MPI’s annual MeetDifferent conference in February at the 2,457-room Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort Cancun completely reinvented the buyer/supplier tradeshow event. The conference ended with a fun and highly productive “TradeDifferent” evening gala outdoors, combining both a party atmosphere and easy networking forum.
Let’s set the stage first. A multi-tiered series of long terraces and lawns separate the main building from the beach, intertwined among a maze of walkway bridges connecting the large islands inside the winding lagoon pools. At each end on the beach, the Palapa Fragata and Palapa Barracuda restaurants bookend the watery playground.
For TradeDifferent, suppliers set up their posts at various positions here, creating a breezy flow of traffic from place to place. Starwood Hotels erected a big bar on the beach, while Hilton Hotels took over Palapa Barracuda with salespeople from Puerto Rico to Ireland. Hyatt Hotels put together a refined seafood barbeque poolside, and Hard Rock Hotels naturally brought in a rock band and large MTV-style video screen and stage. Their flame-grilled burgers turned out to be highly popular.
As the moon hung over the Caribbean, all of the planners wandered among the various venues, grabbing a dorado and pineapple skewer here and there while chatting up suppliers.
“We wanted to come up with something fun and get people to interact,” says Ginny Davito, vp of group sales. “The clients came up with their own concepts, and we were just super impressed with the end result. There was a lot of creativity involved, that’s why the night turned out to be so successful.”
The conference sessions and main events took place at the second floor ballrooms above the main lobby and the 92,000-sf Universal Center conference facilities just a 5-minute walk from the front door. Both Loews Hotels and Harrah’s Las Vegas hosted everyone for 1,000+ sitdown lunches.
The heart of the property is anchored by two signature Jack Nicklaus 18-hole golf courses and the giant Moon Spa & Golf Club located right off the fairways among the native mangroves and Golf Villas. The clubhouse and first tee were filled with golfers when we were here so schedule accordingly.
The golf facilities and La Trattoria and Bambú restaurants are located downstairs. You could easily bring a group of 500+ here for a sunset buyout overlooking the deep green fairways.
The entire upstairs is dedicated to the simply and serenely furnished spa. The treatment rooms include: 20 singles, six doubles, three hydrotherapy Master Suites and one Golden Suite with a huge jet tub, daybeds and sauna/steam. So that’s 34 pax per hour max. All rooms include showers, and the large restaurant terrace looking over the greens makes a nice post-spa retreat.
Moon Palace is all-inclusive but most groups make the 20-minute drive into Cancun, like we did for the late night InterContinental Hotel bash at Coco Bongo. It’s a touch Spring Breaky but the show is incredible. In front of a huge, towering video screen playing classic MTV hits, dancers perform the exact same choreographed scenes, dressed in the exact same clothing. Many a planner also took to the elevated dance stage, performing their own, um, impromptu routines. You know who you are.