Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
This story originally ran in the April 5, 2018 issue of Travelweek magazine. To get Travelweek delivered to your agency for free, subscribe here.
PUERTO VALLARTA — Escaping the Canadian winter for a first-hand look at all of Puerto Vallarta’s newest hotels, our group drove straight from the airport to a taco tour – a good start to any trip in my book.
Not surprisingly, given the wild Canadian winter weather this year, a massive snow dump in Toronto the day before delayed our flight and left the taco culinary adventure in jeopardy. The rush of trying to get to the tour on time just made the first sip of Corona in perfect weather even more satisfying.
Coming off a record year, Puerto Vallarta has seen a major influx in tourism developments, giving agents more to sell. Compared to many other Mexico destinations, all of which have their charms, Puerto Vallarta feels foreign, unsheltered and uniquely Mexican.
“It’s very important to keep that ambience of the Mexican taste and flavour,” said Javier Arranda Perdrero, Executive Director, Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board, a few days later during an interview with trade media at the destination’s annual Gala conference.
“‘I’ve been to Mexico’ is what they say when they come to Puerto Vallarta, and that’s important for Canadians,” says Perdrero when comparing the destination to other Mexican tourist destinations where clients spend the majority of the time in an all-inclusive.
“Puerto Vallarta is the most Mexican beach destination in Mexico,” reaffirmed Enrique Ramos Flores, Minister of Tourism for the state of Jalisco.
“We are very concerned that we need to keep this touch and the flavour of this Mexican town to be successful.
“That’s why the government, year after year, we have some budget for the illumination of the downtown area,” said Flores. The most recent example is the Mex$120 million commitment from the Jalisco state to renewing downtown infrastructure on top of the municipal budget.
With authenticity also comes the question of security, especially for Mexico, a destination that has seen a spike in crime in some areas recently.
“We have been very concerned and have worked with all levels of security to make sure that Puerto Vallarta continues to be as safe as it has been in the last few years,” assured Flores.
Visitor statistics have also been favourable with 2017 marking a record year for both hotel occupancy and international arrivals. “[Canadians are] very important for us,” says Flores. “In terms of arrivals and passengers, almost 45% are foreigners and Canadians make up 20% of those arrivals.” In terms of feeder cities the top spot goes to Calgary (153,342), with Vancouver (118,365) and Toronto (105,001) rounding out the top three.
“Weather” was the blunt answer Perdrero gave when asked what attracted Canadians to the destination, pointing to the phenomenon of Canadian snowbirds who stay in Puerto Vallarta for several months every year.
And how about the taco tour? That night our group walked through the city, tasting tacos from street vendors who had been manning their stands for decades, took a bus ride that could compare with any roller coaster, enjoyed the company of cats that inhabit Isle Cuale (aka Cat Island) and navigated busy streets occupied by tourists and locals alike.
Later our group stepped out on to the street and we collectively looked at the sky that had turned orange and pink from the sunset reflected off the cobblestone street. As far as first impressions go, Puerto Vallarta was making an impressive statement.
Here’s what’s new for the destination:
A new port is currently under construction and will be a statement piece for the destination that will have a unique Mexican flavor with a hacienda décor. The port will also be open to the public with attractions such as a tequila distillery. They are also including state-of-the-art technology that will allow guests to use their cruise passes to make purchases at the port.