Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fun in Acapulco? Yes! ... 40 Years Ago

A trip to Acapulco in 2012 is like a trip back in time ... to perhaps 1972.

Going down the city's main avenue, the Costera, is like going back in time. The hotels date to the 1960s and 70s. The only things that give a hint of 2012 are the Starbucks and the Wal-Mart.

This was once theeeee beach destination in Mexico. John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, and other Hollywood stars flocked to Acapulco in the 1950s and 1960s, and tourists from elsewhere followed.

But these days, you sure won't find Elvis here filming a sequel to his 1963 hit film, Fun in Acapulco (notwithstanding his alleged death, of course).

This is a city whose glory days are long gone. The water in Acapulco's picturesque bay is polluted (my doctor warned me to stay out of it), and the throngs of visitors just don't exist like they once did.

This past weekend serves as a good example of the city's decline.

It's the peak season for the snowbirds (the US/Canadian retirees), and on top of that, it was a long weekend in Mexico, which should have been great for Mexican visitors.

Instead, the new Diamante zone saw hotel occupancy rates of 79%; the central Costera zone saw just 49%; and in the older part of the city, it was an abysmal 29%. More distressing for those in the tourism industry (which in this city, is pretty much everybody other than the narco drug gangs), the numbers in all zones keep dropping.  It's a bad trend for a city that has just one legal industry.

And the narcos?  They're doing a great job scaring away visitors, both national and especially international.  Believe it or not, the witnessing of (or being a victim of) violent crime, coupled with the gritty, ugly side to the city just doesn't lend itself to attracting visitors.

As it is, the city has two key markets: North American retirees (the snowbirds), and residents of Mexico City.

The snowbirds who are here have been coming here for a long time - long before the narco violence became an issue.  They're used to bargains, and familiarity.  But once this current crop of retirees are gone, I dare say there will be no new snowbirds to replace them.  They're moving on to the more attractive (and safe) places, like Puerto Vallarta.

The second group of visitors are the residents of Mexico City.  They are the real only hope for economic survival in Acapulco.  These people either have money (and condominiums in the nicer newer part of the the city) or are of lower economic means, in which case Acapulco represents the closest and most affordable beach destination.

Would I recommend visiting Acapulco?  If you have property there, or friends there, then yes.  You can still enjoy yourself in this city.

Otherwise, just get a copy of Fun in Acapulco, and enjoy the city in its glory days of the 1960s, the way Elvis did.

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