PHOTO: A unique way to get shade in Riviera Diamante, Mexico. (photo by Greg Custer)
Hatching a new destination brand is never easy; taking a fallen icon into a new era is even harder.
The world is strewn with vacation spots where the lights don’t shine so brightly. Flights stop landing and decay overtakes debut. Destinations have lifespans, from Honolulu to Havana, Las Vegas to the Costa Brava. Some pivot to stay relevant but many don’t; it’s part of an inevitable fall from grace to the place “no one goes anymore.”
Creating a destination identity where there was none comes with risk.
Two of Mexico’s most successful beach brands illustrate the challenges. First came Quintana Roo’s Riviera Maya, followed some years later by the Pacific’s Riviera Nayarit. Today vacation mainstays, many may not remember the fact these regions stumbled out the gate. Playa del Carmen, Xel-Há and Tulum remained day trip backwaters 20 years after Cancun’s rise in the 70’s. In the shadow of Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta sat nearly abandoned through the 1980’s and 90’s.
Today it’s hard to imagine these “Rivieras” will ever be on the has-been list of places no one goes anymore, but a destination’s destiny and decline can be two sides of the same golden coin.
That’s exactly what happened to the place that literally invented the mass market vacation: Acapulco. Like its famous cliff divers, Acapulco’s drop from stardom was spectacular. The place that invented the swim-up bar went stale and American travelers started looking to Baja and the Mexican Caribbean.
Since its 1970’s decline, pronouncements of an Acapulco “rebirth” and “comeback” have been more hype than reality. International nonstop air service nearly vanished (there is but one daily arrival). Last week, Mexico’s tourism showcase (Tianguis Turístico) rolled back into an over-the-hill Acapulco. Trade press reported how suppliers, buyers and agents decided to pass on this year’s event. By doing this, they missed experiencing what will become Mexico’s third Riviera: the newly coined Riviera Diamante.
While some development has been here for decades, the branding is new. Adopting the name Riviera Diamante was a brilliant stroke. While Diamante is really a mini Riviera compared to its bigger sisters, the name leverages Mexico’s other Riviera success and gives travel agents and travelers a fresh-faced Pacific Mexico option.
Mexico’s newest Riviera starts south of Acapulco Bay at Puerto Marques and continues for miles along a palm grove shoreline toward the Acapulco airport. Puerto Marques retains its rustic simplicity of beach palapas, roaming vendors and grilled fish-on-a-stick. But it’s also home to four luxury resorts: Quinta Real, Banyan Tree, Camino Real and El Encanto. Beyond these luxury leaders, you can now zoom at 70 miles an hour over the Pacific on Xtasea, the world’s longest (1.8 kms) overwater zip line adventure.
The Riviera Diamante continues as a beachfront corridor of hotels, condos, private residence, shopping and golf. Mexican developers Grupo Mundo Imperial, Grupo Vidanta and Grupo Posadas are the Riviera Diamante’s key players.
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Mundo Imperial owns the venerable Acapulco Princess (now the Princess by Mundo Imperial) and renamed its sister Pierre Marques as simply Pierre by Mundo Imperial. Add the flagship Resort Mundo Imperial and guests can now move via shuttle across three spectacular hotels, Mexico’s most modern conference facility (Expo Mundo Imperial) and concert venue (Forum Mundo Imperial). The master plans call for retirement communities, a hospital and assisted living care. Add the Princess/Pierre golf courses (36 holes) a world-class tennis tournament venue and the bustling La Isla shopping/dining complex and airport proximity.
The other big player is Grupo Vidanta. Its four hotels (under the brands Grand Mayan, Mayan Palace, Sea Garden), stretch along Costera de la Palmas and sit adjacent to its Jack Nicklaus Design golf course, an Aqua Park, Lazy River and over 16 restaurants and bars. Mexico’s hotel leader Grupo Posadas is building a Grand Fiesta Americana Diamante and luxury condo towers can’t go up fast enough.
Is there room in Mexico’s eclectic resort portfolio for yet another Riviera? Will travelers embrace a return to Mexico’s original beach vacation playground? The Riviera Diamante is a self-contained luxury complex that’s betting it can lure airlines to return, really the only missing piece for this newest Mexican Riviera.