Los Cabos is in an enviable position compared to many other tourism regions in Mexico. Since it offers a compact vacation destination, changes to its tourism product have an excellent prospect of capturing the attention of visitors. In 2009, the leisure locale added impressive resort properties, a championship golf course and began improvements to the Marina at Puerto Los Cabos. But even with these bright new developments, there are challenges ahead.
“In 2009, we saw a drop in occupancy, but we expect to see these figures rise in 2010 and return to 2008 levels,” said Renato Mendonca, vice president of marketing, Los Cabos Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Going forward, trends show an increase in leisure bookings as opposed to group bookings, which were Los Cabos’ bread and butter in 2007-2008.”
Mendonca tempered this finding with the observation that, although group bookings in the first quarter of 2010 are not as high as the first quarter of 2009, group bookings for subsequent quarters in 2010 look very good.
Los Cabos is also jockeying to regain the flights it lost during the current economic downturn.
“I’ve been talking with several Mexico country managers at various U.S. airlines, and what I’m getting from them is that they are following demand,” said Mendonca. “There was a decrease in flights in 2009, but they’re coming back.”
Mendonca added that it would be wishful thinking to expect flights to come back to 2008 levels in 2010.
In addition to regaining airlift, Los Cabos is continuing to see improvements to its second marina, the Marina at Puerto Los Cabos in San Jose del Cabo, which is part of the Puerto Los Cabos mega-development that includes luxury real estate, restaurants, a spa, shops and two golf courses. The marina can accommodate up to 500 ships, including luxury mega-yachts and offers slipside amenities such as wireless Internet, potable water, cable television access, a crew lounge, a business center, a swimming pool, a fitness center, restrooms, showers and 24-hour security personnel.
Last July, ground was broken on a new boatyard at the Marine Center at the Marina at Puerto Los Cabos. Puerto Los Cabos joined forces with The Marine Group of San
Diego to create a first-class boatyard with the capability to service the growing mega-yacht market. The new Marine Center facility will give Puerto Los Cabos the only dry-stack boat storage facility in Mexico, with the space to store 100 boats. The boatyard is poised to open this month.
“The marina is very upscale and links several marinas in the Sea of Cortez,” said Mendonca. “There are no hotels as of yet and, as far as I know, no contracts have been signed, but there are negotiations under way to build a hotel.”
Rooms on the Rise
The second half of 2009 saw the opening of three major resort properties in Los Cabos — Barcelo Los Cabos Palace Deluxe, Capella Pedregal and Zoetry Casa del Mar.
“The opening of these three hotels represents about 5 percent of the total Los Cabos hotel inventory,” said Mendonca. “These resorts have added quality and penetration into the international market.”
Barcelo Los Cabos Palace Deluxe completed a renovation in 2009 // (C) 2010 Barcelo Los Cabos Palace Deluxe
Barcelo Hotels & Resorts invested $75 million into its renovation and expansion of the Grand Baja All Suite Resort & Spa, rechristening it as Barcelo Los Cabos Palace Deluxe last December.
The new all-inclusive, all-suite beachfront resort is a 10-minute drive from the city of San Jose del Cabo. It has 608 deluxe suites, 40 deluxe two-bedroom suites and one presidential suite. Thirty-four of these are swim-up suites and, according to Barcelo, these are the first and, so far, the only swim-up suites to be found in Los Cabos.
Carolyn Kempf, president of Cape Girardeau, Mo.-based Elite Travel Inc. & Cruise, was an early visitor to Barcelo Los Cabos Palace Deluxe. Kempf was impressed by its open-air lobby, the nautical-themed bar off the lobby, the lush grounds and the quality service. She also found the rooms to be large and very high-tech.
Kempf said she would feel confident booking honeymooners and couples celebrating anniversaries at the Barcelo Los Cabos Palace Deluxe, as well as older clients, having noted that the resort was quiet.
Guests at the resort will find four pools, a children-only waterpark, eight dining venues and an 18,000-square-foot spa with 16 private treatment cabins and a hydrotherapy room.
The resort’s convention center has a main hall offering 10,225 square feet of meeting space.
“Meetings and incentives will be a big part of our business,” said Jaime Buxo, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Barcelo Hotels & Resorts. “One of the ways we’ll be marketing the resort to groups is to position it as actually being cheaper than a similar meeting held in Los Angeles, even with the cost of flights factored in.”
