Tianguis, Pan-American Games and Miss Mexico Pageant

August 2, 2011

Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit are getting a shot in the arm of positive news and events that they certainly need.

Tianguis 2012 will be held at the Vallarta Convention center, an event that has always been held previously in Acapulco. Tianguis is the annual (and largest) travel fair and market for Mexican tourism. It brings in people from all over the place – nationally and internationally.

This came about because of strong cooperation between Riviera Nayarit and Puerto Vallarta to market the destination together as one. This is a great coup for the region, being the first place to hold the Tianguis since they decided to start moving it around the country. And great to see the two tourism offices coming together to make this happen. Hopefully its a sign of more compromise and working together on other projects down the line.

The Pan-American Games will also be taking place in the region, at least the water events such as sailing. This takes place this fall, primarily in Nuevo Vallarta. Good coverage should come out of this.

And the Miss Mexico pageant will be held in the region this September – that certainly should bring good coverage!

Very positive news regarding tourism for the region.


Mexico’s positive Tourism Dept. changes

July 28, 2011

In a piece featured with CNN a few days ago, a number of positive measures are mentioned with regards to what Mexico is doing to help its ailing tourism industry.

  1. Mexico has begun allowing holders of U.S. visas to enter Mexico, opening up the possibility of tourists to the United States extending their trips south of the border.
  2. Brazilians, Russians and Ukrainian visitors can gain travel permission to Mexico on the Internet, with no need for a visa. (In 2011 to date, Mexico has seen a 40.9% increase in Brazilian tourists, a 58.1% increase from Russia and 32.8% increase from China, according to Mexico’s tourism ministry.)
  3. Finally, for travelers from other countries, visas to Mexico in many cases can be obtained through a travel agent, erasing the need for trips to embassies.

These are important changes that should make it easier for people to travel to Mexico. Point #1 is an excellent move, as it allows for people that are planning to visit the U.S. to now, with no additional paperwork, visit Mexico at the same time. And point #3, that visas can now be obtained through a travel agent and not have to visit an embassy, is also a great idea. But will it be enough?

Mexico has to look at other markets, especially over the next few years while the U.S. economy is on the road to recovery, and allow Americans time to really see the reports on violence in Mexico for what they really are: it’s taking place in very specific places, which in most cases are far from the popular tourist regions, and its being sensationalized. At some point Americans will begin to understand that millions of Americans visit Mexico every year without ever experiencing problems and actually have a very good time.

But until then, Mexico has to look elsewhere, just like U.S. investors are looking elsewhere, at emerging markets. The U.S. and Europe are going to be tied down with debt problems, both sovereign and public, along with high unemployment, for some time to come. Public debt and unemployment are going to make it hard for Americans to travel, while people in emerging markets are not experiencing similar issues. They are not plagued by high debt and unemployment. Investors are looking at foreign emerging markets for better returns, it looks like Mexico is as well for their tourist industry.

For U.S. travelers specifically, the Commerce Department’s most recent data — for 2009 — shows that 31.7% of all U.S. international tourists go to Mexico. From 2002 to 2009, while U.S. tourism to Canada fell by more than 27%, tourism to Mexico from the U.S. increased by 5.1%. This happened even though the overall number of Americans traveling abroad decreased, from a peak of 64 million in 2007 to 61.4 million in 2009.

These are impressive numbers, and coming from the U.S. department of commerce, not Mexico’s: 1 in 3 American international tourists in 2009 went to Mexico.

However, although these new markets may provide tourists, they most likely will not be providing people or families that may be interested in real estate. Mexico’s strongest target markets for real estate sales remains in the U.S. and Canada, where travel to somewhere warm is for most people, only 3-4 hours away. For the local real estate market to make a serious bounce back, it needs Americans buying second homes once again. With real estate values still falling in the U.S., it seems this is still a ways away. Although the local market seems to be holding its own, its a long ways from the boom years from 2003 to 2008.


