Top Three Award-Winning Mexico Boutique Hotels Invite You to Share the Joy

Readers and editors from around the world have picked these three MBH members as their favorite chic retreats. We’re all celebrating by giving you a little something extra when you book your next stay…

CASA DE MITA – Punta Mita (Gateway: Puerto Vallarta)
The word is officially out: this little-known gourmet all-inclusive retreat is now gracing the cover of San Francisco Magazine, so we recommend making your reservation sooner than later!

Book 5 nights through MBH and enjoy:

Complimentary VIP roundtrip airport transfers
His-and-hers 30-minute relaxing massages
Room nights from $485 USD++ per night per couple.
Valid through June 30, 2009. Must be booked before November 30, 2008.

CASA NATALIA – San José del Cabo (Gateway: Los Cabos)

Recently voted 2008 Top Mexico Hotel by the Condé Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards, we can state without a doubt that Casa Natalia is Cabo’s best combination of great dining and fantastic accommodations.
Treat yourself by booking the MBH Epicurean Escape package:
Three nights in deluxe accommodations,
Full daily breakfast served in the privacy of your terrace,
Three 5-course tasting dinners with wine pairings for two at Mi Cocina restaurant,
A keepsake culinary gift,
Daily transportation to your choice of two fabulously exclusive beach clubs.
$855 USD per package per couple Rate does not include 13% tax and 15% service charge.
Additional nights at $250 USD++
Valid to December 18, 2008

LAS ALAMANDAS – Costalegre (Gateway: Puerto Vallarta)

Las Alamandas was named the Top Hideaway from Mexico and was included among the Top 20 International Hideaways by the 2008 Andrew Harper’s readers’ survey. We say it’s the perfect time to book your stay for an amazing holiday getaway!

Special menus are prepared during the entire holiday season, using fresh ingredients from their organic gardens, plus an additional complimentary cocktail hour with savory canapés every evening (served on the rooftop bar or below the oceanfront palapa). The Kid’s Club organizes a variety of daily activities and there’s live music and delectable dining for everyone on the nights of December 24thand 31st–plus a breathtaking fireworks show on New Years Eve.

Christmas: December 20 – 27 (7-night minimum)
New Year: December 27 – January 3 (7-night minimum)
Starts at $943 USD++ per night for two (including meal plan)

What Is Sustainable Tourism?

Courtesy of the Mexico Tourism Board

When most of us hear about sustainable tourism, ecotourism is usually the first thought that comes to mind. So what exactly is sustainable tourism and what is ecotourism? Are they the same? Do they refer to consumers (a market) or to hotels and destinations (products)?

Hector Ceballos-Lacurrain, a Mexican architect, coined the word ecotourism and its preliminary definition in 1983, to be later adjusted and officially adopted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Since then, several ecotourism sites have been developed around the world. According to The International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people (1990).”

For example, in Mexico you can enjoy “ecotourism” by participating in activities that range from white water kayaking in Veracruz, to bird watching tours through the Sian K’aan Biosphere Reserve, or hiking through the Sonora desert. But, you can also participate in ecotourism when traveling abroad, by reusing hotel towels, and not requesting new linen sheets every day. In short, ecotourism can refer to both, a tourism product and a market.

However ecotourism is only one form of sustainable tourism, there are many more facets that define this very broad spectrum.

So how did all of this get started?

Environmental issues became the main focus on government agendas after the Rio de Janeiro Summit in the early 90’s, after that several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in protected natural areas such as the Mayan Biosphere Reserve or the Mesoamerican Reef Corridor, identified tourism as a way to obtain revenue to protect these natural areas, while at the same time give an added income to communities. Particularly, communities living inside or around the natural areas whose living depended on extractive activities such as logging, or burn and slash agriculture. These NGOs began developing eco-lodges and eco-tours targeting consumers interested in “nature based experiences” also known as ecotourists. The results were mixed, with both successful and failed experiences. Even though the hotels and destinations were situated around natural protected areas, there was no critical mass in the consumer to make these projects financially sustainable.

