Moon Palace Cancun managing director Heriberto Cota Castellanos speaks to Yolanda Zappaterra
Q. How did you become general manager at Moon Palace?
A. It’s in the blood! My father is a hotelier who’s been in the industry for more than 40 years. His experience inspired me to strive for excellence in my own career. I began as a telephone operator at the InterContinental Hotel in Guadalajara.
Within three years I was front office manager, then I opened a boutique hotel, the Gran Casa Sayula Hotel Galería and Spa. It received La Obra del Año award for the renovation of the 200-year-old house. I’m currently managing director for Moon Palace Nizuc, in the Moon Palace Cancun resort, but next month I am moving to The Grand, also within the resort, to become managing director and general manager.
Q. How have all-inclusives changed over the years?
A. Technology has been the biggest change. Many elements of hotel operations have been transformed by modern tools, which enhance several aspects of a guest’s holiday. Check-in can be done from a mobile app, and identifications and migratory forms can be sent to a hotel before arrival, meaning the hotel can advance the room assignment process and manage special requests, such as an extra bed, or capture information on allergies and food preferences.
The app is fast becoming an extension of the hotel’s service, allowing guests to do things like review and pay room charges, order or reserve services such as the spa and tours, and schedule baggage pick-up. For staff too, technology has meant improved systems. At Palace Resorts all service personnel in the Rooms Division are given smartphones, so housekeepers, for example, receive their list of tasks in an app on their phone, making their jobs much easier.
Palace Resorts has resumed work on its upcoming ‘mega theme park’ called Malltertainment, which will open next to Moon Palace Cancun, featuring an amusement park, ice-skating rink, an 8,000-person auditorium, shops and the world’s largest go-kart track.
Q. What are some recent trends or guest expectations in the all-inclusive market?
A. I recently attended the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, where the latest trend I discovered was the rise of plant-based food products. Guests are increasingly conscious of the food they consume and where the ingredients come from, and their impact on the environment. We will definitely be looking at more plant-based, vegetarian and flexitarian menus soon.
Q. What do guests expect or want in all-inclusives that they didn’t before?
A. Guests are eager to experience the warmth and affection of being surrounded by others. The fear of illness during the pandemic meant a lack of contact and interaction, and as we have returned to conventional service, or service without restrictions, we have learned that massive events like concerts are very popular.
Q. What do you think all-inclusives might offer in future?
A. Technology will continue to play a very significant role, not least in giving guests a personalised experience. Personalisation has become an everyday occurrence for all of us, with more of us finding that targeted online ads and offers are giving us what we might want. This extends to hotels; guests expect hotels to remember them, they don’t want to be just a room number, they’ll be looking for the same personalised experiences they’ve become used to receiving online.
Q. What’s the best thing about working at an all-inclusive resort?
A. It challenges you to be creative and precise, and to innovate. Our guests expect to have their dream vacation, and making it happen is very rewarding. For someone with a genuine passion for service, there is satisfaction in every happy guest, but in every happy employee too; it is great to know their hard work is successful and that they honestly make their living by making others happy. The magic and warmth of their service is a virtue that deserves to be treasured.
PICTURES: Moon Palace Resorts