Ask a group of travel advisors for a list of their top tried-and-true luxury all-inclusives, and one name is likely to come up more frequently than any other: Velas Resorts' Grand Velas brand.
Grand Velas' reputation precedes it, with the flag's family-friendly Riviera Nayarit, Riviera Maya and Los Cabos resorts long synonymous with high-end, all-inclusive hospitality.
Notably, the brand has achieved its status as an independent hotel company unaffiliated with any of the major global hospitality brands.
Velas Resorts is widely credited with being among the first players to elevate the all-inclusive concept to a luxury level, with the Mexico-based group opening its debut all-inclusive, the 345-room Velas Vallarta, in 1990, and its inaugural Grand Velas property, the 267-room Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, in 2002.
"When we started with this concept, nobody thought it was feasible," said Juan Vela Ruiz, vice president of Velas Resorts. "And there was this idea that the luxury traveler wouldn't really understand or like an all-inclusive product, because all-inclusive at the time was tied to volume."
A section of the hydrotherapy circuit pool area at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya’s SE Spa by Grand Velas. Photo Credit: Christina Jelski
The Velas Resorts strategy, which abandoned the volume-focused model in favor of a quality-driven approach, has not only proven feasible, but highly successful. Today, the company has five luxury all-inclusives, as well as the Mar del Cabo hotel, in its fold.
A seventh property, the adults-only all-inclusive Grand Velas Boutique Los Cabos, which will open near the 307-room Grand Velas Los Cabos, is on track to open later this year. In addition to its own on-site restaurants, pools, wellness offerings and event spaces, the 79-room property will grant guests access to culinary venues and amenities at the Grand Velas Los Cabos.
A focus on family travel
But while the adults-only market is certainly a valuable part of the business, Vela attributes much of the company's staying power to its strong focus on family and multigenerational travelers.
"One of our first goals was to get into the family travel business, because the luxury all-inclusive product is ideal for families," said Vela. "It doesn't matter how much money you have -- no one wants their kids spending more than they should."
As part of a commitment to young families, in particular, Grand Velas properties offer a complimentary baby concierge service, which provides not only necessities like cribs and highchairs, but also baby bathtubs, strollers, bottle warmers, bouncers and gym mats. The baby concierge can also assist in setting up experiences such as a baby's first haircut or massage, as well as the prepping of a poolside baby cabana.
A server mixes a cocktail at the table at Cocina de Autor. Photo Credit: Christina Jelski
At the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, in Puerto Vallarta, the company has also recently completed a refresh of that resort's kids club, expanding the space to more than 3,200 square feet and adding highlights like a climbing wall, cinema space, illuminated dance floor and an open-air terrace with foosball and air hockey. Next year, the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit is set to make a multimillion-dollar investment in additional updates.
According to Vela, continual reinvestment in Velas Resorts' existing properties is another major pillar of the company's long-term success.
"We have a lot of repetitive business -- more than 35% of our business is repeat guests," said Vela. "So, it's very important, when you have people that come back every year, that you have something new every year."
Constant evolution seems to be especially important as competition within the luxury all-inclusive sector heats up. Vela, however, believes Velas Resorts will continue to be a preeminent player in the space for years to come, thanks to the group's single-minded focus on all-inclusive's highest tier.
"There is no other company that can compete with us," said Vela. "There are some companies that have an offering within their portfolio, or a product that's considered the most luxurious among what they have, but it still doesn't match what we have. We're still unique."