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Meet in Mexico City

Published: 07/02/2012 - Filed under: Home » Archive » February 2012 » Destinations » Home » Features »

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When visiting Mexico City on business, the first thing you need to learn is that patience is not merely a virtue – it’s a necessity. A strong Spanish influence means that the attitude here is more laid back than it is in US business centers like Chicago or New York. The midday meal starts a little later and lasts a little longer, and you might notice people ordering a round of sangrita over their business lunch (that’s a shot of tequila sipped with a spicy tomato and orange-based chaser). But aside from this, you’ll save yourself from an ulcer or two if you just realize that the city is the third largest in the world, with some of the worst traffic imaginable. For me, this is where the need for patience really kicks in. 

It’s not uncommon for it to take two hours to get to a meeting that is still in the Distrito Federal (the D.F., as locals refer to Mexico City), so plan accordingly and leave ample time between appointments. Living in New York City, I’m no stranger to walking, but any time I’ve asked for walking directions I’m met with confusion. Even if it took the same amount of time or less to get from A to B by foot, people in Mexico City prefer to drive, even in mild weather. They’ve learned to deal with the city’s infamous traffic with a shrug that comes more easily now that everyone is linked to their office through the ubiquitous Blackberry (much more common here than the iPhone or Android). 

On the brighter side of the traffic picture, there is also the subway, which is easy to navigate, not to mention one of the world’s largest and cheapest metro systems. Just be sure to keep your bag tightly closed and try to avoid riding it during rush hour if you don’t like feeling cramped. It’s worth noting that there are women-only subway cars toward the front of the train during rush hour, but if you schedule your rides for off-peak times, they aren’t necessary and you can almost always find a seat. 

The majority of people reading this article will prefer to take a taxi, though, especially when you can easily negotiate favorable daily rates. Just be sure to only take authorized taxis, which can be identified by their special license plates and their meters. For safety’s sake, it pays to do a little online research into ways to spot legitimate taxis – there’s even an app for that, called Taxiaviso which lets you compare the taxi’s license plate with a government database. It’s free and available for Android, iPhone and, naturally, Blackberry.

On a final note, while you should always exercise caution in an unfamiliar city or country, it would surprise many Americans to learn that Mexico City’s crime rate has steadily declined in recent years, making it one of the safest destinations in the country. As businesses and families flee the troubled border states and cities like Ciudad Juarez and Monterrey, many are resettling in the D.F., making it an exciting time to visit the city on the verge of rebirth. While street crime will always be an issue to some degree in any metropolis, the casualties of Mexico’s drug wars rarely, if ever, reach the streets of its capital.

 

Marquis Reforma Hotel and Spa

The name of this Leading Hotel of the World member reflects its prime location along the wide, tree-lined Paseo de la Reforma, an elegant thoroughfare that was built in the 1860s with inspiration from Paris’ Champs-Élysées. The art deco elegance of Marquis Reforma is well placed in this neighborhood, and since opening 20 years ago the property has become a meeting mecca, with 17,714 square feet of meeting and event space, including three ballrooms, an airy outdoor plaza and an executive lounge. But what truly sets the venue apart from its competitors is the staff’s attention to detail and unparalleled customer service. 

Book both your event and room here to take advantage of the spa facilities, the largest in Mexico City. Or if you prefer, bring the spa experience to the meeting. Marquis Reforma’s Mexico City Meeting Spa package starts off with a three-minute concentration exercise to warm everyone up to the task at hand, later followed by a Shiatsu massage that will keep both body and mind on track. A snack break includes herbal tea and healthy snacks in a serene setting, while the meeting experience culminates with a “Brain Menu” of healthy, fresh food for lunch.

Marquis Reforma Hotel; Paseo de la Reforma 465 Col. Cuauhtemoc. Mexico, D.F. 06500; tel. 52-55-5229-1200 or toll free from the U.S. 800-235-2387; www.marquisreforma.com

 

Centro Banamex 

Located in the northwest corner of the city, this is the D.F.’s largest meeting and convention venue, boasting a capacity for more than 50,000 people and a parking area that their brochure claims is larger than the biggest stadium in Latin America. The space overlooks an active racetrack Hipódromo de las Américas, which lends a unique view along the center’s main corridor. 

Its 25 rooms are flexible enough to cater to large-scale or intimate events, and each one is equipped with audio, individual lighting themes, air conditioning and telecommunication systems that include voice and data transmission and Internet. The venue offers support services for advertising (including banners, projectors and plasma monitors), multimedia (event filming, special lighting effects), and telecommunication (laptop rentals, cell phone rentals, videoconferencing). 

