TORONTO — The dismantling of its national tourism board and closure of its worldwide MTB offices in 2019 have made it a challenge for Mexico to get messaging out about travel and tourism amid the pandemic in 2020.
To fill the gap many regional tourism boards have stepped up to keep the travel trade in the loop as tourism gradually reopens.
The tourism board for Quintana Roo, home to Cancun and the Mayan Riviera, has been one of the most visible with information campaigns and webinars.
Another tourism board in a top destination for Canadians, Puerto Vallarta, is also working hard to get the word out that it’s open for business with health and safety protocols in place.
Here’s a Q&A put out by the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board, with Luis Villasenor, interim general director.
Q: What is the occupancy at Puerto Vallarta’s hotels and resorts these days?
“Puerto Vallarta has had an orderly and careful reopening since June 15 when the Government of Jalisco announced the gradual reactivation of activities in the destination.
“The hotel industry can operate at 25% of its capacity, restaurants and tours at 50%, and bars and discos can operate with reduced capacity until 2 a.m.
“Hotel occupancy in June was 12.5% (i.e. 50% of the 25% capacity cap) and July was 14.4% (i.e. 56% of the 25% capacity cap), with peaks up to 24% (i.e. 90% of the 25% capacity cap) on the weekends.
“Mostly of our visitors are coming from regional markets by land but also thanks to the current connectivity to major cities in México and some hubs in the USA, numbers are being positive for airlines.
“The state of Jalisco, and Puerto Vallarta along with it, was recently recognized with the ‘Safe Travels’ stamp from the WTTC.
“As of June 15, beaches located in front of Puerto Vallarta’s hotels have opened to visitors, and hotels are now authorized to operate with controlled capacity. Hotel swimming pools, beach clubs and restaurants are permitted to open, but hotel gyms and spas will remain closed.”
Q: What about flights and inbound visitor stats?
“Puerto Vallarta International airport kept reduced connectivity from the U.S. from the beginning of the pandemic. Since the reopening on June 15 there has been an increase of 46% in operations from June to July which represented 600 flights coming in and out to Puerto Vallarta in the last month.
“International flights come from key sources of tourism arrivals, such as: San Diego, Los Ángeles, San José, San Francisco, Phoenix, Dallas and Houston. Domestic are coming from Ciudad de México, Monterrey, Guadalajara, León, Aguascalientes and Tijuana.
“In terms of passengers, in June Puerto Vallarta received 15,000 visitors from the U.S. and in July [there was] an increase of 136%, to reach 35,400 people. National arrivals represented in June 20,900 people, and in July up to 63,700 passengers, an increase of 205%.
“In total in June represented 35,800 passengers and in July 99,300 visitors. This is a 177 % increase month over month.
“From January to July 2020, there has been a 49.6% decrease in terms of passengers compared to the same period in 2019 (1,612,300 visitors vs 3,201,400 people respectively).”
Q: What’s open in terms of resorts, beaches and attractions?
“Currently we have 62 hotels operating in their 25% of room capacity.
“Tourists are enjoying the wide range of services under the new strict protocols; the nature or outdoors options are taking a lot of force as well as the unique experiences that add value to their trip after so many days of being at home.
“The smallest beach in Mexico, Colomitos, the longest suspension bridge in the world for RZRs and the hidden beach in Marietas Islands, are attractions with high visitor interest. Our gastronomic offer is another attraction with high demand.”
“We are also seeing a lot of interest in private tours like Viva Tequila Festival’s Mexico Experience which provides VIP tours of the Tequila area in the state of Jalisco.”
Q: Where can travel agents and their clients get the latest practical information about Mexico and COVID-19?
“Covid infection rates in Puerto Vallarta are low, thanks to the measures implemented by the Government of Jalisco who monitor the situation of the pandemic every Sunday to take specific measures that allow managing the current control that has meant being leaders at the national level in the management of the pandemic. On our site you can find the most up-to-date information https://visitpuertovallarta.com/covid19.”
Q: Is there reason for optimism?
“Obviously the numbers are not as desired if we think about the past, but seeing the present and the situation in other destinations in the world, the fact that Puerto Vallarta, one of the most important tourist destinations in Mexico and in the world, is open and operating for more than two and a half months, in addition to taking firm steps in the opening of other activities related to tourism in our city is a message of optimism, especially in a place where the population depends directly or indirectly on the sources of income of the tourism.”
Q: What is the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board doing to drive tourism right now, while keeping safety top of mind?
“We are working under two channels, one local with an awareness campaign to reinforce the use of biosafety measures with the population and visitors, the other a digital promotion campaign to reach the consumer and awaken their desire to travel. Additionally, we are working very closely with national and international wholesalers with whom the destination has advertising campaigns. Other actions include virtual training for our partners and public relations activities.”
Q: Are most of the current visitors American?
“The majority of international visitors come from the U.S. because it is the main international market of the destination and with which we currently have direct flights.
“Canada and the United Kingdom which are the next [largest] international markets still have travel restrictions on their citizens.
“In general terms and for the season, the national market is the one that currently contributes the most visitors, mainly from regional markets such as Guadalajara, Aguascalientes, León, San Luis Potosí and Querétaro, cities that have a significant propensity to travel to the destination due to proximity in addition to the fact that they are important industrial cities.
“Puerto Vallarta has an important competitive advantage in relation to other destinations such as Cancun or Los Cabos, it is not necessary to fly to get here [from major centres like Mexico City], our geographical position is strategic with a market reach of up to 8 hours by road to an audience of almost 20 million population.”