, they definitely want to feel a sense of place from the event space. 

They want to enjoy local dishes, local wines and cocktails. From Mexico to Chile, Latin America is a foodie paradise for those with a preference for ingredients harvested in nearby orchards, fair treatment of the region’s producers and dishes with local flavor. Marriott International’s Caribbean and Latin America properties offer culinary experiences, in keeping with our focus on exceptional meetings. Meeting planners are able to share their vision and our hotel culinary teams will bring these to life using locally sourced ingredients and products.

Wellness activities that create connections with nature and reinvigorate the mind and body are another trend. Everything from forest yoga to nature hikes, paddleboard yoga and meditation are requested and are ways that groups can both relax and better connect.

Our food and beverage and design reflect the local cultures, thereby providing a sense of authenticity. Some succulent local dish ideas served at meetings include the spicy ceviche from Chef Heivel Bedoya at the Sheraton Lima Hotel and Convention Center. The fish with guava mole from Chef Julio Gomez at the Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel Hotel is layered with flavor and the mole gives it an intense blend that is a staple of Mexican cooking. Another example is the Spanish lobster with spicy Caribbean sauce from Chef Gerald Cardenas at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas.

For cocktails, some of the most popular are the Hot Tiki Inspired BOOMBOX Cocktail by Aloft San Juan. This fruity hot tiki-inspired libation features a dash of Pique sauce, a hot sauce born in the mountains of Puerto Rico, made with fresh homegrown habanero peppers, garlic, sugar and other mind-blowing ingredients.

Menus throughout the Caribbean and Latin America are being written with more individual serving options with a continued focus on quality utilizing, local and sustainable ingredients.
Menus throughout the Caribbean and Latin America are being written with more individual serving options with a continued focus on quality utilizing, local and sustainable ingredients. Photo Credit: The Westin Reserva Conchal

A heightened awareness of cleanliness, how food is served and event logistics are now the norm. Attendee traffic flow, signage and diagrams have a new importance. Menus are being written with more individual serving options with a continued focus on quality utilizing, local and sustainable ingredients. 

Our sustainability and social impact platform, Serve360, guides our commitment to make a positive and sustainable impact wherever we do business, delivering value for associates, customers, owners, the environment, and communities around the world.

We have phenomenal relationships with the local destination management corporations and can tap into their knowledge and experience of the region as well as partner with them to create truly unique and memorable experiences for meeting attendees.

What are some of the biggest trends you’re seeing in the region for groups?

While planners have no shortage of activities they can arrange for attendees, ensuring guests have plenty of free time is a growing priority for events.
While planners have no shortage of activities they can arrange for attendees, ensuring guests have plenty of free time is a growing priority for events. Photo Credit: The St. Regis Bermuda Resort

A focus on authenticity in events and feel for the local culture. Given the diversity of the region and our hotels, groups can — within a few hours — be transported into an entirely different sense of place and be sipping a local cocktail on the beach in Aruba or land in Mexico City and immerse themselves in the colorful culture and excitement of the city.

Planners are incorporating more free time into events and conferences, allowing attendees time to explore the destination, enjoy the hotel property and its amenities. They are also offering fewer group excursions and allowing for more independent or small group activities.

Just as with leisure travel, influencers and bloggers are driving meeting preferences; attendees see photos of influencers in beautiful settings, enjoying amazing activities and want to experience those.

Planners are requesting curated activities that meet their specific meeting objectives — whether those are one-of-a-kind events or experiences or leaning into the local culture or cuisine; for example, rather than a standard menu, planners are requesting specialty chef experiences, cooking demonstrations and tastings.

Just as with leisure travel, influencers and bloggers are driving meeting preferences; attendees see photos of influencers in beautiful settings, enjoying amazing activities and want to experience those. There is a growing desire for non-alcoholic alternatives at social events — mocktails, low proof cocktails and healthy spritzers and juices are popular and requested increasingly by planners and attendees.

Wellness activities that create connections with nature and reinvigorate the mind and body are another trend. Everything from forest yoga to nature hikes, paddleboard yoga and meditation are requested and are ways that groups can both relax and better connect.

Live art as entertainment during events — ballet dancers, plastic art performances and other live, unique moments — are being requested more often.

What are some steps you’d recommend every planner take when planning an event in this region?

  • Sign up for Marriott Bonvoy Events— earn and redeem points, access group offers, get inspired. 
  • Take a virtual tour and do an in-person site visit if possible so you get to know the hotel or resort and the region. Figure out how far it is from the airport, what the transportation options are, what flights are available.  
  • Understand the local culture and cuisine so you can incorporate those into your meeting to make it more authentic and purposeful.
  • Work closely with the onsite team to make it a true collaboration.
  • Review our video, which beautifully showcases the Caribbean and Latin America region and our properties to get inspired 
  • Tap into our network of experienced DMCs and event management professionals to collaborate. Work with them to connect with local vendors to get authentic amenities, products, foods, giveaways, and convention materials to make the event sustainable, support local businesses, keep costs down and create truly memorable and exciting events.

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