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Feast for the Xenses - July 2017

1707_xenses_introThe newest park in the Yucatan invites visitors to experience nature in a new, sensory-focused way

by Jane Di Leo

1707_xenses_father_and_sonEvery year more than 9 million tourists flock to the Cancun/Riviera Maya region of Quintana Roo, Mexico, ready to relax, soak up some sun, and enjoy the natural beauty the area has to offer. Of these 9 million visitors, more than 45 percent are repeat customers, many of whom have taken advantage of the major sightseeing attractions and tours already in place. “We began evaluating the tourism trends in the region, and we saw an opportunity to develop a new park, something that would not only be unique to this part of the world, but would also help create more sustainable tourism for the region,” says Lizeth Álvarez, commercial director of Experiencias Xcaret, an entertainment group that has created numerous parks and outdoor excursions focused on the natural landscape of Quintana Roo.

ABOVE:  Father/son architect team of Miguel Quintana Pali, president of Experiencias Xcaret (left), and David Quintana Morones, director of development for Experiencias Xcaret. (CREDIT: Experiencias Xcaret)

In 2010, the Experiencias Xcaret team began to think of business adjacencies outside of its main park offerings, and created new divisions of the company to widen its offerings, especially to repeat customers. The company created a dedicated arm focused on tours of the archeological zones of the Yucatan Peninsula (including Chichen Itzá, Cobá, and Tulum). It developed its “Xenotes” tour, which brings visitors to four different cenotes, underground rivers, in the region on the same day. The company also opened new parks, including Xplor Fuego, an evening of fire-lit adventure that treats visitors to ziplining and spelunking, and Xoximilco, a Mexican fiesta aboard traditional trajineras boats, which float down the canals of Cancun. In short order, Experiencias Xcaret and its parks began to receive more than 3 million visitors annually, 30 percent of all visitors to the region. “Although we saw an influx of visitors, we realized that one key opportunity area we still had was a park or attraction that focused on half-day tours for those who wanted to see something unique and exciting but not spend an entire day doing it,” Álvarez says.


Experiencias Xcaret focuses on the environment at its ­attractions—Xenses is no different.(CREDIT: Experiencias Xcaret)

The father/son architect team of Miguel Quintana Pali, president of Experiencias Xcaret, and David Quintana Morones, director of development for Experiencias Xcaret, brainstormed ways they could bring the region’s unique flair to life in a manner that had never been seen before, but could be wrapped up in a half-day excursion. The duo had worked together on multiple projects, but their collaboration deepened with Xenses, as they shared the responsibility for the entire project. “We worked on this concept for several years, accumulating ideas and proposals, and even living in various parts of the work to develop this park with the cluster of concepts needed to create a completely new experience,” Quintana Pali says.

Tips of the Trade

Funworld spoke with the Xenses team about tips and tricks for opening a new business concept. Here is what they had to say:
  • Know your market. 
  • Question everything—what do people think of your idea?
  • Develop universal and inclusive products for everyone. 
  • Operate with integrity and transparency. 
  • Do not cut costs at the expense of the concept. 
  • Constantly work to find efficiency in your operations. 
  • Quality of concept translates into word-of-mouth advertising.
  • Detect problems early and remedy them.
  • Always strive to improve—reinvention and improvement are the secret of success.  
  • Protect talent—your people are your most important asset. 
  • Plan for tough times—they will come, so you want to ensure you are prepared. 

Thus Xenses was born: a park focused on awakening the senses of its visitors through a variety of stimuli (including sounds, textures, optical illusions, motion, natural spaces, water, and temperature) by leveraging the natural landscape of the region. When Xenses opened its doors to the public last summer, visitors were treated to sensory-filled attractions, including a walk through different ecosystems among flora and the sounds of animals; floating in a “river” in which you cannot sink, allowing the current to release tension and stress; and immersion in slippery streams of water that surprise you from every direction. There is even an unusual take on ziplining, where riders lie horizontally with arms out while floating through the air like a bird. 

An Environmental Business Sense

To help coordinate its multiple brands under one umbrella company, Experiencias Xcaret created a director of operations role that coordinates the running of each of its business units: Xcaret, Xel-Ha, Xplor, Xplor Fire, Xenotes tour, Xoximilco, Xenses, and the division of tours under the Xichen brand. In each business unit, a management team is responsible for the day-to-day operations of a park, ensuring each area of the facility is operationally compliant, and rigorous quality control is maintained. “We are dedicated to running a world-class operation with the highest standards of service for our customers,” Álvarez says. “Although we want visitors to have unique experiences in each of our parks and on our tours, we want to ensure that there is a streamlined level of quality so no matter which Experiencias Xcaret park you are at or tour you are on, you know you’ll have an amazing experience.” 

One key piece of the company’s operations, which Álvarez says is part of Experiencias Xcaret’s DNA, is managing the parks in an environmentally friendly way: “All of our parks are managed under an environmental management system, which governs the proper use of natural resources and water management, energy, and waste generated as part of tourism. We have systems for wastewater treatment so the water may be used for irrigation and a system for waste collection so 80 percent of waste is channeled to recycling and composting.”

In the case of Xenses, the team took on an additional piece of social and environmental responsibility work by reforesting an area that had been a runway and parking lot. “We planted plant species native to the region and also started a forest nursery for all of Experiences Xcaret,” Álvarez says. “The nursery provides plants each year for reforestation within the premises of all of the parks under our care, as well as community public spaces.”

Early Signs of Success

Within the two and a half months since its opening, Xenses attracted nearly 40,000 visitors, with an average attendance of 500 visitors per day. According to Álvarez, this is 14 percent higher than the team estimated. Currently, the capacity of the park is 800 visitors per day, but the team is working to enhance operations over the next three to five years so it can reach 4,000 visitors daily, divided into two shifts. “Twenty-five years ago, Experiencias Xcaret was founded and broke the mold of what eco-tourism could be,” Álvarez says. “Although we started as one park hoping to show visitors the natural beauty of the area, we continue to be constantly focused on keeping the environment at our core even as we expand. Our ethos is to continuously improve our business and operations and reinvent ourselves; Xenses is the next step in our story.”