26 Nov. 2014 – The people of Zihuatanejo are ready for the tourist season. Merchants and shop-keepers, restaurateurs and their staff, hotel operators and vacation rental owners, and workers in every aspect of our local businesses are anxiously awaiting the arrival of tourists for the upcoming season, especially foreigners from Canada and the United States. It’s been a long slow season for everyone here since the end of the last high season, and everyone is getting their shops and businesses spiffed up and ready for a bountiful season so that our visitors will enjoy memorable and relaxing vacations in our precious corner of paradise.
While we ask that our visitors overlook the shortcomings of our municipal government who seems to have dropped the ball on just about everything they’re responsible for, we hope everyone will notice the genuine effort on the part of the local people to go the extra mile to take good care of our new and returning visitors with the hope that they will return again and that they will tell all their friends and family members good things about Zihuatanejo and the surrounding region.
Our weather should be just about perfect every day from now until the beginning of the next rainy season in the middle of May. But if you have any doubts be sure to check the forecasts and conditions on my Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa Weather page.
And if you have any questions at all about anything regarding Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa, Troncones, Barra de Potosí or the surrounding region please be sure to ask them on my moderated and widely read Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa Message Board where you will also find hundreds of trip reports, anecdotes, recommendations, photos, videos, and useful answers to many previous questions.
The warmth of the local people combines with our tropical climate to warm the soul. A Zihuatanejo vacation is the perfect recipe for alleviating stress and warming chilled bones.
The summer vacation period in Mexico ended yesterday and today millions and millions of children returned to classes across the country. In Zihuatanejo that meant walking to school in a light drizzle for many students. It also means streets, hotels and beaches void of tourists. An unsettling occurrence for local business and lodging owners.
More and more I think it becomes apparent to lots of local businesses that opened up here in the past decade that not only is Zihuatanejo saturated with folks looking to live off tourism, but that the government’s efforts at promotion, what little they’ve done, has completely changed our tourism, especially during the summer vacation period.
It used to be that we had a decent mix of day trippers who came by bus, car and truck and more affluent tourists who occupied local luxury homes and lodgings. But between the hotels in Ixtapa changing their marketing strategy to almost exclusively all-inclusive seeking a class of tourist with less purchasing power, effectively charging rates that the predominantly non-corporate owned Zihuatanejo lodgings simply can’t compete with, and the government’s almost exclusive promotion of “social tourism” (the folks who come in tour buses for a day at most) we now find that all of us who live and have businesses here can no longer make a sustainable living from the tourists we’re getting. In spite of this new reality, FONATUR, who for years hasn’t been able to find buyers for the lands they’ve developed for sale, continues allowing megaprojects to wipe out natural areas and privatize beaches on the one hand while FIBAZI does similarly with squatters on the other, selling Zihuatanejo’s ecological zones for political expediency if not also personal profit. The squatters of course can’t find work and the megaprojects of course can’t find buyers, but with developers that isn’t the point. They build, they get paid, they move on to repeat the process. Similarly, many squatters get their stolen land and sell it for a huge profit and move on to repeat the process.
Unfortunately with the change of political fortunes underway, no one is doing anything. It’s almost like, no it’s definitely like there is NO GOVERNMENT (except of course they still want to collect taxes).
Lots of folks from other places sure want to live off the Zihuatanejo cash cow, but it seems no one wants to do the real work of getting folks to come here, no one seems to want to engage with potential tourists, to answer their questions that help them make the decision to take their vacations here. Even the airlines seem to be conspiring against us. So I plug away here and there trying to keep Zihuatanejo in people’s thoughts, answering questions and hopefully projecting the image of a place folks will want to visit for their vacation. But man, do I ever feel like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike: alone in my efforts to try to salvage Zihuatanejo’s tourism and attract newcomers with the spending power needed to help at least some of us make ends meet.
Things appear to be improving and the responsible authorities seem to be taking their jobs a bit more seriously regarding the testing of the ocean water at our beaches for bacteriological content. The Secretario del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT) announced that it is stepping up its monitoring program of our local beaches.
For the past 10 days SEMARNAT has been taking water samples in order to have a more realistic picture of the bacteriological conditions of the water at our local beaches, and they are reporting their findings in a more timely manner. They used to only take one sample a month and publish the findings a month or more later. Now findings for the same month can be found on the website for the Comisión Federal para la Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios (COFEPRIS) and findings are being released to the press even sooner.
Additionally, the Sistema Sanitario Federal has applied the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and lowered the unacceptable risk level from 500 to 200 enterococcos per 100 milliliters of water. I definitely see this as a step in the right direction. Now the question is if signs will actually be posted at any beaches that surpass this new level, because this has been a problem in the past.