Carnival continues visits, why not Princess Cruises?

July 16, 2011

A coule of weeks ago Princess Cruises announced the cancellation of visits to Puerto Vallarta for the remainder of the year based on ongoing security concerns in the region. When questioned about the move to continue visiting Puerto Vallarta, the line stated that they only visit ports of call believed to provide a safe environment for passengers and crew. Well, the American Consulate doesn’t seem to have a security issue with Puerto Vallarta, (The U.S. Consulate General has issued no advisories against travel to Puerto Vallarta and is not aware of any incidents that would have a significant impact on our current security assessment.) so why does Princess Cruises? Carnival Cruise Line issued a statement recently saying that although they will not be visiting Mazatlan, they will continue to visit Puerto Vallarta.

Carnival Cruise Line has evaluated continued security concerns in Mazatlan, Mexico and extended their cancellation of visits to the port. Carnival Splendor’s 7-day itinerary from Long Beach, California will now feature two days in Cabo San Lucas and a 12-hour stay in Puerto Vallarta. Carnival Spirit will also continue her nine-day itineraries from San Diego and Los Angeles from September 2011 to March 2012. The amended voyage includes two-days in Cabo San Lucas along with visits to Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo and Ensenada. “We have been calling at Puerto Vallarta on a weekly basis for many years and at this time have no plans to discontinue our visits there,” a representative from Carnival said in a statement to e-Travel Blackboard.

Princess Cruises has stated that the cancellation of visits to PV is only until the end of this year and then they will re-evaluate the situation. Perhaps by then they’ll understand the situation better, like Carnival and the American Consulate seem to.

Virgin America applies for new flights to Vallarta

July 16, 2011

From USA Today a few days ago:

Virgin America wants Puerto Vallarta to become its next destination. It announced today it will ask the U.S. Department of Transportation for regulatory approval to add flights to the Mexican resort destination from its hub in San Francisco. Virgin America also needs approval from Mexican aviation regulators.

If approved, Puerto Vallarta would become Virgin America’s third destination in Mexico. Cancun and Los Cabos are the others. Virgin America says it hopes to begin the route in time for the winter travel season. Virgin America would go head-to-head with Alaska Airlines’ nonstop service on the route.

We’ve seen a strong demand for travel to our Mexican destinations and we’re looking forward to giving our flyers another world-class leisure option,” Virgin America CEO David Cush says in a release. “We’re proud to be growing and offering travelers a very unique flight experience at a time when most airlines are shrinking their schedules and reducing the amenities provided to fliers.”

Media Sensationalism Fatigue

May 13, 2011

Its in May of each year that I get out and visit with a number of the real estate agents to gather information on what trends are gravitating towards for the year. And this year there’s been one trend that has come up over and over again, and its music to my ears. People are getting tired of listening to mainstream media’s relentless sensationalist attacks against Mexico regarding drug-related violence. They’ve got Mainstream Media Sensationalism Fatigue (MSF).

The feedback I’m getting from agents is they are seeing a substantial increase in activity in the first part of this year. People are out looking at real estate, and not just looking but making offers. Some of these offers are coming in low, but at least they are making a move. At the same time sellers are being more realistic with their pricing, realizing that prices are not going to be going up again anytime too soon, and if they want to sell, be competitive with other homes on the market, they need to list their home competitively.

And then there’s a substantial number of prospects who are looking to purchase land to build a home. Now there’s a positive sign. Who is going to buy land with a commitment to build over at least a year if they are buying into what CNN and others are preaching?

In March and April the MLS saw sales activity double over last year. Once again, and this is something I haven’t experience in a couple of years, its difficult to get appointments to talk with agents as they are busy showing properties or attending closings.

Part of this may be because of the distraction to do Osama Bin Laden.

