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Saturday,  May 18, 2024 6:10 PM 

On Location: Playa in "growth mode" as it celebrates all-star agents at Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya

On Location: Playa in "growth mode" as it celebrates all-star agents at Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya
Top-producing Canadian travel advisors are on the scene at Playa's 2023 All Stars event at Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya. (Pax Global Media)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

It’s not a sporting event, but the best players have come out to play.

Playa Hotels and Resorts is celebrating top-performing travel advisors this week at “All Stars 2023,” a fun-focused learning and networking event from May 8-11 taking place at the new Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya, an adults-only, all-inclusive resort located about 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen.

The party in paradise, which involves 60 travel advisors from both Canada and the United States, is a downsized version of Playa’s annual Spotlight Awards, which typically happen in January.

From left (of Playa Resorts): Andi Bacho, BDM, Ontario; Christopher Jeffrey-Racine, BDM, Quebec & Atlantic Canada; Amanda Morris, director of sales for Canada. (Pax Global Media)

“We decided to do a smaller event this year because Canada’s recovery was a lot slower [compared to the U.S.],” said Amanda Morris, Playa’s director of sales for Canada, speaking to PAX at a festive welcome cocktail and Mexican buffet Monday night (May 8), at sunset, on the ocean and beach-facing rooftop of Lola Beach, an open-air restaurant.

“We didn't have the numbers we had in previous years, but we still wanted to make sure we had an event to bring down our top-supporting agents and celebrate them.”

From left: Gregory Luciani; Andi Bacho, Amanda Beaver, Barbara Scrocco, Amanda Morris. (Pax Global Media)

There are 15 travel advisors from Canada, from coast to coast, attending this week, and joining them are members of Playa’s Canadian sales team.

Christopher Jeffrey-Racine, BDM for Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and Andi Bacho, BDM for Ontario – who joined Playa’s Canada team earlier this year – are joining Morris, on location, for the week.

Unpacking Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya

Beyond connecting in person, the week is an opportunity to introduce agents to the new Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya, which Morris calls a “gem.”

The newly-renovated, low-rise, U-shaped property (formally a Secrets Capri) opened in December of last year.

With just 291 (very spacious) rooms, the hacienda-style hotel has a sophisticated, boutique vibe that’s orchestrated by friendly staff who specialize in “service from the heart” – Playa’s motto.

“When you think of Zilara, the automatic response should be five-star luxury,” Morris said. “You can leave the kids at home and enjoy an adult holiday with great food and beverage.”

Hyatt Zilara (a brand for guests ages 18 and up) is a sister property to the Hyatt Ziva brand, which is for all ages. What’s the best way to remember the difference? The word “adults” is six letters long, just like the word “Zilara.”

Newly constructed swim-up suites at Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya. (Pax Global Media)

The main pool at Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya. (Pax Global Media)

At Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya, there are 15 room categories, including 52 tranquil swim-ups, and 12 oceanfront suites with plunge pools. Currently, 21 rooms have butler service, but there are plans to expand this option to 52 rooms.

The swim-up suites, which were built specifically for Playa’s takeover, are on either ends of the property, offering interior resort views and tropical views.

Spacious accommodations at Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya. (Pax Global Media)

A bridge walks over one main pool, and there are four restaurants – Tempest (Asian fare), Capri Grille (coastal Italian), Lola Beach (seafood and snack bar) and El Comedor, a buffet with always-changing options.

And the property sits on “one of the most amazing beaches that I think you're going to find in the Riviera Maya,” Morris said. “It’s very different from Cancun. It’s not hotel after hotel.” 

The property’s laid-back beach club (Lola Beach), too, is unique because it’s something that other Zilaras don’t have.

“A true couples resort”

“What makes this property special is that it represents a true Zilara experience,” General Manager Erik Fois told PAX last night. “It's not a party vibe – you won’t find a foam party here – but what you will find is a hotel that has been newly-refurbished and retains a lot of the soul from the previous property.”

From the moment you walk in, minimalistic décor elements exude a warm embrace. “It’s a true couples resort,” Fois said.

Beachfront hacienda-style accommodations at Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya. (Pax Global Media)

The beach is the soft and idyllic stretch it is today thanks to restoration efforts led by the complex next door, which invested in a sand bank that added some 50 metres of beachfront to the land, Fois noted.

Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya is also in a desirable location because it doesn’t accumulate as much sargassum (compared to other spots along the coast) due to stronger currents.

The property’s spa, “Zen Spa,” too, is a standout amenity. “We take guests into the middle of the jungle, in a golf cart,” Fois explained.

“It’s a very high-end experience and because of our location, close to the Yucatan, we incorporate a lot of influence from the Maya culture in our products and services.”

Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya is located in a jungle setting. (Pax Global Media)

The property's jungle setting is also home to exotic birds, wild boars, coatis (which are like Mexican racoons) and even monkeys.

“It’s really different from an urban resort,” Fois said.

And, with flexible venues and a 4,757-square-foot ballroom, Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya is set up for hosting epic special occasions.

Awards & site inspections

These are just some of the details all-star agents will be unpacking this week.

This morning (Tuesday, May 9) kicks off with a trade show, where attendees will meet with representatives from Playa’s Mexico resorts, as well as the company’s Celebrations, AgentCash+ and Wedding departments.

Later in the evening, a sports-themed party will unfold at Legends Sports Bar (OK, so the week is kinda like a sporting event), where prizes will be awarded.

From left: Carolyn Bujtas, Vikas Malhotra. (Pax Global Media)

On Wednesday (May 10), agents will conduct site inspections of the property, and join tours of other nearby Playa-managed resorts, including Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun (which opened in September 2021), Hilton Playa del Carmen, The Yucatan Resort and Wyndham Alltra.

That evening, a formal “Night at the Oscars” bash will be held, which will include an awards gala.

“We're celebrating the sales of 2020, but many of the agents that are here were supporting us throughout the pandemic – as difficult as that was. We still saw business coming in. Some of them have been to every single awards event we've ever had. So, we want to recognize that loyalty,” Morris said.

Musicians entertain guests on the rooftop of Lola Beach at Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya. (Pax Global Media)

And for new agents attending, “we want to spoil them and show them that their hard work is recognized.”

“We want to allow them the opportunity to experience not only a Playa resort, but also one of our best,” Morris said.

“We are in growth mode”

It all unfolds as Playa, which operates all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic, expands its portfolio with brand alliances, new builds and management takeovers in prime sun-kissed locations.

Some of their latest developments include a new partnership with Kimpton, the opening of Jewel Punta Cana and Jewel Palm Beach, a takeover of Seadust Cancun Family Resort, as well as the new Wyndham Alltra Samaná, for all ages, in the Dominican Republic, which is set to open during the third quarter of this year.

Amanda Morris, Playa’s director of sales for Canada, greets attendees at All Stars 2023. (Pax Global Media)

Playa’s strategy “has always been to align ourselves with international brands that consumers and travel agent partners are familiar with,” Morris explained.  

“Right now, we are in growth mode,” she told PAX.  

A Playa All Stars logo lights up the pool at night. (Pax Global Media)

The company, currently, is focused on the mid-scale market, which Morris says will provide “more options” to customers and travel advisors.

“For us, it's the consistency of having those pillars: our service, food and beverage, health and wellness and entertainment,” Morris said. “It’s about being able to get that, no matter what property you're staying at.”

Stay tuned as PAX brings you more on location coverage from Playa’s All Star event at Hyatt Zilara Riviera Maya!

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