Shining a light on the many charms of Mexico’s “native” properties is no easy task, yet Mexico Boutique Hotels and its tireless director, Sylvie Laitre, are always on the case, finding superb stays and ensuring that their members provide the most rewarding experiences for guests. Laitre talked to us about these distinctive stays, the hands-on service Mexico Boutique Hotels offers and the importance of supporting local businesses.
SM: How do you choose the properties that make it into the Mexico Boutique Hotels portfolio?
SL: It’s a mix of observation and intuition. I start with properties that have a beautiful structure, but there is so much more than that. Pretty is easy; unforgettable service and great attention to detail, not so much. You actually feel it when you walk through the door. Some properties are recommended to me by Mexico Boutique Hotels’ past guests. They are our true ambassadors and like to keep in the loop with regards to new places. I love that. Most important isn’t choosing them, though—it’s making sure the collection remains relevant and of the best quality. Making sure hotels live up to their hype, time and time again.
SM: Besides ensuring commissions, what other type of assistance can you and your team provide travel agents and their clients?
SL: Insider knowledge. Up-to-date tips. Onsite experience. Language. In my personal case, bi-culturalism (meaning I live in Mexico and understand how things work but I also come from outside and know what foreigners expect and need).
SM: What are some of the latest properties to make it into MBH?
SL: The very surprising Del Carmen Hotel in Guadalajara, the very elegant Gran Casa Sayula in Sayula, Jalisco, the music-themed Villa San Francisco in Chapala, the lusciously rustic Playa Escondida hideaway in Sayulita and the stately Casa Don Gustavo in Campeche.
SM: You work with some of Mexico’s most enchanting hotels, yet many travelers still think “all inclusive” when they think of a Mexico vacation. How do you and MBH challenge this perception?
SL: I had this conversation two days ago in Montreal. I asked locals what they would think of an all-inclusive hotel in Montreal and they thought it would be ‘ridiculous’—missing out on all the local restaurants, attractions, flavor. The best way to challenge this is to continuously educate. Show everything there is to experience and why it’s also important to support local businesses.
SM: As a Canadian who years ago chose Mexico as her home, what do you think are some visitors’ biggest misconceptions about the country?
SL: First, that it’s all the same when there is so much variety in natural and cultural experiences. Second, that it’s a low cost/low-value destination. Mexico is much more sophisticated than is portrayed. Fashion. Art. Food. History. On so many levels.
SM: How has MBH’s use of social media impacted the company?
SL: It’s been positive in personalizing what we do even more. Showing we’re on the scene. Snapping photos when we’re at a specific property, answering people’s questions in real time but also asking questions and really taking feedback and using it to improve our products and services.
SM: What would you tell travelers who are still hesitant to visit Mexico because of news reports of violence in months past?
SL: I would tell them to always use common sense and research when making decisions. That goes for anywhere in the world. Ask people that have actually been there or, even better, that live there.
SM: Any advice for travelers eager to discover the “real” Mexico and its boutique properties?
SL: Research. Ask. Read. There are many great blogs written by expats living in different Mexican cities. These are insightful.
When traveling, encourage local artisans. Support communities. If you travel to a country, make sure you’re truly supporting that country and choose hotels, tours, restaurants that are local, vs international chains.
Learn a bit of Spanish (or come to learn it). It will enrich your visit so much more.
More information: mexicoboutiquehotels.com.