All Around Mexico

As this year’s unusual Tianguis fades into memory, the tourism news around the country is just heating up

By: By Mark Chesnut

All Around Mexico // (c) 2009 Mexico Tourism Board

Tianguis Trade Show floor. //
© 2009 Mexico Tourism Board

It was, to be sure, not the ideal time to stage an international tourism conference. Just as the 34th annual Tianguis Turistico kicked off in Acapulco, the swine flu scare was spreading around the nation. And just as delegates began to digest the challenges of the health crisis, an earthquake measuring 5.6 in magnitude shook the convention center.

Luckily, the quake did no major harm. The H1N1 virus, unfortunately, would continue to cause problems. But neither issue deterred suppliers, buyers, travel agents and tourism officials from attending to the business at hand: networking and getting the word out about what’s new in Mexico, and how to sell the destination better. In the short term, delegates acknowledged, the challenges are great. But in the long term, the potential for growth is just as great — and there is plenty of good news to tout.

Acapulco Update
Since Tianguis always takes place in Acapulco, this Pacific coast resort destination logically has one of the most visible presences at the conference. The city’s tourism officials were talking up the recent opening of an archeological zone called Tehuacalco. Located less than an hour from the city, the site includes the remains of a ball court, residential space and temple dating to the year 750 B.C.

In addition, Acapulco officials were crowing about three awards the city received at the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention in Miami this past March. The destination won in three categories: Best Turnaround Port Operations, Best Turnaround Destination and Best Destination Experience. The Port of Acapulco unveiled a refurbished terminal in April.

Other news in Acapulco comes from the Fairmont Acapulco Princess, which in February debuted the renovated Pearl guest tower and in May unveiled remodeled meeting space as well as a 22,000-square-foot new exhibit and event center. Construction on the new convention center at the nearby Mundo Imperial complex (at one point slated to host this year’s Tianguis) continues to be on hold, thanks to current economic conditions. But Mundo Imperial’s Forum concert facility opened in November and is already hosting major concerts.

Around Mexico
Among the other delegates chatting about development during Tianguis were members of the Mazatlan Hotel Association, which by the end of this year expects to have more than 10,000 hotel rooms, a significant jump thanks in large part to the May opening of the 716-room, all-inclusive Riu Emerald Bay. Additional growth is slated for the Marina Mazatlan project, which expects to debut an 80,000-square-foot convention center this month and eventually plans to add more hotels, golf courses and recreational facilities.

Mazatlan’s new convention center isn’t the only such facility to debut this year. The Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center has already opened its doors, set on 42 acres with more than 105,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space.

The Riviera Maya, meanwhile, continues to welcome more hotel rooms to its inventory — including the 497-room Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort Riviera Maya, 360-room Azul Fives Hotel by Karisma and 133-room Banyan Tree Mayakoba. Marriott International, which is in the midst of a surge of growth in Mexico, is planning to open the 450-room JW Marriott Milla de Oro Resort & Spa and the 150-room Renaissance Milla de Oro Resort, both in 2011.

Rooms at the Inn
Marriott’s growth in the Riviera Maya is but one example of major expansion plans touted by several hotel companies at Tianguis. AMResorts, fresh from opening five new Dreams Resorts & Spas properties in various Mexican destinations in December 2008, plans to develop Zoetry Casa del Mar Los Cabos, the second property to open under its new upscale brand. Slated to open in September in an existing property that has been upgraded and expanded by 12 units, the new Zoetry will feature 44 hacienda-style suites and a spa.

The stylish boutique hotelier Grupo Habita, while not present as an exhibitor during Tianguis, still was a topic of discussion among some attendees. The company last month opened its third hotel in Mexico City, dubbed the Distrito Capital. The 30-room property is in the Santa Fe district and features minimalist decor, a swimming pool, film projection room, library, business center, solarium and gym. Still in the works for the company is Boca Chica, a restyled 1950’s resort hotel being renovated in Acapulco; it’s scheduled to open by August.

Airline Update
Volaris, one of Mexico’s largest low-fare airlines, began its first international flights on July 2 linking Oakland, Calif., and Los Angeles with Guadalajara and Toluca, the company’s growing hub outside of Mexico City.

“By 2013, we plan to fly to approximately 12 international destinations,” said Enrique Beltrana, Volaris’s CEO.

In addition, the carrier has launched the first phase of a commercial alliance with Southwest Airlines that allows consumers to book Volaris tickets via the Southwest Web site.

Aeromexico, meanwhile, announced 38 new routes, representing a 5 percent increase over its current number of flights. The airline has also introduced a new Web site,, as well as new discounted Amigos Fares, for U.S.- and Canada-based travel agents. Aeromexico plans to be the first Latin American carrier to fly the Boeing 787, with deliveries scheduled to begin in 2010.

Grupo Mexicana has fleet expansion in the works as well, with a new leasing deal to bring 25 Boeing 717-200 aircraft to its low-cost Mexicana Click division. The new aircraft are to replace Fokker F-100s. In March, Grupo Mexicana announced the name of a new division, MexicanaLink, which has established a hub at Guadalajara to coincide with the reopening of the company’s maintenance base there. The new airline division began operations with a fleet of two 50-seat Bombardier CRJ-200s flying to Puerto Vallarta and Monterrey. The ultimate goal is to add nine more aircraft as well as additional domestic routes. The same month, the company also launched a new loyalty program, MexicanaGO.


Acapulco Convention & Visitors Bureau

Fideicomiso de Turismo de Puerto Vallarta (Puerto Vallarta Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Mazatlan Hotel Association

Riviera Maya Destination Marketing Office

Mexico Tourism Board