It was in early 2000 during the Johannesburg Summit that the governments moved from the environmental only approach, to a more integral concept of sustainability. In Johannesburg the emphasis was human development, in particular, poor people and how they relate to the environment and the economy. This, along with the Millennium Development Goals set clear targets for 2015. Many in the travel and tourism industry, including the UNWTO, launched actions to tackle the three main columns of sustainability: the environment, social issues, and the financial aspects of any activity. Many new projects emerged and consolidated; in Mexico for example, the National Institute of Archaeology and History (INAH) was giving concessions for the first time ever, to local Mayan communities to manage and receive a portion of the fees tourists paid to access the archaeological sites. One example is Chac Choben in the south of Quintana Roo. New hotel concepts emerged such as Hotelito Desconocido in Jalisco and Haciendas de Mexico in the Yucatan Peninsula.

But it wasn’t until Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth, that mainstream consumers, governments and companies around the world realized that the environment and poverty were not to be left to NGOs and governments only, but that society itself plays a vital role. He also explained that a lot of the responsibility was in our hands to make changes in the way we consume and do business. So now, sustainability issues are becoming a must in order to appeal and satisfy the eco-conscious and consumers who are aware of the problems. In some cases it has become mandatory as far as international legislation goes.

In all, sustainable tourism refers to the practices of destinations, companies and governments to ensure that minimal negative impacts are created. There are no sustainable tourism markets per se, however, there are well known segments and niches that are more sensitive towards “sustainable practices” and they make their choices based on that criteria. These segments include SAVE (scientific, academic, volunteer and educational travel), geotourists, ecotourists and birdwatchers for example.

On October 6th, 2008, the United Nations Foundation Founder and Chairman Ted Turner joined the Rainforest Alliance, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to announce the first-ever globally relevant sustainable tourism criteria at the IUCN World Conservation Congress. The new criteria – based on thousands of best practices culled from the existing standards currently in use around the world – were developed to offer a common framework to guide the emerging practice of sustainable tourism and to help businesses, consumers, governments, non-governmental organizations and education institutions to ensure that tourism helps, rather than harms, local communities and the environment.

Consumers are becoming savvier about their travel choices and are realizing how their lifestyles impact the places they visit in a positive or negative way. That is why in the fall of 2005, Expedia and the UN Foundation have come together to create the World Heritage Alliance with the agreement of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The Mexico Tourism Board was the first country to join the Alliance. The World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism is a membership based initiative that works to support World Heritage conservation, sustainable tourism, and local economic development for communities in and around UNESCO World Heritage sites.

So how are all of these commitments making a difference in the environment, community and consumer satisfaction?

The type of experiences consumers will find when visiting these member destinations and hotels include:

  • Guided tours that highlight World Heritage sites given my local communities who now feel more pride in their heritage, protect it and earn a living while doing so

  • Specialized programs where you can rest assured that your dollars are going directly to support local cultural heritage

  • Educational experiences right at your hotel room to help you better understand how your dollars and actions are leaving zero negative footprints behind while empowering local communities

  • Forget about Moctezuma’s revenge and venture into unique Mayan local cuisine in communities that have been trained by five star hotels in food and beverage management

  • High quality handicraft products made by the local community available at your hotel, fair trade prices and authenticity worry free

  • Pamper yourself at spas and restaurants that offer 100% natural, locally produced, and fair trade products.

  • Volunteerism opportunities to dedicate some of your time to local causes

Not finding what you want? Visit www.worldheritagealliance.org for more details and progress as new members join on an ongoing basis.

Curious about what else is happening in sustainable tourism in Mexico? Go to www.visitmexico.com and the Mexican Ministry of Tourism website www.sectur.gob.mx.

Day of the Dead in Oaxaca

by Ron Mader

Good news, everyone! My next big talk is being conducted for the Viva Travel Guides Boot Camp in Oaxaca, Mexico. I am giving a travel writing pep talk and looking forward to the exchange of ideas. Viva Travel Guides is one of the coolest Web2 sites that has figured out how to take the input from its contributors and create some of the most timely and insightful publications. Their Ecuador book is one of my faves and it will be interesting to see how they expand in their coverage of Mexico.