Our local wastewater treatment plants are being repaired and upgraded by our municipal government and new ones are also being built in nearby communities to lower the risk of potential pollution to our area’s beaches. Hopefully before the end of 2010 all three of Zihuatanejo’s wastewater treatment plants will be operating as they should and Playa Principal will finally be considered a safe swimming beach by locals. The current test results still show this as the only beach that poses a potential health risk. Thankfully all our other beaches are looking good.
Ixtapa’s Playa El Palmar is on the verge of receiving the important distinction of becoming certified as a “Playa Limpia”. This requires strict monitoring not only of the water quality but also of other factors including even the cleanliness of the sand. This certification should help the promotion of Ixtapa by travel agents and tourism professionals. And if things go as planned then beaches such as Zihuatanejo’s Playa La Ropa should not be far behind in meeting the criteria to become certified as a “Playa Limpia”.
The proposed disappearance of the Secretaría de Turismo (SECTUR) announced by Presidente Calderón this week has drawn criticism from several locals in the tourism sector, but personally I’ve always thought SECTUR to be a waste of public resources. It’s time for us to stop allowing others to do the work we should be doing.
The paternalistic approach of SECTUR has incapacitated us locally and made us dependent on their outside help, but no outsider or bureaucrat in Mexico City is going to promote us or look after our interests better than we can ourselves right here in Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa.
Among all the millionaire businesses such as luxury hotels, tour operators, developers, restaurants, time shares, and others (including FONATUR), it’s time they pay the tab for all the milk they have been suckling from our cash cow. As the popular Mexican song goes “toma chocolate, paga lo que debes”.
Personally, I have dedicated over 12 years promoting our tourist destination by means of my own personal website as a service for the community without selling any advertising space, paying the costs from my own pocket and with my own time. Now through my website I have “primary contact” daily with over two thousand people, and over a thousand of them visit my Message Board daily finding answers to their questions. I seek no rewards or public recognition from politicians or anyone. I do what I do out of love for my community. So, if I can do this without seeking personal gain then I believe others can do so whether it be for love of money or simply to promote their own interests or perhaps for other reasons. It’s time others raised the torch and assumed their responsibilities to promote our destination as an integral entity instead of only seeking benefits for their own businesses.
Unfortunately, in the last few decades almost all the promotion by the government has been principally for Ixtapa, and its businesses have benefitted from their proximity to Zihuatanejo without having to give anything in return except perhaps to pay the meager wages of some of their employees, many of whom aren’t even locals but were brought here or have come here from other places. Zihuatanejo, the original attraction, and I would say the main attraction, has practically been forgotten by them, but the time has arrived to work together if we want to survive this economic crisis and the changes to our reality.
The State of Guerrero’s Secretaría del Fomento Turístico (SEFOTUR) has not helped us either, and the governor should immediately fire its director, Ernesto Rodríguez Escalona, and appoint someone more capable and who has love for our state. Someone who will promote all the attractions of our state instead of just receiving a juicy paycheck and looking out for his own investments in Acapulco. Someone who won’t make such stupid declarations as Mr. Rodríguez did by telling tourists not to come to Guerrero when the A/H1N1 flu broke out. In that instant the governor should have fired him.
First, we need to get our house in order, a job that does indeed correspond to the government. Then we need to work to invest in our own future instead of leaving it to outsiders and “public servants” whose interests are very distinct from ours.
So let’s get to work friends and neighbors! Let’s see how brightly Guerrero truly shines!
Since the recent outbreak of this new flu, known first in Mexico as gripe (or gripa) porcina (swine flu) before being renamed influenza A H1N1, became the focus of every news media in the world, a psychosis has begun to develop around the world that has unfortunately also affected us here in Zihuatanejo where we depend on tourism. Extreme measures were first implemented in Mexico State and in Mexico City to try to contain the virus and prevent its spread, though apparently it had already spread to other regions and countries.
In Zihuatanejo, where to date no cases have been reported, some of the rather extreme measures and the psychosis that all the media coverage has generated have had a profoundly negative impact on our local economy and our livelihoods as well as our local culture. One of the rather extreme measures was the postponement this year of the XXVI Torneo de Pez Vela, an annual sportfishing tournament for sailfish, marlin and dorado in which vehicles are awarded to the winners. The event usually takes place on the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday in May and attracts a good number of out-of-towners and foreigners as well as a high number of local participants, with usually between 150 to 200 entries each year. The new date for the tournament is tentatively set for May 29, 30 and 31, though the turnout is expected to be significantly lower.
Another rather extreme measure was the closure of our cinemas and enclosed restaurants and bars. While many of us don’t miss the drunks roaming the streets and scandalizing at all hours of the evenings, again, since there have been no cases reported locally, many of these local businesses are really taking a hit since this latest blow to our local economy comes on the heels of all the overblown reporting on narcoviolence in Mexico this year that had already cost us a significant amount of tourism. Local businesses have been hurting for months, and now this.
