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Tourist numbers still strong, despite travel warning from U.S. government

Despite the travel warning issued by the U.S. State Department in August of last year, which listed Los Cabos as a destination to avoid, tourism numbers continued to rise through the end of 2017. In October, two months after the travel warning, visitor arrivals were up 8.8%. Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board, tells us extra safety measures are being taken in order to ensure that growth continues.

rodesponda.JPGQ: What's your forecast for total visitor growth for 2017?

A: From January to October, we have had 17% more tourists to the destination, and we predict that that's going to be the trend to finish the year: We're going to close 2017 with an increase of 17%, around that number.

Southwest added 350,000 more seats into Los Cabos this year. That's an incredible number. Other airlines have also had increases. For example, United and American have been increasing their lift, Delta has been adding some flights and Air Canada capacity has grown 120% this year.

What we are aiming for is to have 70% occupancy at an average of $300 USD; that's the average daily rate in Los Cabos. Even though this year we have probably 2,000 more rooms than a year ago, we are keeping the 70% goal. We don't want to be a destination with a 95% occupancy rate at $100 per person. 

Q: What happened following the State Department warning?

A: We had an advisory board meeting with our top 15 partners, and we were very clear, and we have been very clear since the beginning: Safety and security has always been a priority for Los Cabos. It's not just because of the travel warning, but it's always been a destination that is very united, and we care about the experience.

We have a committee that is focused and dedicated to safety and security, and that committee meets twice a month to review various elements and various practices. We have always had that focus on safety, but we've made it even more of a priority given the challenges we are facing.

Q: How are you delivering on that safety reassurance without disrupting the tourists?

A: For example, at the Navy base there's going to be an intelligence-monitoring center. (The Navy is now in charge of all security in Southern Baja, over the city state and federal police). They have thousands of cameras trained on the city. They will be monitoring and collecting intelligence on what is actually happening in real time. That is better than having 2,000 Navy personnel on the streets, because we don't want to interfere with the experience of the guest, but we want to make sure that everything is fine. Accomplishing that with intelligence and communication is much better than heavy patrolling.

Q: Given some of the setbacks for the nation as a whole this year - natural disasters, drug violence, the reports of tainted liquor and assaults on guests in Cancun- are you in touch with other destinations within Mexico?

A: We speak a lot with my colleagues in other destinations. We share experiences, we share practices and we share strategies. In our case, because of the level of service and the level of attention, and given that the properties are small, we're not dealing with any issues related to tainted alcohol in Los Cabos.

Also, one element we have as an advantage is that all the supplies are very concentrated: We are almost an island, so everything has to come through air, through boat, or down one highway, so it's very easy to control the quality of the products that are coming into the destination.

Q: What have been some takeaways from those discussions with other destinations?

A: I think a big lesson has been the speed of communication, (through social media and the internet). We need to be very fast, communicating accurately and providing the truth with transparency. We need to be fast, clear and direct (with our response to problems).