Perhaps America and its leaders are looking at what they thought was a “friendly state” (Pakistan) and realizing that things are really not so bad with their real friends south of the border. Perhaps it may also mean paying more attention and getting a little more involved with tackling the drug trafficking situation, since the problems both countries face have to do with American insatiable desire for drugs and its loose laws regarding gun sales and their circulation.

Let’s be honest with one another here. If the US is willing to spend $10 billion a month in Afghanistan, and payments to Pakistan somewhere around a billion a year (a country who it seems has been harboring their #1 most wanted criminal for the past six years), two countries on the other side of the world, what should they be willing to spend to assist a country they share a  two thousand mile border with?

If Pakistan is a “friend”, what type of measuring parameters are we using here? Perhaps its time for American to re-group, get out of a few of these “…stan” (Afghanistan and Pakistan) countries and pay a little more attention to their borders, their real neighbors, who they share a very strong cultural relationship with – as more than 15% of America is of Hispanic background.

But I digress…

There has been a distinct change in the mindset of Americans interested in a second home in Mexico. It seems they are finally seeing through the veil of illusion that the media has been postulating. They are catching on that after all these months, (years), that there really has been very few incidents of Americans suffering from violence in Mexico. Heck, in some cases its more dangerous visiting the other side of their hometowns than it is in places like Puerto Vallarta.

Will this get set back once the Bin Laden story has died down? Will it flare back up again when another jet-ski operator finds himself some place he really shouldn’t be and the outcome is not so good? We don’t really know.

But that takes us back to the question posted earlier: “If the US is willing to spend $10 billion a month in Afghanistan, and provide payments to Pakistan  of somewhere around a billion a year, what should they be willing to spend to assist a country they share a two thousand mile border and common problems with?”

There’s two trends here, one more obvious than the other. First, Americans aren’t buying into MSM banter on Mexico like they once were. This is backed up also by investor activity – private investment in tourism projects rose 127% to $903 million in the first three months of the year versus the same period in 2010, Mexico’s Tourism Ministry recently said, perhaps signaling that investors as well are suffering from MSF and are ready to invest further in Mexico. Mexico City was the top destination for tourism-related funds, receiving $196 million, followed by Nayarit, with $164 million. Investors told the ministry that they recover their investments quickly in Mexico, and that the country’s macroeconomic conditions and skilled workforce make it an attractive place to do business.

Secondly, but not so obvious or clear at this time (but I’m making a prediction here), is that American will reduce its commitment to the Middle East and start paying more attention to the Homeland and its borders. And do a better job of recognizing who its friends are.

America just got the shot in the arm it needed. For too long its had to deal with a number of international stumbles created by bungled or drawn-out military affairs. Internationally they lost their “Ramboness”. But what they accomplished in getting Bin Laden, how it was flawlessly executed, has shown the world that American knows what its doing, can perform, in a way that cannot be matched by any other country. They’ve got their mo-jo back. Now its time to focus on what’s most important, and that’s identifying who its real friends are and what borders are most important.

There are more trends that have come out of these conversations, but you’ll have to wait for the next issue of Vallarta Lifestyles to read about them. This one just seemed too important to hold back until then.

Travel Expert: Why you should go to Mexico

May 9, 2011

This was recently featured on CNN Travel:

New York (CNN) — Mexico tourism is having a bit of a PR problem lately.

Reports of mass grave sites, daylight shootings and carjackings from the escalating drug war don’t exactly build confidence for a family planning a week’s holiday. And on April 22, the U.S. State Department upgraded its travel warnings to target 14 of Mexico’s 31 states.

Now’s not the time to visit our southerly neighbor, right? Well, wrong. Mexico is a lot safer than you may realize.

We tend to lump all of Mexico — a country the size of Western Europe — together. For example, a border incident resulted in the death of a Colorado tourist last year, and the Texas Department of Homeland Security recommended against travel to all of Mexico.

