Meagan Drillinger
Meagan Drillinger

Mazatlan has been pouring money into its development the last few years, with millions of dollars invested to improve its Centro Historico, Malecon, parks, monuments and more. After the news announced last week at the 25th annual Fiesta Amigos event, it seems there is still much more to come.

I was in Mazatlan for the annual event, which brought together tour operators, wholesalers and media to showcase what will be promoted and developed in the new season. There will be new hotels, new flights, new destinations and, most importantly, a brand new multimillion-dollar park, aquarium and education center that is poised to become the focal point of the city.

Parque Central Mazatlan

The new park will take up 32.5 acres in the heart of the city. Within the park will be playgrounds, two spaces for concerts and special events, areas for food trucks, a saltwater lake with marine life, and a 3.4-acre aquarium.

The aquarium and museum will be housed in a smart and sustainable building, with a permanent exhibit, an IMAX theater, park view terraces, and a 660,000-gallon oceanic tank showcasing species from the Sea of Cortez. The tank will also have a tunnel portion that guests can walk underneath for an even closer look. The aquarium will have a mangrove area to create awareness about the preservation of coastlines, as well as dedicated exhibits on jellyfish, the importance of kelp in the greater global ecosystem and more. The aquarium is expected to be completed by December 2020, with the official opening during April 2021.

New hotels

Hotel occupancy is on the rise in Mazatlan. In 2018 the average occupancy was 60%, and in 2019 it is anticipated to rise to 63%. Tourist arrivals from January through September 2019 are showing a 19% increase year over year. The estimated year-end number of visitors to Mazatlan is 3.5 million.

The destination is preparing by planning to open a slew of new hotels. Hotels that will begin operations in 2020 include: Courtyard by Marriott, Fiesta Inn, One by Grupo Posadas, City Express Plus, Hilton Garden Inn, and IHG Holiday Inn Sunspree.

Hotel growth confirmed to date starting in 2020 will be 2,200 hotel rooms in the four- and five-star categories.

New airlift

Through Oct. 15, nearly 900,000 passengers have arrived in Mazatlan by air this year, a 10% increase compared to 2018. In the new year, Mazatlan will be increasing its international air connectivity. There will be new flights from Houston on United and Los Angeles on Alaska Airlines, showing a growth of 3 percent in U.S. air seats.

Mazatlan and El Chepe

Looking to the new year, Mazatlan will be promoting itself combined with one of Mexico's other amazing sites: Copper Canyon and the famous El Chepe Express railway. Launched two months ago, Mazatlan is already seeing results in combining itself with the luxury rail service. As part of the new promotion, tour operators are packaging two to three days in Mazatlan before transferring passengers to Los Mochis, where they set off on the El Chepe train to take in Copper Canyon and the Magical Towns along the way before ending in either Chihuahua or El Paso. El Chepe has been in operation for more than 80 years, but packaging it with Mazatlan to offer a beach experience either before or after the trip is a new way to offer clients a more diverse Mexico experience.

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