|Major resorts in Acapulco, especially gated ones, offer guests an extra measure of security.|
Acapulco, justified or not, has taken a lot of heat in the last few years for being unsafe, prompting some tourism officials to claim that the destination is being made the scapegoat for much of Mexico’s bad press regarding the ongoing drug war.
Along with fighting back with words, the destination is taking action to beef up security with hopes of setting the record straight that Acapulco, especially in its gated-off resorts, is a safe place to send your clients.
Travel Agent brought together a panel of experts from the resort city for a discussion about security as well as Mexico’s recent decision to move the popular Tianguis Turistico trade show out of Acapulco for the first time in 36 years.
In attendance were Joe Pike from Travel Agent magazine; Pedro Haces Sordo, and Arely Figueroa, president and director of public relations, respectively, for the Acapulco Destination Marketing Office; Clara Torres, deputy director, New York office, Mexico Tourism Board; Mariana Echanove, director of sales and marketing, Las Brisas; Michelle Heston, regional director of public relations, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts (on behalf of Fairmont Acapulco Princess and the Pierre Marques); Tetsushisa Kato, leisure sales manager, Banyan Tree Cabo Marques; and Rafael Micha, managing partner for Grupo Habita/Hotel Boca Chica.
Following are some of the highlights of that discussion:
Joe Pike, Travel Agent magazine: Let’s talk about safety in Acapulco, because that was an issue last year and it seems like it’s still an issue this year. Tell me about what’s being done.
Pedro Haces Sordo, Acapulco Destination Marketing Office: There is a new program for Acapulco called “Acapulco Seguro.” The Acapulco Destination Marketing Office, in partnership with the State of Guerrero, recently announced a series of new security measures, including [substantial] investments by both the state and federal government in the police force as well this new program.
As part of the new measures, Angel Aguirre Rivero, governor of Guerrero, recently announced a multimillion-peso investment from the state, designated for use in the purchase of new police equipment and training in advanced security techniques. This investment comes after the announcement of 400 new graduates coming out of the federal police academy. These graduates will participate in a program designed to help eliminate corruption within the force. The federal government [also] has invested 100 million pesos in the program, including money for anti-doping measures.
|From left to right, Tetsushisa Kato, Banyan Tree; Clara Torres, Mexico Tourism Board; Arely Figueroa, Acapulco Destination Marketing Office; Mariana Echanove, Las Brisas; Joe Pike, Travel Agent magazine; Rafael Micha, Grupo Habita/Hotel Boca Chica; Pedro Haces Sordo, Acapulco Destination Marketing Office; Michelle Heston, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.|
“Acapulco Seguro” is designed to help visitors feel comfortable and secure during their visit. [It] is made up of three sub-programs, Safe Nightlife, Safe Road and Safe Taxi, targeted to provide tourists with a safe way to enjoy all Acapulco has to offer.
Rafael Micha, Hotel Boca Chica: Bottom line, Joe, [is that] guests who arrive at Acapulco won’t really notice anything [unusual] going on in the city. All of these properties are closed-gate communities—the Banyan Tree, the El Cano, etc. As soon as travelers hit Acapulco, if they have a pickup or a transfer scheduled, they will be escorted directly to the [closed-gate] property, which is…perfectly safe and I don’t think they would really notice anything going on. These are very isolated events that are taking place far from the hotels.
I think that it’s very important to convey to the travel agents that in order to send their guests over to Acapulco, it is important for them to visit Banyan Tree Cabo Marques, Hotel Boca Chica, Las Brisas, and each and every single hotel in the location, because we’ve noticed that the North American traveler is not too savvy about [Mexico’s] geography. So, I think the travel agent has to know enough to educate the travelers and let them know that it’s not Fox News.
Pedro Haces Sordo, Acapulco Destination Marketing Office: You would never see on TV that there is going to be a ($200 million) renovation of La Costera (the downtown tourist zone in Acapulco). I mean, we have more good news than bad news and the bad news happens like in any other place in the world, like here in New York, where crime is present.
Rafael Micha, Hotel Boca Chica: People think that we are all locked in our closets. We’re business people, we’re managing our businesses, we’re going ahead and we are not denying it. We are here so that you can put a face to Boca Chica or to El Cano and to let you know that we are trying to solve what’s going on.
Mariana Echanove, Las Brisas: It’s important to know that the government is trying to solve these problems—and from the root, I mean. The big social problem in Mexico is that people don’t have enough opportunities for employment. For example, now, the government is employing experts [who] are developing sports facilities for young people and also scholarship programs. This is in order to prevent the young from turning to crime. It is very important that you know this and communicate it to other people.
|Despite initial fears and talk of abandoning the city, some cruise lines still offer Acapulco as a port of call.|
In another instance, the government is opening a new police academy where there is a new process of certification and a doping test, and there is no place for corruption.
Joe Pike, Travel Agent magazine: How is Las Brisas reacting to all this?
Mariana Echanove, Las Brisas: We have clients who go to Las Brisas and then write their comments on websites like Trip Advisor. They have some comments like, ‘I was going to cancel my trip to Acapulco because my friends and my family said not to go. We went to Acapulco and we were safe. We went downtown. We saw a lot of police everywhere, but we felt fine. I mean we felt safe.’ We are working on a huge program of testimonials like this that you will be able to find on our website, www.visiteacapulco.com. And we are working on the renovation of this web page, so you will find these testimonials up there in a couple of months.
Michelle Heston, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts: I think people who live there understand that there is a problem. It’s not affecting guests, but we talk about that. We talk about security issues. If people want specifics—what exactly we are doing from a security standpoint on properties—they can find out. They are gated and whether it’s security that is in uniform or not, we have it. We also have camera surveillance, etc.
Joe Pike, Travel Agent magazine: For the first time in 36 years, the Tianguis Turistico show is moving out of Acapulco. How do you all feel about that? Do you think it’s good for Mexico as a whole? Do you think it’s bad for your destination?
Pedro Haces Sordo, Acapulco Destination Marketing Office: We feel very disappointed about the decision. At this time, I think it was a bad decision. If we were having so much bad news, they (the government) should have supported us and perhaps told us, ‘OK, we are going to move Tianguis in two years or next year,’ and not ‘This is the last year,’ which we were told on the last day of the Tianguis this year. We were told, ‘We are planning, we are thinking perhaps in the future,’ and then the future turned out to be the next day.
Mariana Echanove, Las Brisas: I think this is an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. We are sad about this, but we think that we can do a lot of things, a lot of new things for Acapulco. We can have beautiful events as well. Nothing will replace Tianguis, but this is an opportunity for the destination.
Joe Pike, Travel Agent magazine: How much did attendance suffer last year compared to the year before? How many fewer people showed up?
Mariana Echanove, Las Brisas: All they said was that it was the worst Tianguis they have had for many years.
Clara Torres, Mexico Tourism Board: It was internal pressure from other destinations in the country to have an event that will showcase [them]. It was more like a national decision rather than something against Acapulco.
Rafael Micha, Hotel Boca Chica: And something that showcases everything that Mexico has to offer—a colonial town, a city, urban areas, beaches, archeological sites, etc. I think there was a very important reason to do so. And it would be a very important opportunity for Acapulco’s renewal, and Acapulco would be a part of the whole experience once again. So, I think it’s a nice challenge, and we are all for challenges.