With all the bad news about one calamity after another, the 5.7 earthquake near San Marcos, Guerrero on April 27 almost went unnoticed and created an almost surreal apocolyptic atmosphere.
When the schools were closed nationwide last Tuesday until May 6 by federal order, almost immediately some tourists began arriving from the inland cities, including Mexico City. While the locals are somewhat concerned about the flu possibly arriving with the tourists, we are nevertheless grateful for their business. Which is why many of us believe the Secretario de Fomento Turístico del Estado de Guerrero (Sefotur), Ernesto Rodríguez Escalona, should renounce or be fired from his position for declaring publically the day before yesterday that people should not come to Guerrero. Apparently he was more concerned for his own hide than for anyone who lives and works here and depends on tourism. And it’s worth mentioning that when the discos and nightclubs in Acapulco were closed by their mayor earlier this week, two that remained open all night long anyway in an upscale area of Acapulco are owned by family members of Rodríguez Escalona. Personally I can’t think of any positive impact that person has had on Guerrero’s tourism.
Nationally and locally celebrations were cancelled for Día de los Niños yesterday, and today there was no parade for Día de los Trabajadores. Even some churches are cancelling mass or else holding them outdoors. All other local sporting events such as soccer, baseball and basketball have been cancelled. National soccer teams are playing in empty stadiums closed to the public. National baseball teams have postponed their games until further notice. Even Presidente Felipe Calderón Hinojosa gave a nationwide address urging people to stay indoors and at home until May 6.
All of these measures have created a psychosis among people in Mexico as well as in other countries. People on vacation have been seen at the beach and in the water wearing surgical facemasks. People can even be seen driving alone in their vehicles wearing facemasks. The facemask phenomenon is one of the strangest I’ve ever seen. It’s one thing to use them in crowded and confined areas, but another altogether to wear them outdoors while away from people and crowds.
Some countries have cancelled flights to Mexico and have treated arriving Mexicans rather poorly. Nevertheless, Mexicans find it strange that those same countries have not cancelled flights to the USA or to other countries where the new flu has already spread.
But the most important thing to bear in mind is that this is only a new flu and it is completely curable, especially if treated within the first 48 hours. It really should be seen for what it is instead of what it isn’t. While it is important to raise awareness to the fact that it is a new strain of flu that may not be affected by current vaccines, and that people with flu symptoms should seek medical attention immediately, it is not a “killer plague” and there is no reason people should change their travel plans or treat Mexicans as pariahs. Thanks to the national awareness campaign, folks in Mexico with flu-like symptoms are now following the recommendations by public authorities to seek immediate medical attention, wear facemasks in public, wash their hands often, and stay at home until they are well. Hopefully the psychosis created in the news media will begin to wear off and people’s lives will return to normal and everyone will be able to open their businesses once again. The slow but steady arrival of tourists in Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa this week is a positive sign for those of us who live and work here. And hopefully we will experience no new calamities this year and tourism will soon return to its normal levels.
Meanwhile, most of Zihuatanejo’s businesses are open and awaiting customers. There is virtually no waiting to be seated at restaurants. There are plenty of places on the beach to spread your towel and there are no crowds to deal with. Wandering troubadors everywhere are awaiting to serenade you. Fishing boats are ready to take you fishing. Tour guides are available for some terrific excursions. And with the possible exception of a bit of smoke in the mornings from all the fires that are common at this time of year as farmers clear fields in anticipation of the upcoming rainy season, it’s an ideal time to visit Zihuatanejo and miss all the crowds. ¡Te esperamos!
Yesterday afternoon as the schoolbells chimed the end of the school day, they also rang in the official beginning of the Christmas holiday vacation season. Christmas and Semana Santa represent our two peak seasons of the year. By yesterday evening roads quickly became crowded with vehicles full of mostly families from other states, especially from Mexico City and the central region known as El Bajío.
It is an almost instant change in the pace of life, from low gear to high without passing any gears in between. Streets and sidewalks are instantly full of people. Restaurants fill quickly, the background noise level rises and the holiday high season gets underway in Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa, Troncones, and Barra de Potosí.
Last night the we cruised in a calm Pacific Ocean along the coast from Zihuatanejo’s bay to Ixtapa’s islands and back during sunset on the Orion sportfishing cruiser, we couldn’t help but notice the lights coming on at homes, condos and hotel rooms as twilight faded. Westin Las Brisas Ixtapa, by far one of the most beautiful hotels in Mexico, looked almost completely full as did the Barceló and the Presidente hotels. And once again Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa comes to life!