Hard Rock’s signature “guitar smash” inaugurates its newest property, the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, on May 4. As part of the tradition, Hard Rock uses previously damaged guitars and then donates a like number of new guitars to a charity cause.

Hard Rock gives guests the rock-star treatment at its new Riviera Maya resort

By Vawn Himmelsbach

RIVIERA MAYA — Hard Rock kicked off the grand opening of its newest all-inclusive resort earlier this month in the only way it can: with a signature guitar smash, beachside Bon Jovi concert and celebrity-infused after-party.

All Inclusive Collection –the sales and marketing arm for several Hard Rock properties in Mexico and the Caribbean – has transformed the former Aventura property in the Riviera Maya into the Hard Rock hotel Riviera Maya, the third Hard Rock all-inclusive property in Mexico. But it’s not a cookie-cutter version of its sister properties in Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.

The property, with 1,264 guestrooms, is designed with two distinct ‘resorts within the resort’, appealing to couples and singles on the adults-only Heaven side and families on the kid-friendly Hacienda side. It’s easy to tell the two apart: Heaven is designed in a vivid blue, while Hacienda is an earthy terracotta colour.

It offers a total of nine restaurants, eight bars and lounges, as well as 88,915 square feet of meeting and event space for banquets, parties, weddings and concerts.

While the resort aims to provide top-notch service and food, what sets it apart is the brand itself, said Frank Maduro, vice-president of marketing with All Inclusive Collection.

“We talk about the experience, the brand comfort — we focus in on the consistency of our product from the category-one room to the top-category room,” said Maduro. “They have the same amenities whether it’s unlimited phone calls to North America, free WiFi or 24-hour room service.” All rooms come with a private balcony or terrace, and all offer streaming music channels.

The big differentiator, said Maduro, is the resort credit. Typically, golf games, spa treatments and tours outside the resort come at an additional cost to guests. Hard Rock’s resort credit, however, covers everything and anything in the resort. “You can use it all on spa treatments if you want,” he said. “There are no limitations on how you use it.”

Adults can hang out at the central pool (with never-ending cocktails at a swim-up bar), a semi-Olympic pool or cross-current rhythm pool, as well as a grotto pool that turns into a nightclub. Families have the option of a zero-entry kids’ pool and family pool. Both the Heaven and Hacienda sides offer a private white-sand beach with sunken reef and options for swimming, snorkelling and kayaking.

Heaven includes the Hard Rock signature Rock Spa with 75 treatment rooms and hydrotherapy pools, Body Rock fitness centre and Yoga Temple, as well as four adults-only restaurants and three bars and lounges. Toro offers premium cuts of steak a la carte, while Le Petit Cochon serves up tastes of the French countryside, and the Dive Bar offers poolside drinks and snacks.

In addition to family-friendly restaurants on the Hacienda side, such as The Market international buffet, there are several youth-friendly entertainment options such as HIT Entertainment’s Little Big Club and Teens Lounge & Club.

A daily roster of activities includes everything from yoga and pool volleyball to tequila tasting and fire shows. Like other Hard Rock properties, this one will also host concerts — not just hard rock, but everything from electronic to hip-hop, country and Latin music, as well as guest DJs.

When ‘hard rock’ is the name of your brand, people tend to think you’re all about hard rock, said John Galloway, chief marketing officer of Hard Rock International. But the properties cater to a wide variety of musical tastes.

“We have vibe managers on property as well, and a vibe manager should understand who is coming into that market, who lives in that market and what vibe we are trying to create,” he said. “It’s a brand that plugs you into music … but it’s not just hard rock.”

That extends down to every detail, including the spa. “When we looked at our spa experience, we actually questioned (if we were) uniquely plugging people into music in our spa experience and how we could do that a little bit better,” said Galloway. The result is a ‘sound dome’ that sits above you in the spa treatment room with choreographed music that allows the masseuse to provide a ‘musical massage’ experience.

The Riviera Maya property — with its unique Heaven and Hacienda sides — is expected to drive more wedding destination business.

“Canada is a huge part of our business, not only on the leisure side but also on the destination wedding side,” said Maduro. About 10 to 15% of the company’s overall business in Mexico is from Canada — and that business is growing. As a result, Maduro says the company has increased its coverage in Canada from one field rep to four, looking to expand to five.

The All Inclusive Collection also recently launched its WOW, or Weddings on the Water, travel agent specialist program. Through the Hard Rock Hotel’s WOW specialist program, agents visit a property for three days and are trained on the product, as well as the wedding process. They are then certified and listed on a consumer-facing WOW website.

The appeal of the Riviera Maya property for destination weddings, said Maduro, is that family members can stay on the Hacienda side and take part in the wedding ceremony and reception, while the newlyweds can retreat to the Heaven side for some alone time on their honeymoon.

The Hard Rock properties occasionally offer sales or early-booking promotions, but Maduro says it’s not really a price-driven product; rather, it’s an amenities- and value-driven product. Agents can get the latest information through a field rep or on the agent website at allinagents.com.