Skift Take

Thompson Hotel's second Mexico location carves out a unique niche in the resort-ridden Riviera Maya.

Thompson Hotels will add its second hotel in Mexico this fall, following its opening in Cabo San Lucas earlier this year with Thompson Playa del Carmen, a boutique property along the Riviera Maya.

“We think there is a real opportunity for the increasing demand for smaller, more intimate hotels that appeal to people’s specific lifestyles,” says Niki Leondakis, CEO of Commune Hotels and Resorts, which manages Thompson Hotels. Mexico is an appealing market for both Commune and its Thompson brand, Leondakis says.

“We really like Mexico and within our group we have a good understanding of Mexico. Playa del Carmen, Cabo, and Mexico City specifically are great opportunities for our brands. Playa del Carmen seemed like it had untapped potential for us to really carve out a niche for us that hadn’t been served yet.”

The property will feature two different locations: a main hotel with 92 rooms that is in the heart of the Riviera Maya’s downtown area well as a bohemian-style oceanfront Beach House with 27 rooms. The main hotel is slated to open in October, and the beachfront property would open in early 2016.

One of the challenges with opening the hotel, Leondakis says, was catering to the area’s diverse market of travelers, which she points out is an eclectic mix with a domestic base that accounts for nearly 40 percent of visitors. Internationally, 20 percent of tourists come from the U.S., 20 percent from Europe, and, Leondakis adds, there is a continued rise in South American tourists as well.

“It was really like threading a needle. The creative challenge was — looking at this traveler base from all these different locations to this beachside community — combining the urban appeal of the location and of the Thompson brand along with that authentic Riviera Maya experience.”

To do so, Leondakis cites that working with local talent is key to achieving a balance between the brand and destination so as to avoid creating something that “feels like it dropped out of the sky and landed in its location.”

“In tapping into the local talent, the local knowledge, creating partnerships that are truly collaborative and aren’t so strong on a client’s point of view or singular point of view that they don’t have any connection to the place that they are in.”

For example, Thompson worked with a team of Mexican architects and also used artwork from Mexican artists to decorate the property’s guest rooms.

“There is such importance of us understanding and listening to the people who are in Mexico and from Mexico about what is authentic and how we tap into the culturally rich landscape to create something that is meaningful and relevant and honors its locale while also bringing something new,” Leondakis says.

Looking toward future ventures, Leondakis says that locations for lifestyle hotels often come to brands opportunistically. This leads the brand to really investigate a market and assess its potential.

“Our growth strategy has specific target markets… and we have target markets that for each of our brands are really based on our customer base of where they travel frequently to or where they would want us to be.”

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Tags: ceo interviews, commune hotels, lifestyle brands, mexico, thompson hotels

Photo credit: Thompson Playa del Carmen is slated to open October 2015. Thompson Hotels

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