Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit have recovered from the recession, and tourism numbers are back to where they were in 2008. // © 2016 Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board
Feature image (above): The region attributes an influx of visitors to new and refurbished hotels, increased airlift and the addition of 136 cruise ship arrivals last year. // © 2016 Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board
Things are looking up for Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit. In 2015, Puerto Vallarta hosted 3.6 million tourists, along with 136 cruise ship arrivals. The Mexico-Pacific coastal destinations are taking advantage of the increased interest and rolling out new hotels and property updates as well as tour offerings.
“I can say we’re officially recuperated from the 2009 to 2012 period [of economic downturn],” said Marc Murphy, managing director of Riviera Nayarit’s tourism board. “We’re on par with our numbers from 2008.”
Earlier this year, the region held the 22nd Gala Vallarta event in honor of Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit’s tourism industry. The annual event, which took place Jan. 27-29, drew more than 200 local providers who met with 130 international buyers representing 60 companies interested in doing business with the destinations. Officials spoke about several new hotels and attractions in the area, in addition to new offerings from local tour operators.
Murphy highlighted the scheduled openings of W Punta de Mita and One&Only Mandarina in Riviera Nayarit. With the opening of W Punta de Mita, slated to debut this summer, Mexico will become the only country in Latin America to have two W properties. The hotel will have 120 guest villas, a 4,000-square-foot spa and the W brand’s signature Whatever/Whenever service. One&Only Mandarina, which does not yet have a launch date, will feature 145 villas, in addition to separate private residential estates, as well as a beach club and bluffside cabanas.
Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit also have had a spate of hotel openings in the past few months, including Casa Kimberly, Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta, Sunscape Puerto Vallarta, Garlands del Rio and Estudio 6 Puerto Vallarta.
Meanwhile, other properties have gotten makeovers. Last summer, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit completed a $20 million renovation; improvements include modernizing amenities, furniture and decor and establishing two suites to accommodate guests with disabilities.
Additionally, there are increased flights and gateways to the destinations. Southwest Airlines now flies direct to Puerto Vallarta out of Denver, Houston and Orange County, Calif. Volaris is also looking to establish direct flights from Puerto Vallarta to Oakland, Calif., and there are rumors that JetBlue will establish a direct route from New York to Puerto Vallarta, although this has yet to be confirmed.
In addition, Cirque du Soleil and Grupo Vidanta are partnering up to create a 300-acre theme park in Nuevo Vallarta that will include a waterpark, a nature park and an outdoor evening show. The park is expected to be finished in 2018.
At the gala, Agustin Alvarez, general director of the Puerto Vallarta Tourism board, noted new attractions that have recently opened, including the Food Truck Park in Puerto Vallarta, which offers visitors the choice of eating at several artisanal food trucks in the heart of the hotel zone. The new La Isla Puerto Vallarta shopping center is also a point of interest, as is Puerto Vallarta’s port, which is undergoing a $20 million restoration that will include the opening of a new welcome center, an aquarium and a tequila tasting center over the next five years.
Alvarez also highlighted improvements being made to the freeway between Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta, which will soon reduce travel time by more than an hour. (It currently takes about three hours to drive between the two regions.)
Gareth Price, commercial director of Vallarta Adventures, discussed the new offerings that the tour operator has put into motion for 2016. Its new Talpa & Mascota tour allows travelers the chance to explore the more rural towns of the Sierra Madre Mountains. The company is also working on a teen-oriented adventure tour that will send kids down a giant slide straight into the ocean after a round of ziplining.
Overall, it’s clear the partnership between Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit is doing wonders for the region.
“We don’t always have to have the support of the federal government,” Murphy said. “We can create that same model locally. We’ve realized at this point that we work very well together.”