Tourists on a camel adventure in Los Cabos.
The Los Cabos Tourist Board is doubling down on retail travel agents with a specialist training program launched last month. So far more than 100 agents have signed up, managing director Rodrigo Esponda told Travel Market Report.
A longtime executive with the Mexico Tourism Board, Esponda stepped into his new position at a time the Pacific playground is set to add 3,800 hotel rooms, mainly on the high end, in the next two years. This year visitors from the United States increased 24% in the first quarter, and total air visitors are expected to top 2 million this year, up from 1.7 million last year.
Esponda says the destination’s success is being fueled by a mix of more luxury brands, 350 days of sunny weather, celebrity chefs, championship golf (seven of Mexico’s top 11 courses per Golf Digest), a strong local restaurant scene and a wide range of experiences that play into consumer desires. To underscore the diversity of its offerings, the new boss points to its award-winning golf courses that include designs by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, and range from traditional resort style to Scottish links, many with spectacular views.
In the fast-growing destination-weddings market, a new trend is underwater weddings, and the hotels have also tapped into the Indian wedding market, where mainly U.S. and Canadian-based families take over an entire hotel for celebrations that last several days.
Events have also become a reason for getaways to Los Cabos, Esponda says. He points to surfing championships, the world famous Bisbee fishing tournament, an ATP World Tour event for the first time this year, a full marathon for the first time next year in January, the International Film Festival in November and the December Food & Wine Festival.
In terms of hotel openings, this year 496 rooms are opening with the five-star all-inclusive GandVelas (360 rooms), Auberge’s 61-room Chileno Bay and a 75 key Homewood Suites by Hilton. Next year will see 2,621 more rooms, all in the luxury category, including Le Blanc Spa Resort (387 rooms), Solaz (296 rooms), Ritz-Carlton (124 rooms), Grand Solmar Rancho San Lucas (620 rooms), Nobu (200 rooms), Hard Rock (640 rooms), Park Hyatt (232 rooms) and Montage (122 rooms). A Four Seasons will arrive in 2017.
Esponda says air access is strong, with more than 500 flights a week, including multiple American, Alaska, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, Sun Country, United and Virgin America flights. From Canada, there is Air Canada, Air Transat, Sunwing and Westjet. All major Mexican airlines also have flights to Los Cabos, including Aeromexico.
To underscore the unique appeal of Los Cabos, Esponda asks which country after the U.S. and Mexico is number three in visitors? The surprising answer is Australia, where he says Aussies who can fly nonstop to Los Angeles and then make a quick connection compare it favorably to their Down Under playground, and the place to go with seasons reversed.
Esponda says he is counting on agents to be a key part of the destination’s continued success. In addition to the training programs, the tourist board is working with tour operators and hotels on numerous travel agent fam trips.