GALA 2019 – Puerto Vallarta
JAX FAX recently participated in the 25th edition of Gala, Puerto Vallarta’s annual travel trade event.
Gala participants took part in more than 1,300 45-minute, pre-scheduled B2B meetings between tourism industry partners and 96 hotels in the region. The event set a new record in attendance, with more than 90 wholesale agents from the United States, Canada, Mexico, England, and Spain, representing a 32% jump in attendance compared to 2018. South America was part of the Gala for the very first time with 19 wholesale agents brought in by Panama’s Copa Airlines.
According to Javier Aranda, Director of the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board, “The success of Gala is reflected in the constant increase in air connectivity to the Puerto Vallarta International Airport, which has allowed hotel occupancy rates in both tourist destinations to continue increasing. This increase is due, in part, to the negotiations that are achieved within the framework of this event.” Now offering flights to more than 50 destinations around the world, the Puerto Vallarta International Airport welcomed around 4.76 million travelers in 2018, according to the facility’s operator, Grupo Aeroportuario del PacÌfico. From the US, Sun Country recently announced a new non-stop flight from Las Vegas.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
Not so long ago, Puerto Vallarta was just a sleepy fishing village of a few hundred people. Then in 1963, John Huston came to town to film Night of Iguana and nothing has ever been the same. JAX FAX took advantage of the opportunity presented by GALA to sample some of the diverse activities that have since developed.
Puerto Vallarta is a foodie paradise and what better way to sample any city’s gastronomy scene then to take a foodie tour. I did just that, courtesy of the nice people at Vallarta Food Tours (www.vallartafoodtours.com). This is a long established firm with a great reputation. I had the chance to try out a new tour they are experimenting with in the Versalles area, located just across the highway from the hotel zone. This undiscovered area is a little bit off of the Puerto Vallarta tourist circuit, but worth a look. This traditional residential area is where you’ll find old-world architecture, featuring beautiful gardens and tropical landscaping that includes palm, mango, guayaba, and banana trees, along with flowering ginger, hibiscus, bird of paradise, as well as the ever-present bougainvillea. Many small shops, restaurants and offices are nearby, making this a very pedestrian friendly area.
As on all Vallarta Food Tours you get to visit about 8 local restaurants for a sample of the best local food. They are still experimenting with exact locations and we hope that this up-and-coming neighborhood becomes part of their regular tours. Their traditional tours include; Original Downtown, The Street, Mex-Ology, Taste of Pitillal, Bikes & Bites and Vallarta by Road. They gladly work with travel agents and can customize any tour for your groups.
Another unique attraction in Puerto Vallarta combines both a cruise on Banderas Bay and amazing nightlife. The number one dinner show in Puerto Vallarta is SAVIA: The Legend of the 5 Suns. More than just a show, SAVIA is an experience! The evening begins with a Puerto Vallarta sunset cruise across Banderas Bay to the cove of Las Caletas, a favorite spot of legendary Night of the Iguana director John Huston. Upon docking at Las Caletas, your clients are greeted by hundreds of flickering tiki torches and candles there to light the way to a sumptuous dinner buffet. After dinner you make your way through the rainforest to the mystical amphitheater. Conceived of, written, and directed by Gilles Ste-Croix, co-creator of Cirque du Soleil, SAVIA is a celebration of spectacular acrobatic skill, pulsating rhythms, vibrant dance, amazing costumes and Ste-Croix’s breathtaking interpretation of the Aztec creation story. After the show, it’s a leisurely cruise back across Banderas Bay so your clients can continue their night in the lively bars and clubs of downtown. Regular prices start at $139, yet more upscale options are available – ask about their “premier experience.” (www.vallarta-adventures.com/en/).
SAVIA: The Legend of the 5 Suns debuted in 2017, but they continually look to improve the show to keep it fresh.
For clients that want an even more “cirque” experience while in Puerto Vallarta, they simply need to wait about another year. Cirque du Soleil and Grupo Vidanta, a leading developer of resorts and tourism infrastructure in Mexico, are constructing an immersive theme park experience in Nuevo Vallarta. The entertainment experience, which is still in development, may include water park and nature park elements and will feature an outdoor evening show accommodating as many as 3,000 to 5,000 spectators. This project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2018, but construction delays and issues with the original architect have resulted in a new planned opening in November of 2020.
For those clients seeking daytime adventure, I would recommend checking out the offerings from Canopy River. If your clients are into ziplines, ATV’s, river tubing, riding (horses or mules) or hiking – then this is a one-stop, commissionable, adventure company. Activities are available either as stand-alone experiences or they can be combined in packages, depending upon time and client’s comfort levels. Definitely a one stop adventure paradise. Located a mere 20 minutes from the hotel zone, Canyon River offers hotel pickup and drop off service. (www.canopyriver.com)
Puerto Vallarta definitely so much more than a typical sun and surf destination.