Q&A with Juan Vela, VP of Velas Resorts

Meeting PlanningQ&As

Juan Vela, Vice President of Velas Resorts

Job Title: Vice President of Velas Resorts, working with his brother, Eduardo Vela Ruiz, founder and president
Awards: Velas Resorts in Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit and Los Cabos, Mexico, have earned more than 43 AAA Diamonds, including the prestigious Five Diamond Award.
Philosophy: “Regardless of the size of the group or meeting, everyone to us is a VIP and treated as such.”

What is the role of the hospitality industry in today’s world?

The travel industry is growing quickly. People have a lot of stress. It is more difficult to unplug today than in the past. With the disruption and changes in the world today, more than ever before, travelers need their hotels to be comfortable, secure, hassle-free and pampering.

Meeting attendees are looking for hotels that offer more than a room. They need peace to think about the future and make better decisions. They want a sense of place, a taste of local flavor in food and beverage, cultural experiences, activities and decor. It’s the hospitality industry’s role to provide all of this.

We also believe that travel plays a valuable role in growing understanding among peoples, which is much needed in today’s world. Exposure to other ways of living leads to empathy and helps people see in new ways.

How has the travel industry changed?

In the 29 years since we opened the first Velas resort, Velas Vallarta, the bar has been raised for a luxury resort experience. It’s not enough to have fine dining and service, designer amenities and cutting-edge facilities. That is part of the reason for the increasing popularity of all-inclusive resorts. Guests love that all they have to do is sign for visits to our restaurants and bars, and never worry about tips, or what the mini-bar beverages, food and room service will cost—and if their budget can afford it—because everything is included.

What is the role of events for you?

They’re a major part of our business. Since we have a very large percentage of repeat business, we work hard to enhance the experience every time, making it different and memorable. We host meetings ranging from the demanding World Economic Forum, and World Tourism and Travel Council, to the Summit of the Americas, where we hosted 26 presidents. We also host small, select, high-level board meetings of Fortune 500 companies, so we meet a wide range of expectations.

How do you help planners to really wow attendees?

Though guests who stay with us for the first time have heard the phrase “luxury all-inclusive” and have certain expectations, they’re wowed from the start with the dramatic architecture and quality, the magnificence of the spaces. A guest room is not just a guest room, but an over-1,000-square-foot suite. Our restaurants are comparable to the top restaurants in major capitals in the world in cuisine and service. And speaking of service, they’re impressed with the personal attention and butlers who, by the way, were recently trained by the English Butler Institute. And the meeting spaces is designed for a hotel double or triple the size for the number of rooms we have.

Why is eco-friendly so important?

Resorts, today, are be carefully designed to exist harmoniously within their environments. Careful management practices can make a difference in water and other resource conservation, waste disposal, and protection of wildlife, which includes educating guests in local ecology.

For Velas, this means adoption of reverse-osmosis desalting plants that operate self-sufficiently, eliminating the need to rely upon local and regional natural resources; use of solar technology wherever possible; and composting raw food. In fact, we took this a step further by diverting raw food waste to a local hog farmer.

How do you help your guests be well?

We’ve made a major commitment to “wellnessing” that includes comprehensive spas with a spa concierge, top-line fitness centers and personal training included in the rate, and vegetarian cuisine, wellness getaway weeks with experts in nutrition and fitness, and our latest innovation—wellness suites.

How do you bring the local color into a group event?

Our arts and crafts meeting breaks are designed not only as team-building exercises, but also to stimulate creativity. These include mandala coloring books and painting, straw-basket making and glass blowing.

For guests’ departure, we have gifts which vary by resort, ranging from locally made super-food candies for the flight home and handmade Huichol butterflies in traditional chaquira beading to hand-crafted, collectible wooden sculptures and more. And we facilitate groups’ interest in voluntourism, helping at local schools, orphanages and not-for-profits.