Spring breakers having the time of their lives, families escaping to an all-inclusive resort or lovers seeking the ideal spot to say “I do” are just three of the types of visitors that pick Mexico as their vacation destination of choice.
Las Vegas-based hospitality company Hakkasan Group and Grupo Vidanta, one of Mexico’s biggest resort operators and tourism developers, are partnering to bring a new kind of tourist to town—the dining and entertainment-savvy bon vivant.
The companies are investing $150 million in Hakkasan Group-branded venues in Los Cabos. Other Vidanta Resorts can be found in Nuevo Vallarta, Riviera Maya, Los Cabos, Acapulco, Puerto Peñasco, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlán. Over the course of five years, Hakkasan will introduce a new venue at a different Vidanta property each year, as well as a hotel.
The first project will be an Omnia dayclub scheduled to open in 2017 in the Grand Mayan Resort in Los Cabos. Herringbone and another yet-to be named restaurant, in partnership with H. Wood Group, will follow.
“We have a very strong business development group that’s always out there looking for opportunities,” says Hakkasan Group President Nick McCabe. “We thought about Mexico for a period of time. We have to think the market is ready for us and can take on our brands. More importantly, we have to have the right model that we feel is correctly funded and shares values with us.”
This is not the first time that Vidanta has partnered up with a well-known international company. It opened a dinner theater-style show with Cirque du Soleil in 2015 called Joya and is now working on a billion-dollar theme park as well. The success with Cirque sparked the exploration of further deals and piqued the interest of Hakkasan.
“There is a huge demand for successful global lifestyle brands in Mexico, and we thought Hakkasan Group would take beach destinations to another level of entertainment,” says Iván Chávez, executive vice president of Grupo Vidanta. “A pool and a beach are no longer enough to compete worldwide. Tourists to Mexico are looking for the world’s top-quality entertainment experiences presented in a local flavor, and that is exactly what we intend to deliver.”
At Omnia Los Cabos, there will be a main entrance and direct access from the street to the beach. “This will be the first resort in the world where the Hakkasan Group experience begins the moment you get out of the car,” Chávez says. “Unlike in Vegas, where you have to walk through many other venues and the brand experience only happens inside the venue.”
They will draw upon the “Vegas approach” to capture the customer. “The idea is that we [have] you at 11 a.m. and we don’t want to let you go until 4 a.m. the next morning,” McCabe says. “We want to get people for the dayclub, have them stay for a bar, restaurant and some sort of very cool, cabaret-oriented restaurant late night.”
Omnia was created for this very purpose, not to confuse people with Hakkasan Restaurant, which is known internationally for Cantonese food.
“The brand is much more flexible,” McCabe says. “It can scale up and scale down, and go into different types of markets. We have a lot of Mexican clientele that come to Las Vegas. We want to build on that brand equity. This isn’t that sleepy, relaxed dayclub in Cabo. We’ve arranged this to be a programmed, energetic venue.”
Herringbone will be similar to the Santa Monica outpost with its coastal vibe, but with a Mexican twist. The other restaurant is a venture with H. Wood Group, a company majority owned by Hakkasan Group. It operates L.A. venues the Nice Guy and Bootsy Bellows, as well as Heart of Omnia in Caesars Palace.
“The idea is to create a restaurant with entertainment—something that is beyond just the typical sit-down meal experience. It has entertainment while the customers are eating,” McCabe says.
For McCabe, Cabo was a natural fit for the first destination. “There’s a huge amount of travel back and forth between Vegas, L.A. and Cabo in terms of kind of nightlife clientele and I think accessibility is really a part of that,” he says. “In talking to our customers, we know how often they are down there.”
The new offerings will carve out a higher level of luxury to match those customers’ expectations. “There are lots of cantinas and very traditional Mexican concepts. Very laid back,” he says. “Knowing that our crowd is down there and they lack something to do. But especially with something the size of Omnia beach club, just our high-end clientele is not enough. Bringing down talented DJs will fill in [the marketing effort].”
Another big step would be a direct flight to Cabo from Vegas, which is conspicuously missing.
“Our partners down there are very influential,” McCabe says. “They are going to lobby hard for a direct route. It’s not terribly taxing to go through L.A., but having that direct route would be helpful.”
And in terms of which city in Mexico will be next, McCabe says they are still educating themselves. “We want to get it right, and then we’ll look at the next step,” he says.
Globally though, it’s all systems go in terms of expansion, with more than 25 deals in some sort of negotiation. “We are getting ready to open an Omnia nightclub in Jakarta as well as a Hakkasan restaurant and a Sake No Hana restaurant (a Japanese concept), all in the central business district,” McCabe says. In Bali, there will be a 15,000-square-foot Omnia beach club that will sit right on the cliffs and a Sake No Hana restaurant that will open next year.