Insight Mexico Insight For brides and grooms, Palladium offers a religious experience By Laura Del Rosso / March 31, 2010 Share 1 -- Palladium Hotels & Resorts has seen a "significant increase" in interest in destination weddings at its Mexico properties, according to Abel Matutes, director general of the Spanish company. The company added a Roman Catholic chapel to its Riviera Maya property in June 2009 to cater to the weddings market. Shortly after that, Palladium launched a website specifically for weddings. Matutes said that although resorts in the area attract destination weddings, few offer a venue for a religious ceremony. "We've seen a significant increase in those looking for a destination wedding but that don't want to sacrifice the religious element of a Christian ceremony," he said. "What we wanted to accomplish by building the chapel was to provide a place for couples to hold the religious ceremony they've always dreamed of, while at the same time experiencing the beautiful setting and exotic flavor of the Mayan Riviera." Also in the last year, the company enhanced the services at its Mexico properties on the Riviera Maya and Riviera Nayarit (north of Puerto Vallarta) with the Royal Suites, an adults-only area within the Palladium resorts that feature butlers and 24-hour room service. The economic recession has reinforced Palladium's philosophy that offering its guests value is key, Matutes said. "One of our strong points is our great price/quality ratio. Every time we've increased our prices, it's been following an improvement in services or facilities, which justifies the increase in terms of value. This has helped us to weather the recession." Mexico tourism is still struggling to recover after a very difficult 2009, he said, although he does expect to see some bounce-back in the second half of this year. "U.S. travel to our resorts is slightly up, although the total occupancy of our resorts is down compared to last year," Matutes said. "This year looks better than 2009 because of the different factors [the H1N1 outbreak, violence related to the drug trade] that affected tourism in Mexico last year. Although these first four months of 2010 will be a bit worse than last year, we expect this summer and upcoming 2010-2011 winter season to be better than 2009." A stronger U.S. economy with more employment, booking incentives and a better perception of safety in Mexico is needed to boost hotel occupancy, Matutes said. "In order to stimulate travel, first of all people should consider the destination a safe place for travel, second we should try to stimulate people to buy in advance via early-booking bonuses ... but the best stimulus the travel industry can benefit from is a strong economy ... and a decrease in unemployment levels to the ones we saw a couple of years ago."