“From a value and experiential opportunity, Mexico really does have it all. From Cabo San Lucas to Huatulco, Cozumel and Cancun, as well as the Riviera Maya, there is something for everyone. It’s about understanding the differences of each destination, be it good or bad, and understanding what makes each destination in Mexico a bit different from the other,” says Bonnie Lee, CEO of a Travel Leaders franchise in Albertville, MN.
Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Merida, Mexico City, Riviera Maya, Zihuatanejo: looking back at our 2013 issues, Recommend presented a gluttonous selection of Mexico features both online and in print.
From extensive Q&A’s about new tourism initiatives with Mexican officials on recommend.com to onsite reviews of all-inclusive properties like the Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta (hrhvallarta.com), a 348-room beachfront hotel in Riviera Nayarit that writer Donna Ray said in the August 2013 issue, is “equal parts rock shrine and resort, the property plays up the decadency tune with its ‘all day, all night, all included’ mantra.” Recommend wasn’t shy when it came to showcasing the best of Mexico in 2013—we even gave you the Island-Hopping in Mexico (Cozumel, Isla Holbox, Isla Mujeres) feature in the April 2013 issue, and offered a slew of vintage boutique properties (A Vintage Stay in Mexico, October 2013 issue) for clients who want more than a beachside all-inclusive vacation.
from coast to coast (and in-between)
To pique the interest of international tourists, two Mexico tourism boards introduced important marketing initiatives this year: The Live It to Believe It campaign, aimed to change the overall perception of Mexico City by attracting North Americans to experience the capital’s historic landmarks, colonial architecture and culture; and the Sun Triangle initiative, launched by the State of Guerrero, to promote its top tourist destinations—Acapulco, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and Taxco.
The first nine months of 2013 Mexico City saw 9.2 million visitors; 18 percent were international with the majority coming from the U.S. (Expect an in-depth onsite review of Mexico City in 2014 from our editor-in-chief who recently returned from a 4-day visit to the city, and considering that the capital is one of her favorite destinations in the world—yes, the world—she is sure to bring you an interesting account of her time spent there.)
In our online Q&A with Miguel Torruco, Mexico City’s Minister of Tourism, he said, “Mexico City has many special charms. It has 175 museums, which makes it second to London as the city with most museums in the world. It’s also recognized for its gastronomy; according to Forbes, it is the fourth best city in the world for gastronomy experiences.… The city actually showcases the works and tradition of three cultures—the Aztec Empire, the colonial era and the modern, cosmopolitan city it is today.”
There is something new to report on the museum front: In November, the city welcomed another museum to its portfolio, the Jumex Museum in the Polanco neighborhood. This 5-level building, designed by British architect David Chipperfield, will be the largest private and contemporary art space in Latin America housing works from international artists.
Let’s skip over to Acapulco, which back in the 1950s and 60s was Mexico’s original beach destination for classic Hollywood icons like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Now only 20 percent of travelers to Acapulco come from the U.S. and Canada, while 80 percent is local tourism. Javier Aluni, secretary of tourism for the State of Guerrero, hopes the area’s Diamond Zone, which includes two of the destination’s most upscale properties—Banyan Tree Cabo Marques (banyantree.com) and Hotel Encanto (encantoacapulco.mx/es)—will continue to draw tourists. The Diamond Zone of “Acapulco has seen constant development over the past few years as it is home to a number of luxury investments including Mundo Imperial, a destination all its own offering a variety of high-end boutiques, restaurants, nightclubs and convention centers,” he says.
Back in June we visited Zihuatanejo, a town that “radiates the warmth and simplicity of a true fishing village,” according to Pedro Castelan, executive director of the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo Convention & Visitors Bureau, and gave you an onsite review of La Casa Que Canta (lacasaquecanta.com), a Small Luxury Hotels of the World property with only 25 rooms, private plunge pools in 11 suites, and made with natural elements such as adobe, palapas and woods. Overall, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo has seen an influx of visitors from top North American gateways like Houston, Phoenix, Montreal and Vancouver.
Another Pacific coast hotspot, Los Cabos, currently welcomes flights from 24 cities in the U.S. and Canada; San Jose del Cabo International Airport welcomed approximately 1.2 million national and international visitors from January to August 2013 from major gateways like Los Angeles, Dallas, Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver.
“Our biggest destinations in Mexico this past year have been Cancun and Cabo San Lucas, but we also saw good numbers to Cozumel and Ixtapa,” says director of operations, Michelle Weller, a Travel Leaders franchise in Houston, TX. “I really am impressed with how Los Cabos and Cancun have become complete ‘resort cities’ with big offerings for activities like shopping, golfing (the Fairmont Mayakoba, for example; fairmont.com—[we wrote about this resort’s great golf offerings in the May 2013 issue]), dolphin experiences, diving, ziplining, and deep-sea fishing expeditions that are high-class operations on par (or above) anything you would find in Florida or California, and at half the price.”
