MEXICO CITY -- "Mexico City is a huge market," said Philippe
Cassis, area director for Mexico and general manager of that city's
Sheraton Maria Isabel Hotel & Towers. Therefore, in October
1996, Sheraton opened a second property there, Sheraton Suites,
situated in the new financial and commercial district of Santa Fe.
Six years ago, much of this area was, quite literally, the city
dump. Then, the federal government and a local construction company
laid out plans for a minicity of towering, architecturally
interesting office and apartment buildings. In a real success
story, international corporations by the dozens relocated here,
including IBM, General Electric, Pepsi, Kraft, Roche and Proctor
& Gamble. An exposition center is under construction.
According to the public relations manager for the Santa Fe
property, many questioned projected occupancy figures. Now, several
other chains are looking for sites. The nine-story structure houses
194 suites, classified as standard, executive and master, plus a
presidential suite. My standard suite, larger than the average
Manhattan one-bedroom apartment, featured a living room; dining
area seating four; kitchenette; bathroom with access from both
bedroom and hallway; two dual-line telephones plus a cell phone;
iron and ironing board; a pants press; closet safe; two
televisions, and a digital thermostat indicating outdoor as well as
The 16 master suites can connect to second bedrooms with full
baths; these smaller rooms are never rented separately. Master
suites also boast large dining areas and Jacuzzis.
Active guests can check out the fitness center's exercise room,
whirlpool, steam baths and jogging track. A fee of $7.50 per day
covers everything except massage. Since membership is open to area
business people, clients can firm up deals along with muscles.
During my recent visit, most of the 10 meeting and banquet rooms
were in use or being set up. There is also a complete business
center and the fashionable Sante Fe shopping center, reputedly
Latin America's largest, is five minutes by car.
The Cardon restaurant, overlooking a garden, features Mexican
and international cuisine. Within a five-minute walk, guests will
find a variety of additional dining options.
Stays of four or five months are not unusual, as clients find
the property a comfortable and convenient base while conducting
business in the area or while looking for a house. Rates begin at
$245 per room. Since Santa Fe is situated 19 miles west of city
center, it is best for clients with business in the area or for
Sheraton's second Mexico City property, the Maria Isabel Hotel
& Towers, stands next to the American Embassy on Paseo de la
Reforma, the main thoroughfare of the Zona Rosa business and
shopping district. Shortly after the Maria Isabel's 1962
inauguration, it hosted an ASTA convention and an IBM world
congress. When Sheraton acquired the property in 1969, a tower was
added and total room count rose from 502 to 747, including 72
suites. Towers guests enjoy private check-in and use of an
attractive lounge overlooking Angel Monument.
The lounge offers complimentary buffet breakfast, beverages
throughout the day and a cocktail hour with tasty hors d'oeuvres.
It further serves as a quiet and comfortable spot to relax or
Following a tradition established by grand European hotels,
Towers guests are attended by personal butlers who can assist with
business and social planning as well as more usual
responsibilities. Service is a hallmark of the Maria Isabel.
Housekeeping quickly responded to my request for an iron and
ironing board, and as I awaited a friend outside the Verandah
restaurant, I was offered coffee.
The Pavillion restaurant features dinner shows Tuesday through
Sunday evenings. Patricia Quintana, author of several cookbooks,
traveled the country's villages and haciendas collecting old
recipes and authentic ingredients. She then worked with Sheraton to
develop special menus. Diners might start with a hibiscus
Silvia Lozano, a director of the National Folkloric Ballet,
organized a one-hour program introducing the dances, music and
costumes of Mexico's states. Guests also are entertained by a
canary that tells fortunes, plays basketball, bathes a baby and
rings a miniature dinner bell.
Tinted windows have given the property a new facade; the
Verandah restaurant's terrace is being redesigned; the Cardinale
restaurant is receiving a "more Italian" look; meeting rooms are
being refurbished, and lobby upgrading includes a higher ceiling,
additional space and the use of more wood to create a warmer
Reflecting on the Maria Isabel's continued popularity for more
than 35 years, Cassis described its staff as a "professional team
who knows why we're here and gives the best we can. We realize
there's competition out there, so we continually reinforce our
strengths and work on any weaknesses."
Rates begin at $200 per room, suites at $266.
With the Santa Fe property and the recent acquisition of the
239-room Ambassador Hotel in Monterrey, Sheraton now has eight
hotels in the country. As Cassis put it, "This proves our faith and
commitment to the future of Mexico."