Los Cabos, Mexico Hits Record Tourism Numbers—Here’s Why


Los Cabos is located at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, in the state of Baja California Sur. It’s where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean. The region has long since been a favorite destination place for American travelers, so it’s not surprising that the destination has quickly recovered post covid pandemic. We talked to Rodrigo Esponda, Managing Director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board, about travel trends and the changing demographic of the Los Cabos traveler.

Record Number of Travelers

Are travelers returning to Los Cabos post-pandemic? How are visitor numbers?

Los Cabos is doing great and is experiencing a historic growth in demand and arrivals of international travelers.

Los Cabos not only recovered 100% of all of its travel active in 2021, but is on track to achieve a remarkable growth. Year-to-date, the U.S. market has presented a record growth of almost 15% in arrivals when compared to 2019. With over 2.8 million visitors in 2021 and record growth of 47.3% in visitation from the U.S. during the first six months of 2022 compared to the same time in 2021, Los Cabos has established itself as a preferred travel destination for U.S. travelers.

The destination’s fast recovery can be attributed to two important factors. One is people’s desire to travel and to experience new activities in a safe and secure environment. To that end, Los Cabos has been the choice to loyal and repeat visitors that were familiar with the destination and trusted Los Cabos due to the destination’s quick response to the pandemic. Additionally, Los Cabos has been a preferred destination for new travelers looking for destinations in close proximity to the U.S. with personalized experiences that would guarantee a level of confidence during the current travel turmoil. Los Cabos’ close proximity to the US and air connectivity via commercial or private aviation has allowed travelers of all types to visit the destination with confidence.

The second factor can be attributed to Los Cabos’ response protocols to crisis. COVID-19 brought challenges to the travel industry but it was also an opportunity for the destination to strengthen its safety and security protocols, that were established even before the pandemic to ensure business continuity during challenging times. During COVID, Los Cabos focused all of its private and public efforts on improving its product offering with a safety-first approach that allowed the destination to continue welcoming travelers in a secure environment.

Luxury Travel in Los Cabos

Talk about the demographic of your visitors. Who is traveling to Los Cabos?

The pandemic has propelled the arrival of affluent travelers looking for unique and tailored experiences in our safety-first centered destination. There are abundant luxury-focused options for in the destination for these travelers. For example, in May 2022, Virtuoso Hotels & Resorts announced the acceptance of Nobu Hotel Los Cabos into its signature list of luxury hotels, positioning Los Cabos as the only destination in Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean with 13 Virtuoso properties and the one with most luxury rooms per square feet in Mexico.

Many of our luxury travelers start their luxury experience even prior to arrival – Los Cabos has become Mexico’s busiest travel spot for private aviation and the destination of choice for international travelers traveling via private flights. Notably, Los Cabos recorded a nearly 80% growth in arrivals of international travelers via private aviation in 2021 when compared to 2019, representing a 26% of all air travel activity.

From luxury travelers looking for personalized services to conscious visitors looking for authentic wellness and sustainable experiences that allow them to disconnect and recharge, Los Cabos have continued to see a high demand from U.S travelers that are willing to stay for longer periods of time and spend more on experiences.

Last Minute Bookings, but Longer Stays

What travel trends are you seeing in Los Cabos?

Overall, travelers are staying longer and demanding more personalized services that range from private accommodations, exclusive transportation via private aviation to authentic experiences with a high level of customer service.

One trend we’ve seen in the destination is that tourists are booking trips closer to the date of departure, but are staying for longer. For example, in May 2022, 29.1% of flight ticket purchases to Los Cabos were made two months in advance, an increase from 23.8% in May 2019. On average, bookings were made 52 days before the travel date, which is 20 fewer days compared to the average in May 2019. In July 2022, the average stay was 6.5 days.

Travel Post Covid

How has covid affected things?

COVID-19 has accelerated a trend for sustainability in general and in the travel industry, and I think it’s going to be one of the most favored things that we see develop further.

