Gala Vallarta, the annual industry tradeshow for agents, hoteliers and tour operators in the Puerto Vallarta area, expanded this year to include the state of Nayarit, home of Nueva Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit.
The show is now Gala Vallarta-Nayarit and this integration will benefit the promotion of tourism in both states. The Riviera Nayarit is one of the most rapidly-growing sectors of the established destination of Puerto Vallarta—and it’s growing in all the best ways. Its two hundred plus mile coastline, with over twenty resorts as well as pueblo towns, attract tourists and expats alike. The Riviera Nayarit offers not just a vacation but a lifestyle, a chance to be part of a community.
The opening reception was held in Nuevo Vallarta, at the Grupo Vidante Mayan properties. Marc Murphy, managing director of the Riviera Nayarit Tourism Board, got things started, followed by words from Minister of Tourism for Nayarit, Raúl Rodrigo Pérez Hernández. A long, hard winter up North means great numbers in Mexico and Hernandez was pleased to report that this winter’s air transit through the area was up over 10% over last year, and both arrivals and hotel occupation rates are expected to increase in 2014/2015.
The convention itself was held at the four-and-a-half year-old Puerto Vallarta Convention Center. The Convention Center, while still young, is proving itself to be a powerful asset to the Vallarta area. Business tourism in Vallarta is new, less than twenty years, but it’s a growing part of the Vallarta travel market. Puerto Vallarta is able to offer organizations a wider assortment and class of hotel options than, say, Cancun, making it an attractive choice for smaller conventions and corporate conferences.
After the ribbon-cutting by members of the hotel association and tourism board, the floor opened and the meetings began. Unlike many other tourism conferences, Gala Vallarta-Nayarit dispenses with the usual booth decorations and displays. It’s all business and meetings, and it seems to be working. Tourism numbers continue to rise in the Puerto Vallarta area every year. Delta Airlines added new flights last year, including nine daily nonstop from Los Angeles.
Industry notables from around the globe were in attendance. Tour operators included Orbitz, WestJet Vacations and Booking Mexico. Hoteliers and hotel groups included Iberostar, Fiesta Americana, Casa Vellas/Vellas Vallarta, and the Palladium Hotel Group. Spotted at the convention was Jacques De Paep, who was just brought on by the Palladium Hotel Group as Director Commercial North America in March. He’s happy to be part of the team and is looking forward to the future.
Gala Vallarta-Nayarit wrapped up Thursday night with a huge celebration at the Puerto Vallarta Marina, capped off by a fireworks display over the harbor. Costumed children, sailors, circus performers, and even a Frida Kahlo impersonator could be found along the dock. Local restaurants served a buffet and the margaritas were flowing into the night, accompanied by mariachi musicians and singers. A fitting finish to an impressive conference, and a great jumping off point for the next year in Vallarta tourism.
Marc Murphy, Managing Director of the Riviera Nayarit Convention & Visitors Bureau and Association of Banderas Bay Hotels summed up the conference: “Gala Vallarta-Nayarit was incredibly successful. It was a wonderful event to hear from our tour operator partners regarding the joint Vallarta-Nayarit promotion that rolled out last year—a positive initiative that already shows growth between 10 and 15 percent. Given the strong support of our tour operator partners, it is without a doubt that this success will continue this year—in January of this year alone, we already see an increase of six percent compared to last year—and beyond.”
What’s Nuevo in Vallarta:
There are always new hotels opening and this Spring is no different. One entry into the affordable category is the Holiday Inn Express. The brand’s sleek new look and affordable pricing make them a good choice, particularly for those North Americans who come for medical treatment at Amerimed located just next door. Room rates start at just $72 per night. (Agent and long-stay pricing are available.)
In the high-end category, Garza Blanca is bringing a new luxury, adults-only hotel into their group, the Hotel Moussai. Its look is pure cool but with an approachable air, and the feel is all high-end. Upscale details will abound, from the Italian porcelain floors to the full entertainment center to the 400 thread count Egyptian cotton linens. The rooms will be all suites, with panoramic views of the bay, private decks and jacuzzis. Access to the beach will be through Garza Blanca, which is a quick tram ride away. Currently under construction, the Moussai is expected to open in November 2014. Prices will start from $799 per person per night.
Marina stalwart Casa Velas is still going strong. The high-end, adults-only resort is offering several promotions this year including all-inclusive, spa and golf packages. It’s located on the golf course, but Velas also has a beach club, The Ocean Club, right on the water. There’s a restaurant and bar as well as pool and jacuzzi, and of course the private beach. It’s just a five-minute drive away and a complementary shuttle is available to guests. The Velas group also has a second kid-friendly resort, Velas Vallarta, located minutes away. Promotional rates start at $203 USD per person per night, all-inclusive.
A new restaurant is making waves in the Vallarta culinary scene. Maia focuses on fresh, local ingredients and takes inspiration from traditional recipes but with a modern and innovative approach. Selected mains are served in whimsical bisected glass bottles. Don’t miss the raicilla (a type of mescal tequila) cocktails and the playful, molé take on Spaghetti Bolognese: Lamb Molonese.
Vallarta Adventures is a locally-owned tour company that in its twenty-year history has expanded throughout Mexico. Special pricing and tours are available to agents through their website, including whale watching and sailing. In Puerto Vallarta, they’ve created a new tour, Hidden Mexico, which offers visitors a chance to visit outside the beaches and resorts and go up into the Sierra Madre mountains. The tour includes visits to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, the historic town of El Tuito, pre-Hispanic petroglyphs, a tequila tour and tasting, lunch at an organic riverfront farm, and travel throughout the breathtakingly gorgeous region. It really is a can’t-miss opportunity to see another side of the region and get out into nature. The tour lasts roughly eight hours, and includes lunch, snacks, and drinks for $95 per person.
Riviera Nayarit: www.rivieranayarit.com/agent_travel_rates
Puerto Vallarta: www.visitpuertovallarta.com/#home
Hotels: Agent pricing available, see websites for details
Holiday Inn Express: www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels/us/en/puerto-vallarta/pvrfl/hoteldetail
Casa Velas: www.hotelcasavelas.com/
Hotel Mousai at Garza Blanca: www.hotelmousai.com/
Garza Blanca: www.garzablancaresort.com/
Hidden Mexico tour: www.vallarta-adventures.com/tours/sierra-madre-south
For agents: www.vallarta-adventures.com/travel-agents
Maia Restaurant, Pulpito 120, Col. Amapas CP 48399 Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco Ph: 322-222-2597 (closed on Mondays)