Acapulco has acquired a new feel while retaining its traditional riches.
Upscale properties help reinvent this legendary Mexico hot spot.
How are luxury hotels transforming Acapulco from a spring break destination to a high-end family getaway? In a recent meeting with the local hotel and tourism representatives, Travel Agent sought the answer.
In attendance were Ruthanne Terrero and Joe Pike from The Travel Group; Piquis Rochin, director of international promotions for the Acapulco Destination Marketing Office (DMO); Arely Figueroa, public relations manager for the Acapulco DMO; Jesus Radilla, general director for the Acapulco DMO; Rafael Micha, managing partner for Grupo Habita/Hotel Boca Chica; America Anguiano, public relations director for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts; and Natalie Boden, public relations person for Las Brisas Acapulco.
Following are the highlights of the discussion.
What’s the latest news from Acapulco’s best hotels and the destination in general?
America Anguiano, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts: We have two Fairmont properties in Acapulco—one is the Fairmont Acapulco Princess, the other being Fairmont Pierre Marques—and a lot of new things. For example, we have our new tower, Pearl, which has more than 310 new rooms with a unique and contemporary chic design. We will also have a country club, Turtle Dunes Country Club, which will be a very big area with a new concept—to promote golf among both kids and adults.
Rafael Micha, Hotel Boca Chica: I represent Hotel Boca Chica, which is actually a hotel that was in place in the late 1950s and was featured in one of the Elvis Presley films of the 1960s. While the hotel has been in business for the last 50 years or so, a group just revamped the property. An amazing mid-century building was brought up to 2010 with the best amenities. We reopened the hotel this April. It’s quite new and the idea is that while the traditional part of Acapulco is still happening, it’s become a destination. Hopefully, after the effort of the group, we will be able to start the gentrification process of the old Acapulco, which is amazing for vintage and 1950s aura. So, it’s all retro and it’s a small hotel with only 36 rooms. We have six suites, three sunset suites, three new suites and a restaurant. We have a fully staffed and appointed spa that was designed by the director of the Standard in Miami.
Attendees at the Acapulco Roundtable included (from left) Ruthanne Terrero, Travel Agent magazine; Arely Figueroa, Acapulco Destination Marketing Office; Piquis Rochin, Acapulco DMO; America Anguiano, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts; Jesus Radilla, Acapulco DMO; Natalie Boden, Las Brisas Acapulco; Rafael Micha. Grupo Habita/Hotel Boca Chica; and Joe Pike, Travel Agent magazine.
Arely Figueroa, Acapulco DMO: It’s also important to talk about the tourist investments, what’s going on in the destination and the future plans of the government to renovate this city. For example, in the next two years, the government will invest around $1.5 million in renovating the main tourist areas as well as other areas…and in all of these investments, the investors are believing in Acapulco and it’s really a renaissance…we want you to spread the word and bring more people from America, Canada and other countries.
Piquis Rochin, Acapulco DMO: We have a good public relations campaign to push these new properties and bring Acapulco back on the map. We want to change the perception among travel agents: “Oh, I went to Acapulco 50 years ago, I was there 40 years ago, or I spent my honeymoon in Acapulco.” That’s all we hear from most of the travel agents.
Natalie Boden, Las Brisas: I have heard a lot around the table about the old and new, and Las Brisas’ main responsibility for Acapulco as a destination is to keep that new-feel Acapulco. Las Brisas’ Acapulco was an icon in the ’60s and brought a lot of attention to the city but it’s very important for the property to continue to be modern. The family which owns the Las Brisas brand has recently invested $25 million-$30 million in the property and everything, from the pillows to the bathrooms, has something new in it.
We all know Mexico is safe, but how does an agent convey that message to clients?
Arely Figueroa: Those incidents are not connected to tourism. Also, we are hosting many events in the city, which means many people still know it’s safe. Acapulco is there and we are waiting for you. There are crimes everywhere but they’re not related to tourism. The tourists can surely expect a real and flawless experience. So we have a lot to offer in terms of historical and beautiful attractions.
Are you seeing a difference in the clientele now with the perception of violence in Mexico? Are people still coming to the country as opposed to last year when this news broke and you saw a bunch of cancellations?
Jesus Radilla, Acapulco DMO: Absolutely. We have been in touch with a number of travel agents and the term they are using is “cautiously optimistic.” So overall, travel is increasing, especially luxury travel. The numbers reflect this, and they are a bit better at the end of this year than anybody expected. The projections for 2011 are looking strong as well. The Mexico Tourism Board released some statistics last week and they were very positive. Whether it was last year or the year before, when H1N1 spread, there was everything that could possibly go wrong. Obviously, there was a big drop at that point. But now, people are more savvy and educated due to the public relations efforts, the marketing campaign by the Mexico Tourism Board and the seminars we organize through our travel agent alliances. All this is turning things around.
Ruthanne Terrero, Travel Agent: Mexico was really active last year in terms of doing value-adds and encouraging visitors to come down. How is it going this year? I am asking because recently, I attended a number of hotel industry conferences where a major topic of discussion was the difficulty in getting the rates back up. Travel agents would actually like to see the rate go up more as well so they get a higher commission, right? So, are you finding you are able to raise the rate a bit more than what it had been last year or are you still doing value-adds?
America Anguiano: For us, value-adds are the best option because we are not interested in getting a low rate. It’s better for us not only for all the rest of this year but also for the next year to add, for example, golf, spa and anything else that we think people enjoy. For example, some people don’t consider taking a breakfast or dinner inside the property; if you include it, you can invite them to your restaurant and treat them to your value-adds.
Acapulco’s Las Brisas includes private pools for some of its suite guests.