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“Visits from the U.S. is growing at 11 percent per year, and Canada is also growing,” noted Enrique de la Madrid Cordero, Mexico’s secretary of tourism, during the recent Cancun Travel Mart (CTM). “It is important to recognize that 26 million visitors abroad [came to Mexico] this year.” With numbers like that, it’s no wonder the country is investing in new hotels, infrastructure, renovated marinas and cruise ports, as well as amped-up security.

“We think we as hotel owners need to be a little more imaginative and develop medical tourism and golf tourism,” said Carlos Gosselin, president of the Cancun and Puerto Morelos Hotels Association, during the Cancun Travel Mart.The market for marina is also starting to develop in Puerto Maderos and Islas Mujeres.

During the CTM, De la Madrid Cordero said, “Mexico is standing. Because of the recent earthquakes some distorted information was published about Mexico. Mexico is well-standing and destinations like this [Cancun] and Cabos, Monterey, Guadalajara were untouched. It’s important that agents know and say that because misinformation was published, which might make some people cancel trips to Mexico.”

Cancun & Riviera Maya
Remberto Estrada Barba, mayor of Cancun, noted during CTM, that “tourism is the only industry we have today, one we have seen grow exponentially in recent years.”

And lots of investment dollars are going toward new developments to drive those tourism numbers even higher. In the Cancun area, there’s the brand-new RIU Dunamar, and future openings include the Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres Resort & Spa, the adults-only The Royal Suites Coral Hotel in Costa Mujeres, SLS Cancun and the Renaissance Cancun. In neighboring Riviera Maya, two hotels opened this month: a Nickelodeon property, and the Hotel Xcaret Mexico. The latter is an “all-fun inclusive” concept and the first hotel by Experiencias Xcaret Group, which offers eco-amusement parks and tours. The property, located between the jungle and the Caribbean Sea, features 900 guestrooms, 10 restaurants, eight bars, infinity pools, tennis and paddle courts, kids’ and teens’ clubs, three fitness centers, and a Mayan-inspired Muluk Spa.

One of the biggest news to come out of this tourism hub is the new Amikoo destination experience. Amikoo, located between Cancun and Playa del Carmen in close proximity to Puerto Maderos, is a new theme park, and will feature hotels, a downtown area, a museum, a marina, and a convention center. Amikoo will complete its first phase in November 2018, which will include the anthropology and archaeology museum, the downtown area and a hotel. In total there will be four hotels: the first one with 1,600 rooms geared for families and adults; the second hotel will be on the beach and a location for concerts; the third hotel will be an adults-only property; and plans for the fourth property are still in the works.

But these leaders are aiming for even more: Gosselin mentioned that they’re discussing the addition of a fast train connecting Quintana Roo to Tulum. And Estrada Barba added, “The Cancun International Airport will be the biggest airport in the world. We keep improving our destination in order to get more tourists.

“In recent weeks, we have faced a relevant challenge of our image outside of this country. The recent travel alert for Mexico by the U.S. State Department highlighted the concern for safety in our state. Let me be clear, my administration is committed to keeping our cities safe and calm not just for visitors, but for the whole population, and for that we are doing a great effort to strengthen the effort of our police station, and we are implementing the installation of more than 3,000 video cameras across the state. This will help prevent crime and strengthen our security for us and those who visit us.”

De la Madrid Cordero added, “We must keep diversifying our tourism…. It’s been very successful the image of sun and sand, but we are generating new products, new theme parks, and recently announced the Amikoo $800 million project, and more than 10,000 rooms in construction this year. And add cultural tourism to that. It’s the best of our country. We have to generate tourism projects where the visitors can deal more with our people. Tourism should be based on the experience with us—the quality and the warm treatment…and that’s where we have to make better proposals.”

Mazatlan reported an increase in tourism, noting that international tourism is up 8 percent for 2017, highlighting that the summer season brought more than a half-million tourists to the area. That’s a 13 percent increase from the same period in 2016. In addition, a recent American Express Travel study rated Mazatlan as one of the hottest destinations for international travel this past fall, coming in at number four in the world; as well as the fourth hottest trending destination for fall/winter travel, ahead of Paris and London.