After COVID-19, everyone is focused on making sure that tourism activity is sustainable not only in the short term but also the long term. This is no longer the traditional understanding of sustainability with “environment” as the main focus, but sustainability at a deeper level – it’s a cohesive look at the total well-being of the destination, including the environment, community, and the travelers with a look how sustainable you are living in a community that interacts with tourism.

Travelers now look for a more meaningful connection between the community and the environment, so I think that over the next few years, everyone is going to implement more measures to make sure that sustainability and balance is achieved.

New Hotel Openings in Los Cabos

Are there any new hotel or restaurant openings?

We have excited about hotel growth with 540 new rooms to be added from 2022 to 2024. This includes the St. Regis Los Cabos at Quivira, Four Seasons Resort and Residences Cabo San Lucas at Cabo del Sol in 2023, Park Hyatt in 2023, Vidanta East Cape in 2023, Amanvari in 2024 and Soho House & Beach Club in 2024.

We have a gastronomic area named 23400 District in downtown San José del Cabo. This is a traditional Mexican town with plazas, churches and markets. Almost every restaurant is within walking distance. This past year, the destination developed “Tasty Tuesdays” where they offer special menus and feature the chefs and local recipes, local ingredients. We want to create a synergy in the area, around the restaurants, around the art galleries and around a community, that offers a unique experience as visitors explore the area.

We are also developing a few projects around the community in the more rural areas. There are some historic destinations at a very close distance to Los Cabos that you can visit and learn more about traditional missionaries in the Baja California Sur Peninsula.


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Americans are Flocking to Mexico. Should They Be?


“During Covid, bookings never slowed down,” she said, noting that some resorts are planning to begin charging for the tests later this month, with rates running from $50 to $150.

In Los Cabos, Mr. Chung paid $40 for his Covid test.

Lynda Hower, a travel adviser based in Pittsburgh, was vacationing in the Cancún area with her family earlier this month. She said the airport customs lines were crowded with several flights landing at the same time, resulting in little social distancing. To reach the resort, she opted for a private transfer. A few days before returning home, the family was tested for free at the resort and able to receive their negative results via text at the pool.

“It was very professional,” she said, noting she got the results in 20 minutes.

The state of Jalisco, home to Puerto Vallarta, is green on the stoplight system, and it’s not hard to spot a tourist in town, especially as travel has picked up this year.

“The majority are still masked down here and if someone is not masked, you can assume they are probably a tourist,” said Robert Nelson, a California native who lives in Puerto Vallarta and runs the subscription website Expats in Mexico. “We are working hard to get more people vaccinated, but we need a little help from the folks visiting to abide by the local regulations.”

But even compliant travelers will find the experience changed, because of fewer visitors or safety protocols.

“Don’t expect bars to allow you to stay until 4 or 5 in the morning doing shots,” Mr. Nelson added.

In San Miguel de Allende, the popular colonial town in Guanajuato in central Mexico, public statues are dressed in masks and anyone entering the central plaza must pass through an arch that mists sanitizer. Local police admonish visitors to wear or pull up their masks and have been known to take scofflaws to jail for flouting the rules.

Ann Kuffner, an American retiree who has been living in San Miguel de Allende for the past three years, is telling friends who want to visit to wait until fall when vaccination rates will be higher and the events for which San Miguel is known, such as Day of the Dead festivities, may safely return.


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Rental car shortage means sticker shock for New Mexico travelers | Local News


Off-the-charts sticker shock is in play as travelers who need a rental car try to make a booking.

Travel is surging exponentially, but the rental car supply is still stuck in neutral after companies sold nearly half their fleets during the pandemic.

Santa Fe native Megan Eaves found that out when she wanted to book a car for her usual visit back home from London, where she has lived for 10 years as a travel writer and communication consultant.