Centro Banamex; Av. Conscripto 311, Col. Lomas de Sotelo Del. Miguel Hidalgo C.P.11200 México D.F.; tel. 01 (55) 5268 2000; www.centrobanamex.com/en

WTC International Exhibition and Convention Center

While there are 17 convention centers in Mexico City, I’ll only touch upon the two largest. Second only to the Centro Banamex in size, the handicapped-accessible WTC offers 29 rooms totaling 328,740 square feet of space. Attendees will benefit from on-site amenities such as a business center, FedEx, and food and beverage outlets that include La Terraza Restaurant and Corona Lounge. For those looking to book dining events, the kitchen is the second largest in Latin America and equipped to prepare either local or international dishes that best suit the occasion. With a staff that helps coordinate 120 exhibitions and 1,000 business or social events annually, you’ll be in good hands if this venue is your choice for your international event.

Centro Internacional de Exposiciones y Convenciones, World Trade Center, Filadelfia S/N Col. Napoles, C.P 02810. Mexico D.F.; tel +52 (55) 9000-9117; www.exposwtc.com

 

Fundación UNAM 

Recintos Historicos

While convention centers have their uses, nothing can beat a historic setting if your aim is to create a memorable meeting or event. Contact the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) to discover some of the remarkable spaces they have for rent throughout the city, including Palacio de la Autonomía (Palace of Autonomy). This venue features a baroque meeting room that can host 139 attendees, an airy courtyard that can accommodate 250 and a patio that opens up to views of the Templo Mayor just across the way. While many of the details along its walls and ceilings are centuries old, the original sixteenth-century foundation and tile work is displayed beneath glass floorboards.

For something bordering on the macabre, the Palacio de la Escuela de Medicina (Palace of the School of Medicine) has played host to countless events since its construction in 1732, including trials and executions carried out during the Spanish Inquisition. Despite such a grim past, the elegant archways and grand staircases lend a dramatic backdrop to any cocktail reception. 

Foundacion UNAM Recintos Historicos, Pennsylvania 203, Col. Napoles, C.P. 03810, Mexico D.F.; fundacionunam.org.mx/recintoshistoricos 

 

Boutique Hotel de Cortes 

Another event space with an unlikely history is this hospice-turned-boutique hotel. Estimates peg its original construction sometime around the early 17th century when it was used by monks belonging to the order of Saint Augustine. It wasn’t until 1780 that it was remodeled as a hotel, and it remains one even today. Fortunately, the most recent upgrades have done nothing to take away from the stately colonial architecture. In fact, the bold, modern furniture provides a pleasant contrast.

Audio-visual equipment is available for receptions and events hosting 10 to 350 people. Meanwhile the rooftop lounge and bar El Cielo, with its views of nearby Alameda Central Park, is an ideal place to convene for a cocktail after the meeting wraps up.

Boutique Hotel de Cortes, Av. Hidalgo 85, Col. Guerrero, Cuauhtemoc CP 06300, Mexico D.F.; tel. (55) 5518-2181 

 

Benito Juarez 

International Airport 

One of the most appealing aspects of booking an international event in Mexico City is its central location. Easily accessible from both North and South America, and with frequent flights also connecting it to Europe and Asia, Mexico City is a central meeting point for many multi-national organizations. If you’re looking to streamline your function as much as possible, there are several airport hotels at Benito Juarez International Airport, some of which boast meeting facilities on par with what can be found downtown.

 

The Hilton Mexico 

City Airport Hotel

Located in Terminal 1, this hotel was designed with the corporate traveler in mind. All rooms and public spaces are equipped with free WiFi and the business center is open 24 hours a day, with free printing services and more. The Chapultepec Meeting Room can accommodate 12 people for conference-style events.

Hilton Mexico City Airport, International Mexico City Airport, Mexico City, Mexico 15260; tel: 52-55-5133-0505; www.hilton.com.


The NH Aeropuerto 

T2 Mexico Hotel

For larger-scale events, this hotel can handle as many as 450 attendees in its flexible meeting spaces, some of which are flooded with natural light. The staff can even provide translators and photographers with advanced bookings.

NH Aeropuerto T2 Mexico Hotel,Capitán Carlos León González s/n. DF Aeropuerto Int. Benito Juárez T2. Venustiano Carranza. Mexico City, Mexico; tel. (55) 5786-5750; www.nh-hotels.com 

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