What’s a city to do when it has a modern new convention center and a wide range of beautiful new upscale hotels coming online, but the international press is full of negative stories hinting that its country is an unsafe destination?
In Los Cabos, Mexico, the hotels, private investors and local law enforcement think they have an answer. They are working together on a proactive plan to build their image and keep demand strong in 2018, which will see the opening of a Hard Rock, a Ritz Carlton Reserve, a Four Seasons, a Nobu, a Park Hyatt, a Starwood and a Montage property; almost 300 cruise stops; a new terminal at the airport; and new private villas from the Ritz Carlton with a starting sales price of $4 million.
“Safety is always a challenge,” acknowledged Rodrigo Esponda of the Los Cabos Tourism Board at a press conference in New York last week. But with close to a billion dollars in investments coming online in 2018, “the private sector and the hotels are united and have a specific action plan to strengthen and integrate their efforts” to keep tourists safe.
Increased surveillance, communication and training
The five-step plan includes 250 surveillance cameras on the single main road in the area, all connected into a command center manned by the police and the Marine Corps with a cutting-edge Rapid Response Communication System; and a training program that follows the Overseas Advisory Committee of the U.S. government.
“In a country where 90 percent of our economic activity is related to tourism, security has always been a priority,” Esponda said. But now more than ever “everyone is committed and united to get safety to the level where it needs to be.”
With its rebuilt convention center designed to hold 2,000 attendees scheduled to open in 2018, and the airlines increasing their seats by about 20 percent to handle the expected surge in visitors, “we know we have a particular challenge, and we have to act very fast,” Esponda said.
In fact, the funding for the projects was remarkably easy to arrange, with both the public and private sectors doing their part. The new Marine Corps headquarters alone will cost $7 million and the Rapid Response System will be $47 million.
Getting the word out that Los Cabos is safe
The next few weeks will also see a two-pronged public relations plan. Aimed at both consumers and the travel agents to whom they are turning for advice, it is designed to get the word out that Los Cabos is not only beautiful, but also safe.
In Los Cabos, that seems to be a message that visitors have not been overly concerned about. RevPAR at Los Cabos hotels was actually up 17.4 percent between January and July; the average daily rate is a whopping $300 a room; and occupancy has been steady at 70 percent, Esponda said. But officials are starting to "see some concern" building, especially in the meetings and conventions sector, and they "want to be very proactive."
The first part of the campaign, aimed at consumers, will launch in November. For agents, Los Cabos offers a "Visit Los Cabos" training program and will have a team "that travels nonstop" to help with training and support. Agents in Milwaukee will get extra attention, as Los Cabos is launching a new route from there in partnership with Frontier Airlines and Apple Vacations.
With all of its properties smaller than 600 rooms and just one main road running the length of the peninsula, Los Cabos has always been relatively easy to police, Esponda said. "We control all the access," and while other cities have had problems with tainted liquor, "there's never been an issue with the drinks here."
And with more than $50 million dedicated to the new plan, Los Cabos intends to keep it that way.