“The prices are astronomical,” Eaves wrote in an email. “$150-200/day. I saw one pretty normal SUV advertised for around $6,000 for my three-week visit. I guess I could probably buy a used car for that amount!”

Eaves recalled rental car rates in prior years at about $40 to $60 per day.

An online review of rental car rates for July 9-12 showed the lowest prices in Santa Fe at about $100 a day and climbing to $150 and $200. Rental car companies at the Albuquerque International Sunport typically listed low prices in the range of $60 to $70 per day, but most daily rentals were $120 to $178.

Jonathan Weinberg, founder and CEO of AutoSlash, a Garden City, N.Y.-based website that helps consumers save money on auto rentals, said Albuquerque rental prices are generally lower than the national average. “I haven’t seen many sell-out situations in Albuquerque,” he said.

Charles and Vicky Huettner traveled the nostalgic way from Chicago to Santa Fe — via Amtrak.

They rented a car from Avis.

“They gave us a good deal,” Vicky Huettner said as the couple waited at the Avis/Budget site for a shuttle to the Lamy station to catch their train ride home.

“We are senior citizens,” she added. “It was less than $400 for seven days. That was reasonable. The first company we called was Enterprise. They didn’t have any cars.”

The car rental market got nailed at the front end of the pandemic and now at the back end. The semiconductor shortage has stifled the new car market that rental car companies rely on to replenish their fleets.

“Back last year when COVID first hit, car rentals dropped 90 percent,” Weinberg said. “They really needed to sell off as many cars as they could as fast as they could. Three-quarter of a million cars were sold to the used car market. I think up to half of their fleets were sold.”

This came amid the collapse of air travel in the opening days of the pandemic. There was no sense of when the pandemic would let up or how long it would take for tourism to resume.

In 2019, typically 2.4 million to 2.7 million people passed through U.S. airport Transportation Security Administration checkpoints each day. That number dropped to 593,000 by March 19, 2020, and 90,000 by April 11, 2020, according to TSA statistics.

As recently as Feb. 2, 2021, only 493,000 people passed through airport checkpoints, but the number was more than 1 million ever day after March 11 and returned to 2 million June 11.

“Fast-forward to 2021, we first noticed a [rental car] shortage on Presidents Day weekend,” Weinberg said. “People started feeling comfortable traveling. Eighteen to 20 airports in Florida were completely sold out of rental cars. We never saw that before. We thought it was a one-time thing. We started seeing it week after week and in other popular places.”

Rental car companies had never had a problem buying vehicles before this year, he said, calling the situation a “perfect storm of factors”: Demand for rental cars returned more quickly than companies could buy cars.

Weinberg said low rental car rates across the country in 2019 were about $30 to $35 per day, with some places offering rates as low as $19 or even $15.

“We doubled or tripled prices, basically,” he said.

Rental car companies in Santa Fe referred questions to corporate offices, which did not specifically comment on local car supplies.

“We anticipate strong demand for car rental throughout the summer and encourage customers to book as early as possible and at the same time they’re making other travel arrangements,” Hertz said in a statement. “Another tip is to consider booking at a neighborhood car rental location which may have more availability when airport volumes are high.”

Enterprise Holdings said in its statement: “In addition to increased overall demand, other trends we are seeing are increases in the length of rentals and demand for specialty vehicles such as vans, pick-up trucks, convertibles, and large SUVs. If you’re planning travel, we encourage you to reserve a vehicle as early as possible. Providing flexible travel dates and branch pick up locations in your search may also help increase your options.”

Eaves, 39, was able to solve her transportation matters without relying on a rental car during her visit to Santa Fe from London.

“I’m keeping an eye on the prices, but a very generous friend has offered me use of their extra car, so I will probably take her up on that,” Eaves said.

“I really want to travel around and enjoy the beauty of the state if I can — camping, hiking, hot springs and wide landscapes,” she added. “I will probably rely otherwise on family, friends and, of course, the Rail Runner. I love that train.”


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