Typically I prefer the ‘on your own’ approach to travel writing to organized press trips. Most press trips are arranged in a hurry and for the herd mentality — covering far too much in a limited time. Add to this the factor that the organizers are often not well informed about the place in question and you have the recipe of misspent money and time. Now if we only had bootcamps for tourism officials and PR agencies!

Skyping with Viva Travel’s Paula Newton today, I told her she was visiting a magical place at a magical time. For anyone who can visit Oaxaca during Day of the Dead, it is a rich experience. Personally I am looking forward to touring Zaachila on Thursday’s Dia de Plaza to see the stacks of special breads made for the altars. On Saturday there is the inauguration of an altar at Alcala #902-Bis by local artist Spider. Throughout the week there are events and tours hosted by the Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast Association. Complete details are on the Oaxaca Wikispace.

Day of the Dead Altar, Oaxaca

Peso’s Decline, Traveler’s Gain

David Simmonds

I wake up every day now hoping to find some good news for my wallet. Where I live in SoCal housing values have tanked, including mine. Everyone I know is worth about half as much as they were two years ago. Well, maybe worth isn’t the best word to use…they are still fine, worthy people…for the most part. But they are now resolved to working about a decade longer than they had planned and Saturday nights are being spent watching Mad Men reruns and SNL instead of dining out and drinking expensive Scotch.

Oh well, did we really think we would get out of here without some tough times after hearing tragic tales of the Great Depression and WWII from our parents? All in all, we Boomers have had it pretty easy, now lets see what we’re made of now that 30 years of failed “trickle down” economics have left us trickled on and a little p.o.’ed  and confused.

So since I wasn’t paying attention I hadn’t noticed that my Mexico travels will be a little cheaper for a while. The peso has been roughly about 10 to the US dollar for a long time, floating between 9 and 11as the globalized market (whatever that is) dictates. But now suddenly the rate is 13.27 to the dollar, making a peso worth about 7.5 cents US and a 100 peso note is $7.50 instead of $10.00. Now this won’t affect most high-end tourist hotels that price in dollars, but the way I travel I should notice a real savings. A six-pack priced in pesos will be cheaper as will my meals at street tacos stands and family-run restaurants where the locals eat.  The domestic airlines that fly from city to city within Mexico will be even better deals than they were. Ditto for my rental car, bus and cab fares, bribe jewelry for my wife for leaving home, t-shirts for my kids (uh…gee thanks, Dad) and a new guayabera shirt for me…all about 25% less than the last time I traveled south.

I leave for Oaxaca in a couple of days on a press trip for Day of the Dead. I’ll let you know how my theory holds up.

Daylight Savings Time In Mexico

David Simmonds

Mexico returns to Standard Time tomorrow, 2:00 am Sunday October 26, when they set their clocks back one hour. The United States will do the same a week later. So the next week might be a little tricky for flight schedules, appointments, and siesta time.

Maybe next year the two countries can get together and agree upon a day when both would clock-adjust in concert. This isn’t a plea to renegotiate NAFTA or develop a sane immigration policy…just a simple meeting of the minds on what time of the day it is. I’m firing off a letter to Barack right now.

Auberge Resorts Unveils New Private Residences at Esperanza

The First Whole-Ownership Offering at the Award-Winning Los Cabos Resort

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico — Auberge Resorts, operator of the award-winning Esperanza Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, (http://www.esperanzaresort.com/) unveiled today its first whole-ownership opportunity at the exclusive Punta Ballena community. Limited to 36 whole-ownership ocean-view homes, The Private Residences at Esperanza feature fully furnished three and four-bedroom homes starting at $2 million.

Located in the exclusive Punta Ballena community, the private residences provide homeowners with the best of both worlds: nearby access to the attractions of Cabo San Lucas and a tranquil sanctuary offering Esperanza’s signature service and amenities, which continue to earn top accolades from Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Robb Report, Andrew Harpers Hideaway Report and others. Homeowner amenities include a private Owner’s Club exclusively for The Private Residences at Esperanza, lushly landscaped with terraced seating, several pools and poolside service from Esperanza, private golf cart per home and a membership to the Punta Ballena Beach Club, with private cabanas, beach access, restaurant and ocean side pool.