Yet it’s in the 17 of 31 states not named in the newly expanded warnings where you’ll find the most rewarding destinations: the Yucatan Peninsula and Baja California beach resorts, colonial hill towns like the ex-pat haven of San Miguel de Allende, even the capital Mexico City. Read the rest of this entry »

The Punta Mita Experience

March 26, 2011

This past week has been an active one for the owner/members out in Punta Mita, the gated residential community situated at the far end of the bay about 45 minutes from Vallarta’s airport. For lack of a better term, its referred to as “HOA Week”, as this is when meetings take place for the Master Homeowner’s Association, along with the HOA meetings for many of the sub-developments within Punta Mita. All week long there are special events and cocktail parties. Last night it was the gala dinner for the Punta de Mita Foundation, held at the St. Regis’ Caroline restaurant. It was an amazing event, with people dressed to the 10s – something you don’t often see in this laid-back environment. Do they actually have these clothes in their Punta Mita closets?

At this particular event it was announced that the Foundation was very close to reaching its target goal to fund refurbishing the sports facilities located in Punta de Mita (actually “El Nuevo Corral del Risco”, but that’s a mouthful). The last $27,000 needed was raised during the evening ($45,000 to be exact), meaning this project will now move forward.

Attending many of the events over the week, it was quite obvious that no one was concerned about security, or buying in to how Mexico is being portrayed in the media in the USA and Canada. It was a concern when they first started arriving in November last year, the snowbirds who arrive then and leave again sometime in April or May. And that made sense; they’d been listening to mainstream media’s take on the situation for the past six months. But once they arrived back in Vallarta, they realized the violence they had been reading about was not taking place near their neighborhood, town, and in some cases, not even in their state.

I think the truth, sensibility and rationality is starting to emerge. Its becoming old news, at least for those who are here, experiencing Mexico. They can witness firsthand what the actual situation truly is, rather than buying in to the unjust portrayal of life in this country. People are realizing that there are not chopped off heads regularly rolling down the streets of their town, or people being shot at and killed. And if it is happening, it certainly doesn’t involve anyone they know, or taking place at any place they frequent. The truth is most of the violence is happening between the drug cartels themselves.

There is violence, unfortunately, everywhere. Many of us come from communities which have neighborhoods where you just don’t go, no matter what time of the day. You are asking for trouble if you do so. Well, its the same in Mexico – there are places you are best not to go to, especially at 3:00 in the morning.

Back to Punta Mita, this development has managed to avoid what has happened to many large gated communities back in the USA, in places like Florida, Arizona, Vegas and California. DINE, the developer, has managed to not only maintain the development well, but actually continued to add amenities, such as finishing a second 18-hole golf course, a member’s gymnasium, new tennis club, and a wonderful new addition (adults-area bar) to the resident’s beach club.

Currently there are only about 250 owners in Punta Mita, out of an eventual 1,000. But it hasn’t stopped the developer from providing most of what was initially promised, and certainly hasn’t stopped them from maintaining it extremely well.

What I did hear from owners quite often this past week is they felt these are probably the best years to be in Punta Mita. There’s never a problem getting a golf tee time (you don’t even need one, you just show up), surf spots aren’t that crowded, the beach club is rarely overcrowded and the community is a comfortable enough size with 250 owners that you can really get to know nearly everyone. A lot of new friendships have been created and with this amount of people it allows for quite a lively and vibrant dinner party scene throughout the high season. And what about the construction? There used to be thousands of migrant workers here, huge trucks traveling up and down the highway and dust everywhere from the constant ongoing construction – that’s all gone.

This will pass, however. People will start to understand they’ve been hoodwinked by the media and will return to enjoy what Mexico has to offer; a great, affordable place to escape the winters of the north. Construction will start up once again. Until then, it will be hard on the local economy, the restaurants, realtors, shops and galleries. For those who are fortunate to be able to just enjoy Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit without having to work, enjoy it now before it gets busy again – these are great times to be in Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit!