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A European hotel brand you may not know is taking over the Ritz-Carlton, Cancun

Aug. 11, 2022
6 min read
curvy pool near beach
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One of the best-known points properties in Cancun is being stripped of its flag.

It’s safe to say the Cancun area has been in the midst of a hotel boom, even with looming questions of safety plaguing the region in recent months. Despite that, a handful of high-profile new hotels and resorts have opened here over the last year, including the Hilton Cancun, an All-Inclusive Resort.

Yet it seems the Ritz-Carlton, Cancun is on its way out and European luxury hotel brand Kempinski is taking over.

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Internet sleuths and would-be visitors to the resort recently noticed there are no rooms available to book from Sept. 1 on, as shown in the booking calendar below.

(Screenshot from Marriott)

The calendars for the months following display the “not available for check-in” message.

“We can confirm that The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun will cease operating under The Ritz-Carlton brand flag as of [Aug. 31], 2022. The owner company and Marriott International continue to discuss next steps,” a Marriott spokesperson told Loyalty Lobby.

TPG’s request for comment to Marriott was not answered in time for publication.

A quarter century of history

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

In 1993, this Ritz-Carlton was the brand’s very first property to open outside of the U.S.

Back in 2018, the resort celebrated its 25th anniversary. To honor the milestone, the resort launched a new family-friendly Club Lounge and renovated its upscale Meditteranean restaurant, Fatino.

“The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun has maintained its commitment to quality and service by offering its guests the best experiences and facilities,” the resort shared back in 2018. However, we’re not sure that’s entirely true.

In 2019, TPG sent a reporter to check in on the hotel a little more than 25 years after its opening — and the headline speaks for itself: “25 years too old: A review of the Ritz-Carlton, Cancun.”

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

On the trip, our reporter, Zach Griff, found the resort had “the name of a luxurious [five]-star property” but was in desperate need of a renovation.

Dated features in public spaces — such as a gold elevator bank, low ceilings and furniture past its prime — felt out of touch with the modern-day designs offered at many upscale resorts nearby.

The room was slightly better, but even all the way back in 2019, Zach had a feeling something wasn’t quite right at the Ritz.

“While the room just barely passed the Ritz-Carlton-brand-standard threshold, the rest of the property did not — it was in dire need of a makeover and renovation,” he wrote.

That leads us to today’s two questions: What happened, and what happens next?

What happened?

Considering our recent review of the resort, one could assume the Ritz-Carlton, Cancun was no longer meeting the brand standards set by Marriott and Ritz-Carlton, and an agreement to meet the standards couldn’t be reached.

They say one bad apple spoils the whole bunch, right?

Well, brand standards are created to hold each property to a certain set of rules, so guests have a great experience at one property and then book a stay at another. For Ritz-Carlton, these brand standards are probably front of mind as high-profile new openings are modernizing and elevating the brand.

Just take a look at the recently opened Ritz-Carlton, Mexico City. Or, to really highlight the need for modernization, consider the brand-new Ritz-Carlton New York, Nomad, which opened last week. As I reported then, this new property was designed “to bring a smarter, more modern type of luxury to the Ritz-Carlton portfolio.”

Even beyond Ritz-Carlton’s brand standards, it’s clear this resort isn’t up to par with many of its new luxury competitors that are planting flags on the beaches around Cancun.

Earlier this year, in Tulum, Hilton opened up the Conrad Tulum Riviera Maya. The resort offers a sleek design where every room has a relaxation tub or plunge pool, floor-to-ceiling windows and a 65-inch television, as pictured below.

(Photo courtesy of Hilton)

To put it into perspective even more, let’s quickly look at the price difference between the dated Ritz-Carlton and the new Conrad. For the rest of August, until it ceases to be a Ritz-Carlton, rates start at $539 a night.

(Screenshot from Marriott)

At the Conrad Tulum, rates are all less than $400 a night, with some as low as $339.

(Screenshot from Hilton)

Sure, Tulum isn’t Cancun and there’s some distance between the two, but if we’re comparing a dated, name-brand luxury resort to a brand new one, there’s a clear winner in terms of style and price.

What’s next?

Earlier this week, we still weren't sure what was next for this dated property. But now we have some definitive answers.

Starting Sept. 1, luxury European hotel brand Kempinski will take over the resort and temporarily rebrand it as the Grand Hotel Cancun without ever closing the resort to guests. Over the next several months, "this well-known property will undergo various improvements and adjustments to the Kempinski brand standards," Kempinski shared in a statement.

Once those "various improvements and adjustments" are made — and we're hoping various means very serious, in this case — the resort will be rebranded once again at the beginning of next year to the Kempinski Hotel Cancun.

"During a three-month transitional period, we will ensure that we implement our Kempinski DNA in the operation of this outstanding beach hotel and that we extend our brand recognition by delivering the impeccable service and quality Kempinski is renowned for," Bernold Schroeder, CEO of Kempinski Group, said in the statement.

This will be Kempinski's first property in Mexico, but it currently has hotels in Cuba and Dominica.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

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  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases