2013 has been a big year for Mexico so far, and Travel Agent has been on hand to report on the excitement. From hotel openings and increased airlift, tourism numbers increasing thanks to the confidence in Mexico's safety, and a push to promote the destination's cultural heritage, Mexico has had a lot to talk about in the last six months. Here is a look back.
In March we were on site in Puebla to attend the 38th annual Tianguis Turistico. It was a week of firsts, as this year's industry event took place off the beach (…way off the beach) - a first for the Tianguis legacy. Up until this year, Tianguis was always held in a surf-and-sand destination, be it Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta. This is the first time in the event's history that it is held off the coast. Why? Mexico want to showcase more than just its ocean and sand, and that is why hosting the destination in Puebla was so important to Mexican officials.
"There were doubts about changing the venue of Tianguis Turistico," says Rafael Moreno Valle, governor of Puebla. "But it is great to show a new face of our country."
The event pulled 500 exhibitors from 42 countries. "The event is so popular that we had to get rooms in nearby cities," says Claudia Ruiz, the secretary of tourism. "We are all here to get something other than sun and beach. Puebla shows the diversity of Mexico's tourism offerings." Among the themes of tourism that Mexico is looking to highlight are medical tourism, sports. archaeology, luxury and the MICE market. And this does not apply to just Puebla. Destinations in Mexico that are typically known for only sun and sand are looking to embrace the diversification. For example, Cancun and Riviera Maya, usually known only for luxury beach resorts, bars and clubs, is looking to embrace its cultural heritage and will continue to promote its Mayan history throughout the year (the new Mayan museum in Cancun is a perfect example).
At the 38th Tianguis, Travel Agent met with Eduardo Segura Vehovec, managing director of Los Cabos Tourism to get the scoop on what’s new in the destination. The big news is the slew of new hotel developments currently in the works. The Delano Los Cabos will open in 2014 with 114 rooms and 23 residences, as well as a modern restaurant and spa. El Ganzo, a 72-room boutique oceanfront property recently opened its doors at the marina in Puerto Los Cabos. Ritz-Carlton has formally announced a Ritz-Carlton Reserve property to be built in Los Cabos. The resort will have 124 private, single-story and oceanfront villas, each withviews of the Sea of Cortez. We also unofficially heard that Montage is in discussion to open a resort in the destination, though that has not been confirmed.
AMResorts is also planning for a boom year in 2013. The brand is slated to debut 20 hotels in the coming years to up their portfolio to 52 hotels. The brand is commited to opening new brands in existing locations and the same brands in new locations. Last year saw the debut of six new hotels, including two in new destinations (Cozumel and Costa Rica). Looking forward, developments currently in construction include the Now Onyx Punta Cana, which will debut in November 2013 with 750 rooms; the Secrets Los Cabos, with 500 rooms slated to open in December 2013; and Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica, set to open in November 2014 with 446 rooms. AMResorts is also on track to launch a new brand: breathless. This will be an adults-only brand, similar to Secrets, but with a focus more on the "daring" travel, as opposed to romance. The first of these resorts are expected to launch this year. AMResorts currently has 32 hotels in its portfolio, with 11,890 rooms.
In February, Las Brisas Hotel Collection opened a new NIZUC Resort & Spa in Riviera Maya. The 274-suite resort has 29 private villas and is less than 20 minutes from the Cancun International Airport. The resort has six gourmet restaurants ranging from Mexican to Peruvian and Mediterranean fare. The resort also has 30,000-square-foot ESPA spa and wellness center, with beachfront private treatment rooms, saunas and relaxation pools. The new property features two white sand beaches adjacent to its adults-only section, villas with tropical gardens and VIP suites—most with their own plunge pools.
Sunscape Sabor Cozumel has officially opened its doors after extensive and time-consuming renovations. The resort is owned by popular Spanish ex-tennis player Rafael Nada, and is the second AMResort’s property in the popular Mexico tourist location. Sunscape Sabor Cozumel now has 330 rooms with various amenities. All guests experience the perks of the company's "Unlimited Fun" vacation concept, revolving around limitless access to a la carte dining and top-shelf spirits, scheduled daytime activities, live evening entertainment, fitness facilities, and more. The resort also offers the Explorer’s Club for kids, the Core Zone for teens, and the on-site Desires night club.
Coming to La Paz, Mexico in 2014, Hyatt is planning to open the Hyatt Place La Paz at CostaBaja resort complex. The new hotel will be built on a 53,000-square-foot area of land next to the 550-acre CostaBaja Complex. Hyatt guests will be able to use the resort's amenities, including several restaurants, an 18-hole Gary Player golf course, marina and beaches along the Sea of Cortez. Hyatt Place La Paz will offer 151 guest rooms, each with views of the marina or sea. The hotel is less than 30 minutes from Manuel Marques de Leon International Airport.
Barceló's Riviera Maya resort is gearing up for a multimillion dollar injection. The five-resort mega complex will undergo a $45 million investment in two phases, scheduled for completion in 2014. The renovation began on May 6 and will focus on the complex's Maya Beach and Maya Caribe resorts. Among the planned improvements are a complete renovation of Barceló Maya Beach and Barceló Maya Caribe lobbies; new bars at both hotels and two new a la carte restaurants. The complex will feature a new Barceló Maya Entertainment Center, along with a sports bar, bowling alley, teen disco, new kids club, watermark, paddle tennis courts and a redesign of the 18-hole mini golf course. But there's more. Upgrades will also be made to the internal infrastructure. The first phase includes expansion of the lobbies, construction of a new Lobby Bay, new Premium Lounge Club, new hospitality area, construction of roofed area to access all buildings and renovation of the buffet restaurant.
