By MARK CHESNUT
Nearly 65 years have passed since Hotel Playa Mazatlan, the first big beachfront resort in Mazatlan, opened in what would become known as the Zona Dorada tourist zone. And just as that opening heralded a new era in tourism for the destination, an array of new developments will also change the course of Mazatlan’s identity, if local officials have their way.
The most ambitious project in the works is located at Parque Central, a 32.5-acre park complex set along a lagoon near the Malecon waterfront boulevard, not far from the city’s recently renovated baseball stadium. The development will be home to two massive new attractions scheduled to open in 2021. The Acuario del Mar de Cortes (Sea of Cortes Aquarium), slated to open in spring 2021, will feature a central courtyard with waterfalls, as well as nearly 40,000 square feet of exhibition areas, including jellyfish habitats and a 660,000-gallon oceanic tank with a tunnel and shark feeding area.
Also under construction in Parque Central is the Museo Mazatlan (Mazatlan Museum), which is designed to attract tourists as well as locals with exhibits that highlight the region’s rich history, from its natural evolution and anthropology to revered local traditions such as carnival celebrations, baseball, and cuisine. The museum will have a restaurant, classrooms and an IMAX theater, and the architectural design is guaranteed to attract attention. Its 110,233-square-foot dome shape may resemble a gigantic UFO, but it’s actually inspired by the visuals of an oyster cradling a pearl (which makes sense, since Mazatlan is nicknamed the “pearl of the Pacific”).
Parque Central will also have new outdoor spaces for concerts and events as well as public park space with reforested green areas, pedestrian walkways, and bicycle lanes. The goal is to make the new development a hub for tourism, education, and events.
Mazatlan is also in the midst of a hotel boom, with some 2,200 new hotel rooms debuting in 2020 alone — including properties flying the flags of Courtyard by Marriott, Fiesta Inn, One, City Express Plus, Holiday Inn Sunspree, and Hilton Garden Inn. The Hilton property, scheduled to open in September, is part of Cabo Carena, a new complex under construction in the Mazatlan Marina that will be home to restaurants, stores, a movie theater, offices and a hospital. The project is the undertaking of Grupo Panama, a Mazatlan-based hotel developer that’s also known for its Panama-branded restaurants and bakeries.
Existing hotels are also refreshing their offerings. The Palms Resort of Mazatlan, for example, is in the midst of renovation and expansion with a new, 70-room tower, while Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan is undergoing a $26.5 million renovation that includes guestrooms, the lobby, restaurants, a new beachfront infinity pool, a new pool bar, and a beach terrace.
It appears those new hotel rooms will be in high demand if current growth trends continue. The number of visitors in 2018 jumped 10% from the previous year, for a total of 3 million. Of those visitors, 90% stayed in hotels, while the rest were cruise passengers. And from January through Oct. 15 of 2019, foreign air arrivals increased 4% compared to the same period the previous year.
It’s not surprising that the surge in visitors has been good news for hoteliers; from January through August of 2019, hotel occupancy rose 3% from the same period in 2018, for a current average occupancy rate of 66%. In addition, the number of meetings and conventions taking place in Mazatlan grew by 9% between January and October 2019, compared to the previous year. All of this bodes well for large hotels such as the various El Cid properties, as well as the Mazatlan International Center, the city’s largest convention facility, which has more than 61,000 square feet of exhibit and event space.
As evident from the recent arrival figures, the cruise industry is playing an increasingly greater role in Mazatlan’s success. A total of 136 cruise ships called in Mazatlan in 2019, representing a 47% jump from 2018, and 150 cruises are scheduled to stop in the city in 2020, thanks to companies including Norwegian Cruise Line and Holland America, both of which will increase capacity on Mexico’s Pacific coast routes this year.
Mazatlan Tourism Board
The Mazatlan Post