I love visiting new places where I can immerse myself in a new culture. Visiting museums and markets are some of the activities I make sure to include in my travel itinerary.

As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alma Lopez.

A pioneer in Mexico’s hospitality industry, Alma Lopez is the Chief Commercial Officer at Sensira Resort & Spa, which is part of the Arriva Hospitality Group. The all-inclusive property is located in Riviera Maya. In 1993 she became the youngest-ever and first female General Manager in Cancun when she began her tenure at Cancun Palace Hotel. Lopez has also held management posts at Grupo Xcaret and Travel Click, among other companies.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My father was in the hotel hospitality industry, so it has always been a part of my life. He worked with the Western International Hotels chain, and later as a Corporate Director of Rooms Division for Grupo Presidente. My dad was the first person to begin using the computerized Property Management System for lodging in Mexico. He was responsible for the installment of this system in the country. At home, all I heard at dinner during family conversations were stories about hotels. I followed him into this business — the only one of my siblings to do so.

I started out at the sales department of Camino Real Hotels and later moved to Cancún with Sheraton, which at the time was the leading hotel in the area. One of my formative experiences was in the ’80s when I worked on the North-South Summit, a world-renowned hospitality event. I have remained a part of this industry because I love it. Every experience has been an adventure and personal challenge, taking me steps beyond what I initially expected.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

One of the most interesting stories is from the time I participated in the North-South Summit held in Cancun in 1991. At that time, I was a Group Coordinator at the Sheraton Cancun, who was hosting the event. During the event I met all the presidents and prime ministers from the 22 countries that attended the summit. I oversaw coordinating groups and my responsibilities ranged from cleaning tables to managing one-on-one meetings. Meeting these world leaders and helping with the operations of the event is an experience I will always remember because it taught me many lessons about the industry.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I started my career as Front Desk Clerk in Mexico City and I was in charge of sorting the correspondence for all the guests — one day I told my supervisor that I was really surprised to see so much mail for a General, who I could not find in the list of hotel guests. I asked my supervisor if we should keep the mail. In my ignorance I did not realize that the letters were for the “General…Manager”.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Certainly, I can name two people whose mentorships have guided me throughout my career. One of these people was for many years the General Manager of several of the hotels I worked for while in Sheraton and when he moved back to Cancun with Palace Resorts. If I have to guess, I worked with him for over 20 years.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

When Arriva Hospitality Group decided to open a property in this area of Riviera Maya, we realized it had to be different from any of the previous ones the brand had managed in the past. The property they decided to open was Sensira Resort & Spa, which is in a very exclusive area filled with luxury resorts. We knew that the accommodation model we used in previous cases would have failed to be successful here. Thus, we had the challenge of creating a new brand that catered to luxury hospitality. This model of hotel is a first for the Arriva Hospitality Group brand with an all-inclusive experience that caters to all ages, that also includes the SPA amenities.

Venturing into this new segment has its challenges, and we are always open to learning because even with such an experienced group, we are constantly facing new changes. Many of our initial ideas about the hotel were readjusted along the way, and we have always adapted to respond to the direct needs of our guests. We believe our approach is innovative because Sensira is one of the only deluxe hotels in the area to offer activities oriented to children as well as adults.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

All-inclusive resorts are not only about amenities and various exotic culinary experiences. Those are, of course, essential aspects of a guest’s stay, but they are relatively minor compared to providing them with what makes their stay a memorable experience and making them feel that any situation they encounter can be adapted to their needs and wants.

Sometimes, travelers don’t remember which hotel they last stayed in when they visited a particular destination — the properties blend in their memories. Sensira is founded on the ideas that attentive and personalized service are at the core of our hospitality and we have made a point of prioritizing “the whole experience”. That is why we stand out even in a crowded field.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

We opened Sensira Resort & Spa in 2021, just on the heels of the pandemic. So, I’ve seen a big shift on how we operate this hotel as opposed to my previous experiences in the industry. Hotels and travel companies operate with the understanding that remote work is the new reality for many professionals. This has allowed for looser timelines for travel, with people now being able to stay longer and book vacations outside of the traditional summer/winter seasons. To this end, last year, we announced our partnership with REMO to install workspaces for professionals within the hotel premises, which are available for an extra fee and have become very popular among guests. The pandemic also made it more apparent than ever that significant events can bring many standard practices to a sudden halt. It is essential to always be one step ahead, adapt to changes, and not take anything for granted.

In terms of our own experience during COVID, the human aspect of our team has always been essential to us. We are very proud to say that even though we started operations in early 2021, in the middle of a worldwide health crisis, we never laid off any of our employees. We strive to keep a full workforce and manage this project as a team, where every single employee is essential.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

I love visiting new places where I can immerse myself in a new culture. Visiting museums and markets are some of the activities I make sure to include in my travel itinerary.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

Wellness encompasses a whole array of features: some may first think of spa treatments, others of sustainable practices, and others of going out for a run or relaxing by the pool while doing as little as possible. We have taken all these relaxation routines into account.

The hotel provides traditional wellness classes like yoga on the beach and mediation sessions. We also have two fully equipped tennis courts and a volleyball court for outdoor exercise activities. Sensira has an adult-only pool, which allows adults a quiet atmosphere by the pool. At the Inspiration Spa we have made sure to offer treatments for teenagers and adults, so families can enjoy some pampering time together. And of course, we are located close to Puerto Morelos, meaning that families can head into town and embark on some adventures.

Sensira is very proud to be a Mexican hospitality brand. The service in the country is spectacular, certainly one of the best in the world. The warmth of the people is unmatched and recognized by foreign tourists. Our hospitality service has become a worldwide benchmark delineated by our affection, human warmth, and genuine welcome. That is, of course, another key to making sure people feel connected to the destination and the hotel. Our staff makes every effort to go the extra mile: guests have told us they especially enjoy the small details that make them feel closer to home, including toys for the kids and personalized scented candles in the rooms. Those aren’t things you find often, even in other all-inclusive resorts in the area.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

We had a customer that mentioned that her child loved teddy bears and whenever she traveled to a different country, she tried to get one dressed in a traditional cultural custom of that country. The guest mentioned that she had looked at the boutique in the hotel property and at the market and couldn’t find a teddy bear custom. Our concierge heard about it, and she went to a store downtown to buy a custom for the bear and then she found a small Mexican hat and sent it over to our guest.

This story is an example of how we listen and care about each individual guest at Sensira. We measure our hospitality value by going above and beyond to create a personalized experience for every one of our guests.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

In Cancun, I have participated in a shelter for elders and abandoned mothers. I would go there during the weekends to help feed, bathe, and clean the people who sought refuge in this shelter.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Older people — Baby boomers were great creators and movers to what we have nowadays, particularly in terms of technology, I would create a program where they can pass on their knowledge and life-lessons to help coach newcomers in different industries.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can follow Sensira Resort & Spa’s Instagram account and check out our website! @sensiraresorts and https://www.sensiraresorts.com/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.