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

August 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 photo 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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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

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  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
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  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees