Hotel boom leads to lower occupancy rates, finger pointing, and a shift in focus

Skywork, a complex across Cabo Norte, is expected to be finished in mid-2019. Photo: Courtesy

Mérida, Yucatán — The local hotel association is blaming Airbnb for increased competition, but new hotels instead have turned their focus on a different type of traveler.

Travelers who prize efficiency over water features.

After a full Christmas and New Year’s, the state Secretariat of Tourism Promotion reports a 4.3 percent average occupancy dip the first three months of 2018, despite an increase in tourists. In Mérida alone, the fall is 4.7 percent.

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Despite a growing number of hotel rooms in Mérida, Héctor Navarrete Medina, president of the local hotel association, blamed Airbnb and other digital booking platforms that make lavish and romantic private homes available to tourists.

Some of the homes online have lots of personality — trickling fountains, luxurious terraces and romantic décor that reflects local style, but most of the new hotels are contemporary and unapologetically generic.

That’s because new hotels rising in Mérida are more focused on travelers who are here for business more than pleasure.

Grupo Hotelero Prisma, a Mexican company that manages major U.S. hotel brands, is a good example. Its Holiday Inn & Suites Mérida Norte is slated to open in mid-2019, folded into the Skywork mixed-use complex.

The new Holiday Inn & Suites Mérida Norte hotel will have 93 rooms, including 15 suites.

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Opposite Cabo Norte, north of the Periférico, the hotel’s promotions note its proximity to the World Trade Center, Banamex Tower and the Yucatán Industrial Park — all places of business.

“This hotel is designed for travelers looking for a sophisticated, comfortable and functional environment,” said Rafael De la Mora, Prisma general manager.

Rather than water features, hotels are more likely to invest in better Wi-Fi. There’s not a hint of Mayan wonder or tropical fantasy in the new wave of hotels coming in. Instead, technology and efficiency are stressed.

Prisma boasts of making guests’ stay “more fluid,” with automatic check-in and check-out. Mobile apps, not a human concierge, can arrange for a driver, dry cleaning or a dinner reservation.

Prisma operates 43 hotels across Mexico under the Hilton, Marriott, Holiday Inn, Wyndham and Starwood banners.

With information from Diario de Yucatán

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