Takeaways from the Gala Vallarta conference

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The Caballito statue along Puerto Vallarta's Malecon promenade.
The Caballito statue along Puerto Vallarta's Malecon promenade. Photo Credit: TW Photo by Eric Moya
Eric Moya
Eric Moya

Hoteliers and other tourism interests from the states of Jalisco and Nayarit met with wholesalers and other trade partners from around the world this month at the Gala Puerto Vallarta-Riviera Nayarit conference. But throwing a wrench into the works of the 25th Gala Vallarta was uncertainty surrounding the Mexico Tourism Board, which is closing the majority of its international offices and will see its promotional funds go instead toward the construction of a tourist rail route along the Mayan peninsula.

For representatives of the Vallarta-Nayarit region's tourism organizations, that meant a series of closed-door meetings to discuss how to proceed with promoting their destinations if, as it appeared to many, they would have to do so with little to no financial support from the federal government.

"We need to do with two pesos what we used to do with three," Luis Villasenor, public relations director for the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board, told members of the travel trade media.

According to Villasenor and others in attendance, ideas included cooperative marketing based on travel niches (team-ups among the country's beach destinations or cultural destinations, for example) and increased regional cooperation at international trade fairs.

For Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit, that sort of cooperation is nothing new. In fact, in 2013 the Mexico Tourism Board launched a $10 million campaign called "Vallarta-Nayarit. Live It to Believe It" that highlighted various attractions in Jalisco (where Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara are located) and Nayarit. And while the prospects for more federally backed campaigns such as this are slim, tourism representatives in the region seemed intent on keeping that spirit of cooperation alive.

A room at the Hacienda, a 192-room section of the Hilton Puerto Vallarta that opened last year.
A room at the Hacienda, a 192-room section of the Hilton Puerto Vallarta that opened last year.

"We are trying to work together with the Puerto Vallarta CVB and also with Riviera Nayarit and the Guadalajara CVB, trying to work together as a team," said Oscar Alejandro Morales Romero of the Jalisco Ministry of Tourism.

Beyond promotion, of course, there is the matter of the tourism product itself, and during the week, members of the travel trade media got a look at some of the latest updates in Puerto Vallarta accommodations.

Our host hotel, the Sheraton Buganvilias, showcased recent upgrades including its new Maiave Spa and a pizzeria adjacent to the property's Italian restaurant, Alfresco. The hotel also recently renovated its 473 guestrooms, bringing them in line with the brand standards of Marriott International following 2016's Marriott-Starwood merger. In April, the property is scheduled to open a sports bar and an Asian fusion restaurant.

The Marriott Puerto Vallarta completed guestroom renovations last year.
The Marriott Puerto Vallarta completed guestroom renovations last year.

On site inspections around the city, my group also visited the Grand Park Royal, which reopened in January after a six-month renovation and expansion that added 120 guestrooms; the all-ages Garza Blanca and adults-only sister property, the Hotel Mousai; and the Hacienda, a 192-room section of the Hilton Puerto Vallarta. The Marriott Puerto Vallarta showcased its guestroom renovations, which were completed last year, and the Westin offered a sample of its long-running wellness program, encompassing healthy meals, fitness classes and more.

So while its promotional efforts face a significant setback with the Mexico Tourism Board's apparent demise, the tourism industry soldiers on in Puerto Vallarta, a message the organizers of Gala Vallarta sought to convey to travel advisors, vacation packagers and other event attendees.

"Our message to our partners over these two days is to tell them our commitment remains with them," Villasenor said.

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