Riviera Nayarit is gearing up for some major developments this year. Groups like IBEROSTAR, Grupo Vidanta, Tau Resorts and more are leading the charge. To date in 2013, an investment of $70 million has been committed to develop new hotels along Riviera Nayarit's coast. IBEROSTAR Playa Mita is one of the projects slated to debut this year. The 452-room resort will open in late 2013 in Litibu, located at the north end of the Banderas Bay. The new, all-inclusive property will have two pools, a Kids Club, four specialty restaurants, three bars and meeting facilities. Guest will also have access to the nearby Greg Norman-designed 18-hole championship golf course. This will be IBEROSTAR's 10th property in Mexico. Tau Resorts is a new development group focusing on creating high-quality timeshare resorts in Pacific Mexico. Two are planned for Riviera Nayarit, one of which will open this year. Tau Resorts Nahui will open in late 2013 with a total of 172 units in two-bedroom configurations. Community amenities will include a village, Beach Club, golf course, hiking trails and oceanfront water sports center. Finally, the Grand Luxxe Nuevo Vallarta, a Grupo Vidanta resort, opened in February 2010 with 108 rooms. By the end of November 2011, 288 more rooms were added. There is currently a new tower under construction with an additional 144 rooms, which is set to open in November 2013.
After a $15 million investment, Riu Yucatan is readying to reopen its doors on July 27. The Riu Yucatan, the hotel chain's first property in Mexico, has invested this large sum of money in the renovation which, together with the Riu Palace Mexico, Riu Palace Riviera Maya, Riu Playacar, ClubHotel Riu Tequila, Riu Lupita and the Playacar Conference Centre, forms the RIU complex in Playa del Carmen. The 507 rooms will receive new furniture and a brighter feel. The hotel will have three fresh water pools, including one new one and another with a swim-up bar. The hotel will debut RiuLand for tots with a menu of activities as well as a playground. Guests will also have access to sporting facilities as well as a gym, jacuzzi and spa.
Hilton is making moves in Mexico City. According to 4Hoteliers, the brand will bring a new hotel to the destination capital. The 260-room new-build Hilton hotel in the Santa Fe area will form part of Samara, one of the five largest mixed-use complexes in the country. There will be more than 3.8 million square feet of space, made up of corporate offices, a shopping center and the Hilton Santa Fe Mexico City. The hotel is expected to open in March 2014. The hotel will have executive floor rooms and suites, all with high-def flatscreen TVs, wireless internet and more. At the hotel's rooftop level, there will be a pool, bar and fitness center. Dining options will include a signature restaurant, lobby lounge and coffee bar.
Coming this December, travelers will be able to fly direct to Mazatlan from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Minnesota. Sun Country Airlines will resume weekly nonstop flights to General Rafael Buelna International Airport on Saturday, December 21, and twice weekly on Saturdays and Tuesdays beginning on January 11, 2014. The flights, which can carry 162 passengers, will reach Mazatlan in four hours.
On April 25, 2013, Spirit Airlines launched daily nonstop service from Texas’ DFW International Airport to Cancun, Mexico. This marks Spirit Airlines’ second destination from DFW into the Mexican market. Spirit launched its operations at DFW in May of 2011 with service to two cities, Fort Lauderdale and Las Vegas, and has rapidly expanded its operation at DFW since then. On the twenty-fifth, Spirit also began daily nonstop service to Los Angeles (LAX) and Oakland (OAK), bringing the total number of nonstop Spirit destinations from DFW up to 24.
Aeromexico now operates two flights per week from Los Angeles International Airport to La Paz, Mexico. A new partnership between the La Paz Tourism Board and Aeromexico results in direct flights between the two destinations. AM 2167 will depart LAX at 2:20 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays and will arrive in La Paz at 5:44 p.m. AM 2166 will depart La Paz on Thursdays and Sundays and will arrive in lAZ at 1:20 p.m.
Southwest Airlines has begun daily service between Auston-Bergstrom International Airport and Los Cabos through AirTran Airways. AirTran recently added a direct flight from Denver. Spirit launched non-stop service from Dallas/Forth Worth in June. The new flights operate four times per week (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday).
Safety, and Looking Ahead
During Tianguis Turistico 2013 in Puebla, Mexico Travel Agent sat down with Pedro Haces, president of the Acapulco Destination Marketing Office, to find out what's going on in the destination. Of course, first item on our mind was safety, as Acapulco has been having a difficult time in recent years.
"Regarding safety, we are working hard to spread the wor that Acapulco is a safe destination," says Haces. "Yes, things happen in all destinations and Acapulco is no exception. But the current perception is skewed and we want travelers to feel confident that they can come to Acapulco and have an amazing vacation experience."
Haces also tells us that the Governor of Guerrero (the state in which Acapulco is located) has recently implemented a multi-million dollar investment for the purchase of new police equipment and training in advanced security changes. The initiative was marked by the graduation of 400 new officers from the federal Police Academy and the inauguration of new facilities for the State Police in Acapulco. Haces wants agents to know that they can feel confined tabour sending their clients to Acapulco. "We are experiencing high occupancy levels in our hotels (95 percent hotel occupancy in March) and we have a lot of great, new offerings that we are excited to share with our visitors." Agents should note that Tianguis Turistico will return to Acapulco in 2015. Acapulco is the birth place of Tianguis and so is built to handle the magnitude of the event, from hotels to infrastructure.