Last updated: 01:00 PM ET, Fri March 25 2016

Acapulco's Renaissance

The city is fast reprising its role as a top beach destination.

Vacation Agent | Destination & Tourism | Mimi Kmet

Acapulco's Renaissance

PHOTO: A private guest pool and terrace at Las Brias, one of several luxury resorts in the Diamond Zone.

Acapulco is making a comeback. The city, a glamorous beach destination and a magnet for celebrities, fashionistas and affluent international travelers in the 1950s and 1960s, lost much of its luster in recent decades. But new developments, special events, and savvy marketing are starting to reap rewards, as travelers – and travel agents – take note.

Visitor numbers from the U.S. have been growing, according to Piquis Rochin, director of international promotion for the Acapulco Destination Marketing Office (ADMO). Last year, nearly 50 percent of all international visitor arrivals came from the U.S., which represented a 7 percent increase over 2014, according to ADMO statistics.  In all, the destination welcomed nearly 47,000 U.S.-based arrivals last year.

READ MORE: Acapulco Hotels Report Best Occupancy in Seven Years

The biggest jump came from the cruise segment. In 2014, only seven cruise ships called at Acapulco. Last year, that number doubled, which resulted in a 120 percent spike in the number of international visitors to the destination, 70 percent of which were from the U.S. This year, 18 ships are scheduled to call at Acapulco.

The increases in cruise calls are due in large part to the efforts of tourism officials, who have been negotiating with major cruise lines “to get them back with the assurance that their passengers are safe in Acapulco,” Rochin says. Officials also are working with the Mexico Tourism Board and with wholesalers, including Gogo, Apple, MLT, and United Vacations, to market the destination.  

Safety and security issues, which kept many travelers from visiting Acapulco in recent years, have been addressed on several fronts.  Early last year, the Tourist Assistance and Protection Center was launched in Acapulco.  Visitors can call a local number, 066, to report everything from a lost wallet to a minor car accident and be connected with the appropriate service.

In addition, Guerrero, the state in which Acapulco is located, has implemented safety patrols, installed closed-circuit video cameras, and opened an intelligence center to identify and handle tourist-related problems over the past few years.

READ MORE: Acapulco Making Waves at Seatrade Cruise Global

Visitor growth from the U.S., meanwhile, is particularly evident during late fall and winter.  “February is a big tourism season in Acapulco,” Rochin says, noting that United Airlines added three seasonal flights from Houston in February.

The destination is getting ready for even more international visitors with the construction of a new terminal, which will accommodate one million passengers per year when it opens in late 2017.  The existing terminal also is receiving an upgrade.

All of those efforts are starting to pay off in terms of travel agent business. Acapulco became a Virtuoso destination last year during Tianguis Turistico, the country’s annual international tourism conference, and recently hosted a group of Virtuoso travel agents at the luxury Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués resort.

Acapulco’s warm, tropical weather is the top selling point, says Rochin. She also cites the destination’s culture and history, with landmarks like the Fort of San Diego and House of the Winds, home of the late Dolores Olmedo, who owned the world’s largest collection of Diego Rivera paintings and was a long-time friend of the artist.  Other draws include golf on five championship courses, beachcombing and watersports on 12 miles of beaches, and ecotourism excursions to Coyuca Lagoon and Laguna Tres Palos.

Acapulco’s legendary nightlife, of course, is another huge visitor draw. The destination’s dining scene features upward of 160 restaurants serving everything from traditional fare to contemporary and international cuisine; and the famous cliff divers of La Quebrada still present five shows daily.

Acapulco appeals to all types of clients. For their part, millennials are drawn to special events like the annual Open Surf International Conference (surfing competition), Tropico (music event on the beach), and the International Car Rally.

Families are also a strong market. “Family business in Acapulco has always been very important because of the variety it offers them,” says Rochin.


Approximately one third of Acapulco’s 18,000 hotel rooms are in the luxury category, including the Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués and Las Brisas, both located in the affluent Diamond Zone.

Among the newer properties in the Diamond Zone is the 814-room Resort Mundo Imperial, a contemporary hotel that features a diverse array of restaurants and shops. It is part of the Mundo Imperial complex, which debuted in late 2014 and includes a live entertainment forum, an expo center and an outdoor promenade.

Two other properties in the Mundo Imperial development project are recent acquisitions. The former 1,011-room Fairmont Acapulco Princess, which features Aztec-inspired architecture, several pools and a golf course, has been transformed into the Princess Mundo Imperial Riviera Diamante. The former 229-room Pierre Marqués, once the private hideaway of J. Paul Getty, with low-rise bungalows set amid tropical foliage and its own golf course, is now the Pierre Mundo Imperial Riviera Diamante. Both are scheduled for renovations within the next year.

In addition, the Fiesta Americana Grand Diamante is scheduled to open later this year. The $85 million resort, which is not part of the Mundo Imperial development, will feature more than 350 rooms and suites, three pools, four restaurants and meeting facilities.

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Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the March 2016 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.