The new residences offer between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor living space with pocket doors that open to private terraces; spacious bathrooms with showers built for two and gourmet kitchens. Well-known residential interior design firm, J Banks Design Group, interprets Esperanza’s signature style of barefoot sophistication through a contemporary interpretation of traditional Mexican design using stone and polished plaster work, handcrafted furnishings and local art to complement the relaxed beachside community.

Exclusive homeowner benefits include:
— Private Owner’s Club with poolside service, private wine storage and
fitness and movement studio
— Membership to the Punta Ballena Beach Club with private beach access,
restaurant and bar
— Priority reservations at Esperanza’s number-one-ranked spa and
restaurants, including the dramatic waterfront El Restaurante
— VIP status at Auberge Resorts’ other award-winning properties: Auberge
du Soleil, Napa Valley; Calistoga Ranch, Napa Valley; The Inn at
Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, S.C.; Encantado, Santa Fe, N.M. and Rancho
Valencia, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
— Participation in Esperanza rental management program
— Complete management services handled by Auberge Resorts

Recently ranked number two among the top 20 international resorts in Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report’s 2008 “Readers’ Choice” awards, Esperanza is sister to the famed Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley, Calif. and Auberge Resorts’ first international property.

The Private Residences at Esperanza are completed and available for purchase. For more information call 1-888-463-2816 or visit http://www.esperanzaresidences.com/.

ABOUT ESPERANZA RESORT

Esperanza encompasses a 57-room resort, 60 Residence Club villas, a full-service spa and a signature restaurant, all on 17 lushly landscaped acres on the bluffs overlooking two private coves at Punta Ballena near Cabo San Lucas. Esperanza is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World(R). For reservations or more information, please call toll-free 866-311-2226 or visit http://www.esperanzaresort.com/.

ABOUT AUBERGE RESORTS

Auberge Resorts is a collection of exceptional hotels, resorts and private clubs, each with a unique personality that assures a memorable guest experience. Among the distinctive properties are Auberge du Soleil, Napa Valley; Esperanza, Cabo San Lucas; Calistoga Ranch, Napa Valley; The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, S.C.; Encantado, Santa Fe, N.M. and Rancho Valencia, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., with several others in development. While Auberge Resorts nurtures the individuality of each establishment, all are characterized by a set of communal elements: intimate, understated elegance; captivating locations that inspire exceptional cuisine and spa experiences; and gracious yet unobtrusive service. For more information about Auberge Resorts, please visit http://www.aubergeresorts.com/.

President Calderon Has Economic Plans For Countryside

Mexico City/October 23, 2008

President Felipe Calderón reported that given the international economic crisis and in order to promote competitiveness in the Mexican agricultural sector, Federal Government proposed to invest nearly $9 billion extra pesos in agricultural, as part of the Program to Promote Economic Growth and Employment.
During a working tour of the state of Chiapas, the President explained that this figure that will primarily be assigned to agricultural infrastructure and productive assets is in addition to the $214 billion pesos originally assigned to the countryside in the Federation’s 2009 Expenditure Budget.

“An extra $8.75 million pesos for the countryside which, I am sure, will not only prevent a negative impact on the Mexican countryside but lead to record production figures of maize, wheat, sugar cane and many other agricultural products in the Mexican countryside,” he added.
Addressed a gathering of 15,000 persons in the Municipality of Ocozocoautla de Espinosa, President Calderón Hinojosa handed out resources of over $50 million pesos to Chiapas women and peasants, with the aim of supporting 200 productive projects.

These are federal sources delivered through the Agrarian Reform Secretariat for the Women in the Agrarian Sector Program (PROMUSAG) and for the Fund to Support Productive Projects in Agrarian Nuclei (FAPPA) which promote agricultural, forestry, fishing, livestock, poultry and craft activities.
Accompanied by state governor Juan José Sabines Guerrero, the President explained that during this administration, these two programs have supported 8,400 different productive projects, benefitting nearly 85,0000 families in the country’s rural zones while in the state of Chiapas along, they have supported over 700 projects for the benefit of 8,300 families.
“You and I known that work is the only solution; productive work is the best way of getting ahead, and of enabling your families and communities to progress, as well as the country,” he explained.