Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
Ask Carlos Eguiarte about the time he got a kick in the head.
The year was 2007 and tourism in Riviera Nayarit, Puerto Vallarta (and all over Mexico, for that matter) was suffering due to a growing number of volatile situations in the country.
Safety issues, swine flu, the economy crisis – circumstances that create, what Eguiarte calls, “a big monster” in the tourism business.
“We were losing a lot of plane seats and a lot of clients,” recalls Eguiarte, a promotional and sales coordinator at Riviera Nayarit Visitors and Conventions Bureau, speaking with PAX at an industry event in Toronto last Monday night (Oct 15).
Local tourism felt the sting. Eguiarte estimates that as much as 450,000 plane seats were lost during that period as a result of the downward trend, which spiralled well into 2012.
TIME TO THINK FAST
Eguiarte and his industry partners in the Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit regions realized they “needed to do something more,” and fast, if they wanted to fix the situation, Eguiarte said.
Their solution? Form a Vallarta-Nayarit partnership, host joint events. Work together.
A lightbulb moment, a stroke of genius. A wake-up call. Eguiarte’s “kick in the head,” as he calls it.
“That’s when things started to change in dramatic numbers,” Eguiarte told PAX, noting that by 2015, tourism in his region recovered almost half of what they lost in the downturn thanks to a successful rebranding campaign that spawned returning tourists, new hotels and more air connection.
IT TAKES TWO
The fruits of Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit’s partnership, now in its fifth year, were on full display Monday night as the teaming two hosted nearly 50 travel agents, tour operators and suppliers at Toronto’s Old Mill hotel for a trade show, seminar and dinner.
The night put the spotlight on both Pacific coast destinations, which, although located in separate states, are united geographically as they share the beauty of Banderas Bay.
Both within close proximity to Puerto Vallarta Airport (PVR), the sunshine-soaked regions offer similar and unique experiences.
“There’s more than enough excuses to visit Puerto Vallarta,” Jorge Rodriguez, promotion coordinator at the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board, told PAX, noting the colonial town’s close proximity to mountains, rivers and waterfalls, celebrated gastronomy scene, historic downtown, sculpture-laden malecon, art galleries and thriving LGBT community.
Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit are, notably, leaders in offering legal same-sex marriage.
In a similar vein, Riviera Nayarit, located in the neighbouring State of Nayarit, is around 190 miles long and just a 10 minute drive north from PVR airport. With 20 coastal villages and upscale resorts surrounded by natural beauty, it ranks high in water activities and animal watching.
“More than 250 specific of migratory birds enjoy this natural environment,” Eguiarte told PAX. That, in addition to a healthy population of turtles, dolphins, whales and even crocodiles.
The animal and nature protection programs Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit have in place are a “key selling point” for the Canadian market, Eguiarte noted.
NEIGHBOURS WORKING TOGETHER
Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit were the first destinations to be chosen, as a combo, for the Mexico Tourism Board’s “Live It To Believe It” campaign, a multimillion-dollar, federally-funded marketing initiative that launched in 2013.
“They're two beautiful destinations and they’re neighbours,” Cesar Mendoza, regional director at the Mexico Tourism Board, told PAX, adding that the partnership "makes a lot of sense."
TOURISM IN MEXICO ISN’T SLOWING DOWN
Last year Mexico saw a total of 39.3 million tourists - a 12 per cent increase compared to 2016.
Canadian air arrivals from January to December 2017 was up by 12.6 per cent compared to 2016. This year’s Canadian numbers have already surpassed last year, with 2018 sitting at 2.2 million visitors, a 12.3 per cent increase from 2017.
Canadian arrivals into PVR airport are also up. This year has, so far, secured 445,000 seats from 15 gateways (a 10.5 per cent increase from last year) with 88,000 arriving from Ontario alone.
“We don’t have a low season anymore like we used to,” Eguiarte told PAX, crediting the increase in service to PVR from airlines such as WestJet, Transat and Sunwing for helping turn the tide.
It’s that type of momentum that gets tourism boards excited for what's ahead.
“We don’t want to be a one hit wonder,” Eguiarte said. “We want to be a real wonder for the times to come.”
For more information on Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit, visit puertovallartarivieranayarit.com.