Acapulco's reputation of late has been no secret. High crime rates, plummeting tourism numbers from U.S. visitors and disappearances of the city on cruise itineraries over the years have put the city in a dim light.
But the travel industry returned to Acapulco during Tianguis in 2015, and the destination has continued to work at repairing its once golden reputation as the true Mexican Riviera.
The city got a big, 10-figure vote of confidence last week from Grupo Autofin, an investment firm that typically pours its money into the automotive, communications and tourism industries. The company announced that it will invest $1 billion in Acapulco over the next six years, with projects adding 6,000 hotel rooms to the city, golf courses, entertainment facilities, a zipline and a hospital that will focus on medical tourism.
Grupo Autofin is the owner of Acapulco's two crown jewel hotels, the Pierre Mundo Imperial and Princess Mundo Imperial, having purchased those properties in 2014. The company owns more than 16 square feet of land in Acapulco, according to Sayed Rezvani, general director of Mundo Imperial, a division of Grupo Autofin.
"We have so much undeveloped land in Acapulco," he said. "We have the support and focus from the federal government and from the state government to relaunch Acapulco. It makes sense to do this now because it creates home and motivation."
The $1 billion investment will be spread across different segments, from renovations to the Pierre Marques and Princess to the construction of retirement complexes, a tourism university, an adventure/safari park and the aforementioned hospital. Most of the projects will break ground in the second half of 2017.
"Hotel occupancy in Acapulco is in the mid-40s right now, and we don't have many international travelers between March and December because of lack of flights," said Rezvani. "We feel we have a great destination because of its proximity to Mexico City, and its climate. In order to have higher occupancy, we have to create new niches."
This is where the hospital comes into play, which will be focused on driving medical tourism to Acapulco. It will be a third-level hospital (offering tertiary care) that would handle all sorts of specialties and operations. Most procedures would be outpatient, with patients transferring to the Pierre Marques and Princess hotels, which would be outfitted with medical recovery-style rooms and nurses on staff.
Grupo Autofin also has its sights set on a zipline that would connect one side of the Acapulco Bay to the other as well as a 200-acre parcel of land that will be converted into an adventure safari park. "We are looking at these attractions to create more tourism," said Rezvani. "We have the base to develop."
"The new investment by Grupo Autofin represents a new era for Acapulco," said Piquis Rochin, international promotion director of the Acapulco Destination Marketing Office. "It represents a bright future for the destination, it represents employment, it represents tourism. This new investment, which includes new hotels, health center, shopping mall, an ecopark, the zipline, a new tennis stadium and more, will give Acapulco a new face to attract national and international markets."
Acapulco's international airport is also readying for a new terminal, which will be equipped to receive 1 million passengers per year. The airport terminal received an investment of $30 million by Grupo Aeroportuario Centro Norte and will open in 2018.
Unfortunately for Acapulco, the majority of these projects will not be ready in time for Tianguis 2017, which is only about nine months away. Grupo Autofin does expect the zipline to be ready by then.
"We have the master plan of the whole project in the lobby of the Fairmont Princess," said Rezvani. "Attendees to Tianguis will be able to see the zipline and look at the master plan. They will also be able to see the renovations of the hotels, which are getting new furniture, new soft goods, and a remodeling." Both hotels are slated to get additional rooms, as well.
The Mexican hotel firm Posadas Group is also putting its money $85 million worth into Acapulco, starting construction of the Fiesta Americana Grand Acapulco Diamante. The city is also revamping its transportation systems with a macrotunnel to connect the Traditional Zone, known as Old Acapulco, with the new Diamante district. This tunnel is expected to be completed in time for Tianguis.
"Though all 16 projects are expected to be completed by 2022, Acapulco expects enormous increases of tourists," saids Rochin. "There has been a positive trend on the amount of international cruisers that arrive to Acapulco for the past two years, and this percentage will continue to increase."