If ever an annual meeting was aptly named, it’s Mazatlan’s Gran
Fiesta Amigos. In essence a sales and marketing powwow, the
four-day extravaganza nonetheless translates both in spirit and
reality into a Big Festival of Friends.
Hosted by the destination of Mazatlan, the Mazatlan Hotel
Association and the State of Sinaloa, Fiesta Amigos was first held
in 1994 to honor the city’s key travel partners wholesalers, tour
operators, airlines and incentive companies in the U.S., Canada and
Mexico. The Fiesta quickly evolved into a can’t-miss event. And if
last year’s 11th annual Fiesta is any indication, its popularity
has yet to peak.
“It’s the best way for tourism operators to get to know each
other, to find out more about Mazatlan, and to catch up on
important business relationships,” said Sandra Castellanos, manager
of System Tour Operator in Mexico’s Aguascalientes.
As you would expect a good deal of business gets carried out over
cocktails, across dinner plates or while simply walking on the
beach. But Fiesta organizers also schedule a helpful day of
face-to-face meetings between individual wholesalers and local
hotel representatives. The Inn at Mazatlan hosted last year’s
meetings, reserving 15 suites for each participating hotel.
The annual Golden Deer Awards, given to the top tour operators and
airlines promoting Mazatlan in the past year, were presented during
an under-the-stars banquet hosted by Hotel Pueblo Bonito at Emerald
Bay. Last year’s recipients and categories: Pleasant Holidays (USA
Tour Operator), Imacop Tour Corporation (Mexican Tour Operator),
MLT Worryfree Vacations (USA Air Charter Company), Signature
Vacations (Canadian Air Charter Company), Magnicharters (Mexican
Air Charter Company), Travelocity (Internet Tour Operator) and
Northwest Airlines (Best USA Airline).
“We’re excited,” enthused David Lavigne of MLT Vacations, which
has won the award twice before. “We have a long-term commitment to
Mazatlan 17 years, in fact. It’s an exciting destination to
represent, the people and culture are fascinating and the hotels
are a joy to work with.”
The hotels returned the sentiment.
“Fiesta Amigos gives Mazatlan the opportunity to show our
gratitude to the industry,” said Carlos Berdegue, the Hotel
Association’s vice president. “We are extremely thankful to our
good friends who promote this splendid destination.”
What’s Happening in Mazatlan?
Last year’s Fiesta was kicked off with a tribute to the city’s
historic district. Dating back to the early 1800s, Old Mazatlan
fell into decline in the latter half of the last century. Today,
after more than a decade of painstaking restoration, the district
is fast becoming a destination of its own and is currently under
consideration as a World Heritage Site. Among its prime
attractions: lively Plaza Machado, with its exquisite ancient
buildings (a few now showcasing excellent al fresco restaurants),
the Immaculate Conception Cathedral and the meticulously restored
19th-century Angela Peralta Theatre.
Nothing illustrates Old Mazatlan’s emergence as a tourism player
better than the fact that last year’s welcome dinner was held in
the palm-laden courtyard of a new boutique hotel located two blocks
from Plaza Machado The Melville Suites. Ensconced in a beautifully
restored neoclassical building, the hotel’s 20 suites are
individually decorated with antiques, modern art and rich
The historic district’s rebirth has ramifications. For the last
quarter-century most tourists have tended to stay in the area known
as Zona Dorada (the Golden Zone), with its wide range of beachfront
hotels and tourist activities. But now Old Town is gaining an
increasing share of the tourist dollar.
And the changes don’t stop there. A few miles north of the Zona
Dorada, Nuevo Mazatlan is emerging, and its new resorts and condos
are attracting many clients who opt for low-key luxury.
Are hoteliers in the Zona Dorada worried? Not much.
“The Golden area will still be important for people who prefer a
lively town experience,” said Beatriz Lopez, administration manager
of the Hotel Association.
Last year, one of the Fiesta’s most popular activities was the
barbecue given at Los Osuna agave plantation. After a tour of the
tequila production facility, guests were treated to an endless
array of Mexican culinary specialties, regional singing and dancing
and for those who dared shots of tequila.
Other festival activities included a golf tournament at Estrella
del Mar and a white-on-white, on-the-water dinner at Hotel El Cid
El Morro Beach. Guests were asked to wear white clothing, and the
result was visually stunning indeed.
The Gran Fiesta Amigos will be held this year from Nov. 8-11. It
should be another great party among friends.