As the year draws to a close, Travel Agent caught up with tourism officials on opposite coasts of Mexico. Both seek to solidify and enhance their standing in the new year. For Cancun, that means a continued role as the country’s tourism powerhouse. And for Acapulco, it’s a determined climb back on to the travel radar for U.S. visitors.
Lizzie Cole, Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau director and chief executive, said visitor numbers will show an increase in 2017 over 2016.
“We don’t have the complete information yet. Last year we were at 4.7 million visitors. We will be a little over that, even though we had some bumps in September and October,” Cole tells Travel Agent.
Those “bumps” included a revised U.S. State Department Travel Warning that listed Cancun’s home, Quintana Roo, among its travel warnings.
“Tour operators tell us it’s getting a lot better. Many of our hotels had a great last couple of weeks. And the travel insurance company, Allianz (Allianz Global Assistance), has once again said Cancun is the top destination for U.S. tourists this winter,” said Cole.
Infrastructure improvements in Cancun include the opening of Terminal Four at the Cancun International Airport.
“The new terminal serves both domestic and international travelers. It will allow an extra nine million passengers to be moved. Several airlines are already operating there. It has some great shopping and food options,” said Cole.
A new social media campaign, #TimetoCancun, is also underway.
“We get great publicity from our visitors. They’re posting all the time, sharing and talking about great experiences. The idea behind ‘Time to Cancun’ is to have people interact by showing videos and images and share content. We have hoteliers and restaurants sharing their own content but we want visitors to share. Whatever newspapers say or whatever might be perceived about us, there is no better advertising than one people do on own. If friends say they had a fantastic time in Cancun, that gets attention,” said Cole.
A repeat visitor rate of 52 percent is one of Cancun’s strengths.
“It’s amazing how many people come back all the time. As dynamic as we are, we always have new things happening in the destination,” said Cole.
Growth areas include the Costa Mujeres area on the continental side of Isla Mujeres.
“This year, we will have the Riu Dunamar opening soon. Lots of new properties are coming to that area. It will eventually have 20,000 rooms. It will become the new destination of Cancun,” said Cole.
In the Hotel Zone proper, a few hotels remain to be developed from the original master plan. A couple of other lots are still available, said Cole.
“I know the chain that owns Royalton is planning to open hotel on the Hotel Zone. We have another hotel announced, but it still hasn’t broken ground. And, there’s news that the same chain the runs Hard Rock will open 1,200 rooms at the end of the Hotel Zone,” said Cole.
Developers continue to eye older properties or those no longer in operation.
“Those are the great opportunities for developers right now. We used to have the Hotel Pueblito. The Atelier de Hoteles chain just opened it as Oleo Cancun Playa. They bought the property and are remodeling it totally. Ritz-Carlton just did a great renovation. The Grand Coral Beach did same. They refreshed rooms, they’re always creating new restaurants to offer a better experience for visitors,” said Cole.
Festivities abound for the holiday season.
“The sun is shining and it’s close to 80 degrees. But the holiday time is always very special and very festive. The hotels have decorations and plans for special diners or New Year’s Eve parties. You can attend any of them, even if you’re not staying there,” said Cole.
Some hotels will host fireworks for New Year’s Eve.
“It’s risky to have them in the Hotel Zone, because we have so many palapas. Depending on the way the wind blows, sometimes they can do it over the sea. But, it doesn’t always happen,” said Cole.
In contrast, New Year’s fireworks are a sure thing in Acapulco.
“December 31 is the most important date here. The fireworks we do here are amazing. You can see them from any point in the bay,” Piquis Rochin, director of international promotions for the Acapulco Destination Marketing Office tells Travel Agent.
“Mexico’s Original Beach Destination” ends the year with increased visitor numbers from the U.S., said Rochin.
That’s welcome news for a city that’s taken a severe hit from fears over drug cartel violence.
“The perception of the consumer is terrible. But, it’s opposite to the reality. The reality is that in every place in the world there are tensions and perhaps violence. But, you’re not near them. Acapulco is safer now. Whatever activities happen are out of the way of the tourists. We’ve been traveling to the U.S. with our boutique hotels to let them know what we have to offer. The response has been very encouraging,” said Rochin.
Cruise ships started to come back to Acapulco in 2016. This year, those visits increased by nearly 80 percent. And, a new airport will debut by the end of 2018.
“The airport is one of the top projects in Mexico. It is state-of-the art and so impressive. One building will be for arrivals, another for departures. One of our main goals for 2018 is to get more flights direct to Acapulco,” said Rochin.
Mexican airline Volaris is introducing direct flights from Los Angeles on December 19.
Renovations are underway at iconic Acapulco hotels, such as the Pierre Mundo Imperial and Princess Mundo Imperial.
“Gran Plaza Hotel Acapulco will invest millions in renovations and will be part of international chain. These are things that are going to increase attraction for Acapulco,” said Rochin.
High-profile sporting events also help. The Telcel Mexican Tennis Open will take place from February 26 through March 3, 2018 at the Princess Mundo Imperial Acapulco. Competitors include Venus Williams and Rafael Nadal.
Earlier this year, XTASEA, the world’s largest over-ocean zipline, debuted in Acapulco. Plans call for an extreme space adventure attraction around the XTASEA terminal.
“XTASEA is adding restaurants, attractions, a huge rock climbing wall and other family entertainment. And on December 15, they’re introducing night ziplining,” said Rochin.
No doubt, the New Year’s Eve fireworks will make it all the more enticing.