“In the past few years, Mazatlan has evolved as a destination,” says Marco Antonio Garcia Castro, secretary of tourism for the state of Sinaloa. “Recognizing the wealth of our culture and history, we have acted quickly to preserve this treasure for future generations. The transformation that visitors are presently experiencing in Mazatlan from the renewal of our Centro Historico, the refreshing of monuments and parks throughout the city, the addition of a bike path and facelift of our 13-mile long beachside promenade—Malecon—to renewing our landmark tallest working lighthouse in the world, Mazatlan is proudly presenting a new face to the world.”

New hotels opening up in Mazatlan include a Courtyard by Marriott, Park Inn by Radisson Mazatlan and Ibis, near the convention center.

“A great part of our success can be attributed to the marketing partners that have believed in us through the years, including travel agents,” says Garcia Castro.

Puerto Vallarta & Riviera Nayarit
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of Puerto Vallarta’s establishment as a municipality. Throughout the year, Puerto Vallarta will offer visitors the opportunity to take part in many celebrations around the anniversary.

“Puerto Vallarta is dedicated to preserving its perfect balance of natural beauty, protected historic center and modern infrastructure, while sustainably growing our tourism offers and services, all cohabiting within a small area. That means that we are quite careful when it comes to new hotel and resort developments and expansions,” says Javier Aranda Pedrero, director of the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board. “We focus primarily on attracting investments to renovate existing properties into high-end boutique hotels and small resorts, as well as construction of small/medium-size hotels catering to a specific type of traveler. When it comes to large resort expansions, again the focus is on the overhaul of existing buildings which may have been former hotels or apartment buildings or identifying underdeveloped areas for new investments.”

Case in point: the 54-room Hotel Amapa, located one block from Playa Los Muertos, is an existing hotel that is undergoing renovations and being converted into a minimalist-style hotel.

Puerto Vallarta’s cruise port is currently undergoing a modernization that includes the addition of a shopping center, restaurants, a tequila factory, art gallery and a new passenger terminal, as well as a new $10.2 million aquarium.

Its marina is also undergoing renovations, and once completed in March 2018 it will be able to receive large yachts, just in time for the Mexican Regatta March 10-17, 2018.

The much-anticipated Cirque Du Soleil Theme Park is set to open in 2018, located just minutes north of the Puerto Vallarta International Airport. The park will include circus attractions, rides, a water park, and a large theater for evening shows.

Neighboring Riviera Nayarit is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and with that there are a few new developments in the works. For starters, Costa Canuva CIP is the area’s largest development with over 550 acres and more than four miles of beach. This development will encompass five new luxury hotels, adding 7,000 guestrooms. Those will include the first Fairmont property in the region, and the first PGA golf course. The One&Only Mandarina hotel is now under construction and expected to open in 2018 with 125 guestrooms. The new property will be located in Monteon at Compostela, a new complex featuring two polo fields, an equestrian center, two obstacle courses, and villas, as well as other new properties, including a Rosewood. In addition, the former Hotel Bel Air in Flamingos was converted into the Krystal Grand Nuevo Vallarta property, which opens at the end of December 2017, adding 480 guestrooms, and a new convention center, plus 12 restaurants and bars. There are also plans for a second Iberostar property in Litibu with 300 guestrooms; and Grupo Brisas is currently looking for the perfect spot to develop a Hotel Nizuc luxury property.

Rendering of accommodations at Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos.
Rendering of accommodations at Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos.

Los Cabos
“Los Cabos stands alone as the crown jewel of destinations in Mexico,” says Rodrigo Esponda, managing director for Los Cabos Tourism Board. “Additionally, at the core of the success that sets Los Cabos apart is its lively and authentic spirit of the community.”

To meet this demand in visitors (a 6 percent increase from last year), Los Cabos is currently undergoing an infrastructure boom including a new airport terminal opening in 2018 and a slew of properties such as Nobu, Hard Rock All-Inclusive, Montage, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Park Hyatt, Four Seasons, and RIU. In addition, there’s a new Krystal Grand Los Cabos, and Palace Resorts announced last month at the company’s Global Conference that a new Le Blanc Spa Resort is set to open early next year, making it only the second Le Blanc property in the world. “Given this is the brand’s first property in Los Cabos drops a pin large enough on the map as Le Blanc Spa Resort comes in at the top of the luxury market. Le Blanc Spa Resort is already a five-diamond award-winning property in Cancun and as Los Cabos is well-known for all things luxury, this was the perfect match for the brand,” says Frank Corzo, v.p. of U.S. field sales, Palace Resorts.