Tour operators, hoteliers and agents are touting Puerto Vallarta’s popularity these days. International visitor numbers for 2015 reached close to the two million mark. If the first quarter of 2016 is any indication, those numbers will rise even more.
Airlift to Puerto Vallarta has traditionally been seen as an obstacle from many parts of the country.
“Cancun and the Riviera Maya are so easy to get to from pretty much everywhere. Puerto Vallarta is more of a hike. So, it typically does best with travelers from Chicago and farther west,” said Gina West, regional sales manager, Northeast USA for Apple Leisure Group.
New lift from Southwest, Volaris and Air Canada may help turn the tide.
“We’re having best season here in ages with new flights, even charters from London, if the trend holds, our high season will break records,” Zachary Rabinor, director general and CEO of the Puerto Vallarta-based Journey Mexico tells Travel Agent.
Matt Schumacher, owner of Travel Troops, hopes to take his agents on a fam to Puerto Vallarta later this year.
“We’re selling more Puerto Vallarta than Los Cabos at the moment.
We sell it as a different experience. It can feel like there’s a bunch of laid-back hippies there that moved in and never left. It’s very eclectic, and has a real downtown area, which is nice,” Schumacher tells Travel Agent.
On the hotel front, there’s news in the luxury segment.
“Something on the horizon that’s opening soon is the new W Hotel in Punta Mita. Of course, we have Hotel Mousai which opened a year ago and is terrific,” said Rabinor.
Hotel Mousai holds the distinction of earning the AAA Five Diamond award faster than any hotel in Mexico. It’s a sister property to the Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa.
The W Punta de Mita is scheduled to open in May at the exclusive Los Veneros oceanfront development. Its debut will make Mexico the only Latin American country with two W hotels.
The property will have 120 guest villas, a 4,000 square-foot spa, bar lounge, and signature W Living Room, among other amenities.
Tourism officials from Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit continue their joint efforts to promote the region, though they’re from neighboring states.
Rabinor thinks it’s a good concept.
“There have been lots of efforts to market as a whole. The entire country needs more integrated marketing actually. We specialize in itineraries that bridge state borders, so we support the unified efforts,” he said.
One such unified effort takes place from March 18-20. The First Annual Vallarta Nayarit Hot Air Balloon Festival will get underway in Nuevo Vallarta. In addition to a parade of balloons, visitors can enjoy music, antique car expo, motocross and plenty of booths selling regional food and crafts.
There’s also renewed interest in the surfing village of Sayulita. Located about 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, it’s known for its boho vibe, art galleries and authentic eateries.
In December, the federal government added Sayulita to the list of "Pueblos Magicos" or "Magic Towns.” The decree recognizes it as a location with special symbolic features, historical significance, natural beauty or cultural riches.
On the infrastructure front, tourism officials have announced a major renovation at the port of Puerto Vallarta. The $20 million project will take place over the next five years. It will include a new welcome center for passengers, as well as a shopping area and aquarium.