The infinity-edge pool at Capella Pedregal // (C) 2010 Capella Pedregal
Last July saw the opening of the ultra-luxe Capella Pedregal, a combination resort and residences located along the Cabo San Lucas Marina, with views of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. Here, guests will find the 66-room Capella Resort and Spa, 31 shared-ownership Capella Residences and 20 private, full-ownership Capella Casonas. The hotel features Deluxe Rooms, Capella Rooms, Beach Casitas and several suite categories. Every guestroom comes with its own private terrace and a plunge pool. The resort has an Auriga spa, the new spa brand from spa designer Sylvia Sepielli. Her impressive string of credits includes spas at Mauna Lani Resort, The Chopra Center for Well Being and La Costa Resort, as well as spas at an assortment of The Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons properties.
TravelAge West Editor-in-Chief Kenneth Shapiro visited the property soon after its opening and stayed in an Oceanview Deluxe guestroom, which reminded him of a Mexican hacienda for its use of decorative wood, tile and textiles. Amenities include a fireplace; a semi-open rainforest shower area; and an old-fashioned, clawfoot-style bathtub. The smaller details were also impressive, such as a pair of binoculars at the ready and an old-fashioned briefcase holding the hotel guest information.
Last December, AMResorts opened the Zoetry Casa del Mar in Los Cabos. Clients will find it easy to fall in love with this new all-inclusive brand. It emphasizes wellness and going green, but guests will also find a fresh bottle of champagne in their room every day.
“While all-inclusive brands are fairly well represented in Los Cabos, Zoetry Casa del Mar brings something special to the mix,” said Mendonca. “It’s a boutique, all-inclusive property that is very upscale. Zoetry brings the destination’s all-inclusive offering to a new level.”
Zoetry Casa del Mar offers an intimate, hacienda-style experience // (C) 2010 Zoëtry Casa del Mar
Zoetry Casa del Mar’s 42 suites have private terraces featuring teak furniture, private balconies, marble bathrooms with a Jacuzzi tub and a separate rain shower. Upscale touches include Bulgari bath amenities, a pillow menu, nightly turndown service with petit fours and maid service three times daily. Guests receive complimentary unlimited worldwide calls, 24-hour laundry service and a 20-minute massage per guest. They also receive access to all restaurants, facilities and services at AMResort’s adjacent Dreams Los Cabos Suites Golf Resort & Spa. If they prefer, guests can also opt for 24-hour, in-suite private dining.
“As a property, Zoetry Casa del Mar offers a very intimate, hacienda-style, oceanfront, boutique vacation experience,” said Kevin Wojciechowski, vice president sales and marketing, AMResorts. “This is a very unique offering for the area, which has a higher concentration of expansive resorts.”
The resort’s Suenos del Mar Spa has eight indoor cabins as well as oceanfront palapas on the sand. There are also three swimming pools and multiple tennis courts as well as access to the championship, 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Jr., Cabo Real Golf Course. In addition, Zoetry Casa del Mar is one of only three resorts in Los Cabos with official permission to care for the local turtles and to handle conservation efforts.
On the Horizon
For decades, Los Cabos has gotten high marks as a golf destination. Not content to rest on its laurels, the destination currently has eight courses in the pipeline.
In September 2008, Puerto Los Cabos opened a dual-designer 18-hole course. The course presently has nine holes designed by Jack Nicklaus and nine holes from Greg Norman. In the next two years, both of these courses will grow to 18 holes. The Greg Norman course will transition into a private course. Puerto Los Cabos is presently marketing the course as a unique opportunity to experience two top-notch golf course designers during one round of golf.
An even more recent opening is the Davis Love III-designed Dunes Golf Course, located at the Diamante Cabo San Lucas development. The course is set among Pacific coastal dunes and hilly desert terrain with ocean views from all 18 holes. In designing the course, Love utilized natural sand dunes to create a course with generous fairways and large, rolling greens. Open for a scant five months, the Dunes Golf Course is already inspiring comparison to Pebble Beach. In addition to its 18 holes, the course also has two driving ranges as well as a feature Diamante is referring to as hitting caves. The hitting caves are large stone formations that provide a private area for a group of players. Here, players can warm up before a round of golf while enjoying snacks and beverages served by the chef at the course’s Slider Bar.
Welk Resort’s Sirena del Mar in Los Cabos is poised to open later this year. The seven-acre resort is situated on the cliffs above Cabo San Lucas, offering a great view of the destination’s signature landmark, El Arco. Each villa has an oceanfront view and the resort will be conveniently located near downtown Cabo San Lucas.
“Sirena del Mar is a mix of timeshare and leisure and presently has 36 rooms open as phase one of their opening,” said Mendonca.
Farther down the line, Solmar Hotels & Resorts will open Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa. Phase one will open in early 2011.
With 2009 fading into the past, Los Cabos continues to look toward future growth. As the region regains its footing, it is broadening its horizons from a local getaway to an international vacation destination.