Weller hit the nail on the head. Visiting Cabo San Lucas this year was a highlight for me. Our days were filled with nonstop outdoor activities: snorkeling, boating, stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking, and swimming with the dolphins, too. Grand Solmar at Land’s End Resort & Spa (grandsolmarresort.com) hosted us during our stay, and in the July 2013 issue in the onsite review of that property, I wrote, “Grand Solmar’s effortless blend of luxury, fine dining and top-notch accommodations made it the ideal refuge for winding down the night once the thrill of the day’s outdoor activities in Cabo came to an end.”
Zipping over to Mexico’s eastern shoreline, Cancun and the Riviera Maya definitely won the superlative for “Most Likely To Entice Tourists.” From January to August, Cancun had an 81.1 percent hotel occupancy rate and 2.2 million international passengers touched down at Cancun International Airport, while Riviera Maya saw close to one million U.S. travelers.
“Riviera Maya, Los Cabos and Cancun are our top three, best-selling destinations in Mexico for 2013 for a variety of reasons,” says Jack Richards, president and CEO of Pleasant Holidays. “These beach destinations offer the essentials for dream vacations: amazing natural beauty, incredible value for the travel dollar, convenient flight schedules and a wide selection of resorts, including all-inclusive, adults-only and family-friendly options.”
Who can first remember when the phrase “multigenerational travel” became (and still is) all the rage? While visiting Palace Resorts’ all-inclusive Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort (moonpalacecancun.com), I saw mom, dad, the kiddies and grandma and grandpa enjoying this 2,400-guestroom property. In the September 2013 issue, in an onsite review of the property, I gave you the latest on the resort’s $55 million facelift that included guestroom refurbishments; a new lounge area for teens; and a 37,000-sq.-ft. outdoor natural saltwater aquarium home to dolphins. I was also impressed with the Azul Sensatori Hotel by Karisma (karismahotels.com), which is why I included it as one of my five top family resorts in the September issue. Mom and dad can appreciate the resort’s Pack & Play program taking care of necessary baby supplies and essentials that are waiting for them upon check-in; stroller, Gerber baby food, and baby robes also included.
But the spotlight shines brightest on Merida, our pick as a hot destination for 2014. In Merida: Gateway to the Yucatan Experience (November 2013 issue), Angelica Espinosa, sales director for Catherwood Travels, said, “Near Merida you have archaeological sites, colonial cities, convents, cenotes, ecological reserves, haciendas and Maya villages. It’s a trip into history and culture. Mayan culture is alive here and there are even villages where only the Maya language is spoken.”
all-inclusive & boutique stays
“The most popular Mexico destinations in 2013 for my clients were Cancun and the Riviera Maya, particularly the adults-only, all-inclusive upscale resorts,” says Marilyn Ross with Journeys Unlimited. “THE Royal Cancun [realresorts.com/the-royal-cancun], the Excellence Playa Mujeres [excellence-resorts.com] and Karisma’s El Dorado Royale, a Spa Resort and El Dorado Casitas Royale [karisma.com] all provide excellent customer service, luxury accommodations and many options for gourmet cuisine, including 24-hour room service. My clients have been well pleased with the value for money spent at these resorts.”
Adds Pleasant Holidays’ Richards, “All-inclusive resort sales are stronger than ever, with new players, including Hyatt, entering the market. The boutique hotel experience is more popular with Pleasant Holidays’ luxury brand, Journese, whose travelers prefer the more intimate accommodations and concierge service these properties can provide.”
A new addition to Riviera Maya is NIZUC Resort & Spa (nizuc.com), a 274-suite and private villa resort with five pools, six restaurants and a NIZUC Spa. Big hitters like Iberostar (iberostar.com) introduced another all-inclusive to the Riviera Nayarit market, Playa Mita, and AMResorts (amresorts.com) introduced its Secrets Marquis Los Cabos. This year Hyatt Hotels Corporation announced the opening of its first two all-inclusive products: Hyatt Zilara Cancun (cancun.zilara.hyatt.com) and Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos (loscabos.ziva.hyatt.com), featuring 619 suites, eight restaurants, six bars and lounges, a kids’ camp, pools galore, and golf and spa services.
On the more boutiquey side of accommodations, Mexico City saw the opening of Le Meridien Mexico City (starwoodhotels.com), the brand’s seventh hotel in the capital located at Paseo de la Reforma, featuring 160 rooms, a fitness center, pool and C’est la Vie, the onsite restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Overlooking the Sea of Cortez is the new Hotel El Ganzo (elganzo.com), a 72-room beachfront hotel offering a rooftop bar and lounge; a full-service spa; onsite restaurants and, for art and music lovers, live artist installations and an in-house recording studio.
keep ‘em coming
In 2013, Sunwing Airlines added two new flights to Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo from three Canadian gateways, and this month travelers can fly direct to Mazatlan from Minneapolis on Sun Country Airlines—the airline is planning to resume its weekly nonstop flights to Mazatlan on Saturdays—and in January 2014, the airline is offering two weekly flights on Saturdays and Tuesdays.
In June, AirTran Airlines added a direct flight from Denver to Los Cabos; Spirit Airlines has been providing flights between Dallas and San Jose del Cabo; and in January 2014, Aeromexico will be launching two direct flights to Los Cabos from New York (JFK).