Growth brings opportunities and challenges to Los Cabos

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Los Cabos has become, without a doubt, one of the highest-profile vacation destinations in Mexico. With more visitors arriving every year, an ever-expanding hotel inventory and construction of an additional airport terminal beginning in November, Los Cabos is definitely in growth mode.

So how does a major destination like Los Cabos plan for and deal with increased development? Alberto Coppola, president of the Los Cabos Tourism Board, spoke with Travel Weekly about the region's impressive growth, plans for the future and response to this year's hurricane season.

Travel Weekly: The tourism board has commissioned a traffic circulation study to determine current traffic patterns and deal with increased visitors. What do you expect to do with the information? 

Coppola: Our focus in funding this study and implementing the recommended solutions is to ensure that visitors to Los Cabos [are] able to easily transit popular areas of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo in a stress-free traffic environment. It is important for us to maintain the famed aspect of tranquility that Los Cabos has enjoyed and that attracts so many vacationers to our home. Ensuring a smooth flow of traffic is an essential consideration for our continued success.

TW:Is there a cap that you envision for the destination, in terms of maximum number of hotel rooms?

Coppola: The Development Planning Directive, for the urban development of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, has issued the following development forecast:

  • Year 2010: 15,000 rooms.
  • Year 2018: 25,000 rooms.
  • These figures underline the destination's commitment that Los Cabos will benefit from the protection of controlled growth and retain our world-class status as a haven of tranquility.

    TW:How did visitor numbers grow in 2006? What do you expect for 2007?

    Coppola: Annual hotel occupancy averaged 70% in 2006, representing a gain of 4% despite an increase in the number of hotel rooms present throughout the destination from 9,998 in 2005 to 10,982 in 2006. Additionally, Los Cabos welcomed 1.35 million airline passengers at San Jose del Cabo International Airport in 2006, compared with 1.23 million in 2005 -- a 10% growth rate, which is phenomenal in today's highly competitive market. And the numbers are looking equally as impressive this year. In August 2007, we welcomed 21% more airline passengers to Los Cabos than in August 2006.

    TW:As Los Cabos grows, how will it maintain its current image and reputation?

    Coppola: We value and vow to preserve the natural gifts that propelled Los Cabos into the spotlight years ago. This emphasis on controlled growth and preservation is one of the most appealing aspects of the destination for visitors. Our emphasis is focused on providing the highest levels of service and maintaining a pedigree of the best hotel experiences the world can offer.

    TW:Is the profile of the typical visitor expanding to include a wider demographic? 

    Coppola: Los Cabos is experiencing a tremendous growth in destination weddings, bachelor and bachelorette parties, multi-generational family travel for reunions or annual family getaways, baby-moons for prebirth relaxation, culinary explorations and, of course, our growing meetings and incentive travel markets.

    TW:Golf is an important part of Los Cabos' identity. Have you measured the economic impact of golf on the economy?

    Coppola: Golf enthusiasts make a significant contribution to Los Cabos, not only because they patronize our championship golf courses, luxury hotels, sumptuous dining venues and opulent spas but because many have grown so fond of the destination that they often purchase luxury vacation ownership properties or homes to "own" a piece of the Los Cabos golf scene.

    TW:Are there any challenges that Los Cabos must address to secure its success?

    Coppola: Our biggest challenge will be to maintain the exclusive appeal of Los Cabos despite our growth in number of tourists. Our resorts are already doing this by "raising the bar" on standards and offering some of the finest hotel amenities and services found anywhere on Earth. Also, to ensure the ease of travel to and from the destination, we have strategies to further develop the San Jose del Cabo Airport. Planned upgrades include parallel runways for more rapid departures and arrivals as well as facility enhancements, including the construction of a new terminal building to ensure visitors' comfort, convenience and safety in keeping with the destination's upscale appeal.

    TW: How is Los Cabos taking advantage of its strengths to grow further?

    Coppola: The destination's varied landscape spans the desert, ocean and mountains affording travelers an array of opportunities for exploration and relaxation. Los Cabos matches the rich culture of Mexico with warm service and a vast knowledge of the wants [and] needs of its consumer, to deliver the highest levels of professionalism in hospitality. 

    Additionally, the convenience of Los Cabos is a big draw for North Americans, with short flights and enhanced accessibility. A growing number of gateways have opened travel opportunities from various regions of the U.S. Increased airlift, paired with fantastic weather patterns, make travel to Los Cabos viable year-round.

    TW:What do you think Los Cabos will look like, and who do you think will be visiting, in five or 10 years?

    Coppola: It may sound cliched, but I envision Los Cabos to be not only bigger but better in the next five to 10 years. I think that the real estate trend will continue to be very strong and foresee more home buyers attracted to and investing in Los Cabos as the locale for their primary and/or vacation residence. I also believe that the surrounding areas around Los Cabos will begin to be of great interest to tourists as our appeal broadens.

    The consumer we will continue to attract will be, for the most part, a well-heeled, well-traveled consumer who is satisfied with only the very best. Our prestigious [resort] properties will be joined by new upscale properties that are recognized for their excellence.

    To contact reporter Mark Chesnut, send e-mail [email protected].

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