2014 was a major year in Mexico travel. While Los Cabos captured worldwide attention for its swift recovery from Hurricane Odile, the country as a whole continued to build travel buzz in the U.S.
|Secrets Puerto Los Cabos Golf & Spa Resort reopening ceremony|
Hurricane Odile Recovery
The Category 3 Hurricane Odile struck Los Cabos in mid-September, damaging many area hotels, closing the international airport and forcing the evacuation of thousands of travelers.
The destination bounced back quickly, however. By the end of 2014 dozens of hotels in the destination had reopened, with the rest scheduled to reopen through June 2015. The Los Cabos International Airport reopened October 8, and returned to normal operation in early December.
At Travel Impressions' Best of the Best gala in the destination in late November, agents got a chance to view the recovery firsthand.
"I really appreciated the time in Cabo," said Alex Sharpe, president and CEO, Signature Travel Network. "I thought that the city did a great job in rebuilding so quickly and the people of Mexico have always been so warm and welcoming, and now, even more so. As I tweeted out while I was there…Cabo is indeed back!"
|Front row: Mitch Toren, Trip Guy; Robert Whorral, Beach Bum Vacation; Hope Smith, Born to Travel; Mandy Chomat, Karisma Hotels & Resorts. Back row: David Hu, Classic Vacations; Tim Mullen, Travel Impressions and American Express Vacations; Jack Richards, Pleasant Holidays and Journese; Jeff Mullen, Apple Vacations and John Caldwell, MLT Vacations.|
Mexico Builds Its Profile
While Los Cabos may have grabbed headlines for its swift recovery, the country as a whole gained attention as an increasingly popular destination in 2014.
At our Mexico roundtable during this year's Tianguis Turistico, major industry executives agreed that the country is a hot destination in the minds of the consumer.
“People are calling me about Mexico and not asking about security. They are just going,” said Hope Smith, owner of Born to Travel. “My business to Mexico City especially has increased. I can’t believe how many people are going.”
“Mexico is our largest growth market,” said Mitch Toren, chief vacation engineer, Trip Guy. “Two years ago Mexico was off the table before you could even pitch it. We see much less resistance now.”
In October, Virtuoso chairman and CEO Matthew Upchurch picked Mexico as one of the top luxury destinations to watch for 2015 during an interview on CNBC.
"Fifty-four percent of U.S. international travel is to Mexico and Canada," Upchurch said. "People don't understand that there are more luxury five-star properties in Mexico than in the Caribbean."
Additionally, in Priceline's recent list of Top 2015 Travel Hot Spots, Cancun / Cozumel ranked #2 and Los Cabos ranked #8 in the list of top international destinations, based on advance hotel reservations.
New and Renovated Hotels and Resorts
2014 also saw a host of new and renovated hotels and resorts open in Mexico.
The Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta opened in late December, offering guests tequila sommeliers, 24-hour in-suite dining service with chef designed menus, romantic fire pits, entertainment and activities, and butler service at the adults-only pool, on the site of the former Dreams Puerto Vallarta following a $20 million renovation and expansion. The property is currently offering grand opening savings of up to 55 percent off published rack rates.
10 minutes north of Cancun, AMResorts opened the adults-only Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort. Set along 2.3 miles of gated white sand beach, the resort offers access to a signature Greg Norman golf course.
In February the Generations Riviera Maya by Karisma welcomed its first guests, offering 144 all-suite oceanfront accommodations with unlimited butler service, an Eko Kid’s Club and Baby Beach Lounges, and swim-up infinity suites up from the first to fourth floors. Later in the year the property added a new Gourmet Beachfront Tower with four beachfront restaurants and loughes, the Eko Kids Club and a Sky Terrace.
Hard Rock's All-Inclusive Collection opened its fourth property in 2014, the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya. The property offers a combined 1,264 guestrooms with balcony, terrace views or new sky terrace options, hydro tubs in each room, shopping and the largest celebrity-branded Rock Star Suite in the Hard Rock International collection designed by singer Bret Michaels.
AMResorts opened its Secrets Puerto Los Cabos Golf & Spa Resort with 500 suites all with ocean, garden or golf course views. Every guest has a private in-suite balcony or terrace, 24-hour room service, daily refreshed mini bar and more. While the property did sustain damage during Hurricane Odile, it reopened on November 15.
In renovation news, the Club Med Yucatan added a new all-suite building with accomodations aimed at families and a club for toddlers. We got a chance to visit the updated property in October.
The Allegro Cozumel underwent a renovation to its public spaces, dining facilities, recreational areas, health and wellness services, and daily activities programming. In Banderas Bay, Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta’s Grand Luxxe location opened a new pool, restaurant, and Kid’s Club.
AMResorts rebranded Isla Mujeres Resort as the Villa Rolandi Isla Mujeres. The property has 35 ocean-front suites with Jacuzzi terraces; gourmet dining; a full-service Spa & Thalasso Center with 10 treatment rooms, and a natural seawater pool; private marina with its own 42-foot yacht that transports guests between Cancun and the resort; and the Endless Privileges program.
The Rosewood Mayakoba introduced the new La Ceiba Garden & Kitchen, a 20,000 square foot outdoor dining concept that serves classic and modern Mexican dishes.
The biggest story in Mexico's airlift scene this year was the announcement of a new international airport for Mexico City. The city's current main airport, Benito Juarez, has reached its operational capacity at 24 million passengers each year, making it Latin America's second-busiest. The new airport will be located six miles from Benito Juarez. Its first phase is expected to support more than 50 million passengers annually, with a second phase slated to support 120 million passengers per year.
Additionally, American Airlines signed a codeshare agreement with Interjet, offering access to five key destinations in Mexico: Huatulco, Villahermosa, Merida, Tuxtla Gutierrez and Oaxaca.
In mid-July, Delta announced that it would be expanding its own Mexico capacity by 25 percent, including two new flights from San Diego and Seattle and a new non-stop flight from New York's JFK to Los Cabos.
In the cruise sector, Carnival Miracle began its year-round cruise program to the Mexican Riviera, becoming the first ship to call at Cabo San Lucas on October 6 following Hurricane Odile. The ship will offer three different weeklong itineraries, including a new three-port, seven-day cruise featuring Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.