Velas Resorts is known for redefining the concept of luxury all-inclusives in Mexico with award-winning properties and cuisine.
What began by accident, however, with one resort location 30 years ago has grown to include six premium locations from the Mexican Pacific to the Caribbean coast.
“Years ago, my brother and I had a business in the construction industry, building houses, and we knew absolutely nothing about hotels,” Juan Vela Ruíz, VP of Velas Resorts Mexico, told PAX (his brother, Eduardo Vela Ruíz, is the president of the company). “Eventually, we began building condos and were successful—until a big recession hit and we went into huge debt.”
Unable to sell a newly built condo and unsure of what to do next, Vela Ruíz’s daughter randomly suggested turning the building into a hotel. “My daughter asked, ‘How difficult could it be to run a hotel?’ So, we hired a general manager to get us started,” he said. “And, somewhat by accident, our construction business turned into a resort business.”
Hitting the road
Since then, Vela Ruíz visits various cities in Canada and the U.S. every January to meet with the company’s partners and travel agents.
For example, last Friday (Jan 10), Vela Ruíz treated an exclusive group of about a dozen of those partners and agents to lunch at Vancouver’s Blue Water Café, an award-winning seafood restaurant.
“We’re very aware of the value our partners provide and couldn’t be where we are without them. So, I like to visit each year to say thank you,” said Vela Ruíz at the lunch.
He has already visited Chicago, Milwaukee, Toronto, and Calgary, with Seattle next on the list.
The success of Velas Resorts was not without challenges, however.
“The first month we opened had a three per cent occupancy rate, with just six per cent the following month,” he shared. “It wasn’t good, and we knew we had to change something.”
That’s when the Vela Ruíz brothers first began visiting North America to explain their concept and connect with potential partners.
“At first, my brother went door-to-door to explain our concept. It took continued persistence and some mistakes along the way, but six years later we were in the black,” he said. Vela Ruíz credits this to hard work, quality service and developing partnerships.
“We know how important it is to take care of you and the clients you send us,” he said at the lunch. "The best thing we can do is provide them with an exceptional experience and ensure you get the best rates for your clients."
This means travellers won’t find better prices on third-party sites.
Vela Ruíz also encourages agents to visit Velas Resorts in person to fully understand that experience.
“You truly have to live it to believe it,” he said. “Our company is the only one in Mexico that has received top recognition from Five Diamonds, AAA, Signature, including top rankings with TripAdvisor.”
"...service that is like no other"
Velas Resorts routinely ranks within the top three on TripAdvisor. Although most guests are from America, about 15 per cent of Canadians visit every winter.
“The resorts offer extraordinary service that is like no other and fully earn their price point,” said Denys Montes de Oca, corporate leisure sales and marketing director with Velas Resorts, who’s travelled with Vela Ruíz this month. “Just as one example, where other all-inclusive resorts might provide guests with the house wine, our list is truly inclusive with dozens of imported selections from France, Italy, New Zealand, Australia as well as local choices. Plus, there are tastings and a sommelier who can suggest pairings with dinner.”
The cuisine is also top-rated. “Michelin-star chefs head many of our fine-dining restaurants, which can easily compete with Five Star restaurants anywhere in the world,” she added.
“I can attest to this,” said Marie Maisonneuve, an independent hospitality management consultant based in Vancouver and account manager with Kiwi Collection, which rates the world’s best hotels and resorts. She recently visited the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit with her boyfriend. “I’ve heard about how good the cuisine is at Velas Resorts, but it was beyond compare. I am from France, originally, and the imported wines from Europe are really high-end and included in the inclusive price. They are not extra.”
Maisonneuve also noted just how welcomed and special the staff made guests feel. They remembered details (like how she prefers her margaritas without salt) and many could even converse in French with her.
“Sometimes it’s the small things that make you feel special,” she said. “I’ve worked in resorts for years and have not experienced anything quite like this.”
A quick guide to the six resorts
Grand Velas Los Cabos: The newest of the Grand Velas Resorts chain, the Los Cabos location was awarded Five Diamonds by the AAA within a year of opening in 2018. It’s considered “ultra-luxe” and is home to chef Sidney Schutte, recipient of two Michelin stars.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya: Rated Five Diamonds by the AAA, guests here will enjoy white sands, nature, and a Zen-like atmosphere.
Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit: The first all-inclusive family-friendly resort in the Mexican Pacific to obtain the AAA Five Diamond Award. Guests can experience wellness activities, including meditation sessions, aerial yoga and vegan cooking lessons.
Casa Velas: An adults-only, boutique hotel with a golf course and private Ocean Club. It’s a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World and has received the AAA Four Diamond Award.
Velas Vallarta. A five-star family-friendly resort with a Kids’ Clube that’s open until 11 p.m. Other than formula, parents will find everything else needed for baby is covered.
Mar del Cabo: A fully restored boutique hotel with Greek architecture combined with Mexican culture.
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