Mexico has had no shortage of disasters lately. With two major earthquakes in the last couple of months, as well as Tropical Storm Lidia in Los Cabos, which left about 20 inches of rain in just over a day, we have become well versed at responding to and analyzing on the ground situations.
A few years ago, Los Cabos was the victim of a very powerful Category 4 hurricane that caused extensive damage to our small destination. Wide spread destruction to the local infrastructure as well as to homes and hotels left many people wondering why they were in Los Cabos to begin with. Many people left, as the thought of having to endure another traumatic affect such as a Hurricane Odile were more than some could deal with.
One thing that has always stood clear in my mind during this time is how we all come together for the common good during times of extreme crisis. There are many anecdotes to share to illustrate this point here in Mexico, and I would love to share just a few that really illustrate how warm and welcoming the Mexican Culture is.
Take the recent earthquakes in Mexico City and Oaxaca. Personally, I was not there, but I felt as though I was. As the earthquake was happening, my online messaging services and emails were consistently buzzing - friends and family reaching out to each other to make sure that everyone was safe.
The speed at which information was passed through the internet was mindboggling. Something that normally would take either hours or days in the past was accomplished in a matter of minutes with modern technology. Within the first hour, groups were coming together to gather relief supplies for those worst affected. While one group was gathering supplies, there were other groups distributing via motorcycle and bicycle throughout the city. All of this was accomplished out of the goodness in people’s hearts. It really did not matter who you were, where you came from or what you did; everyone came together to make sure people got what they needed. Stores and shops opened their doors and gave what food they had away. Families opened their doors to strangers knowing that they had no home of their own anymore. It was really amazing to see how strongly people can come together during life changing events.
This earthquake will leave a clear time stamp engrained in people minds. We will always remember where we were when it happened such as many people recall exactly where they were on 9/11 or other large-scale world events. In the weeks since these earthquakes, Mexico City is for the most part back in business. The airport was opened a couple of hours after and most museums and tourist’s attractions are also open again.
Back to Los Cabos. In addition to local people coming together in the destination following Hurricane Odile, the federal government has also been extremely supportive of not only rebuilding the destination, but also of improving the local infrastructure and investing in marketing resources. As a result, since this event in 2014, several large hotels have opened their doors to tourist from all over the world. To date in 2017, we have seen an increase in over 20% in international tourism over the same time period last year. By the end of 2018, we are expecting an additional 3800 hotel rooms to become available, with many being in the high-end luxury range and perfect for the incentive travel and meeting industry.
Most recently we were hit by a Tropical Storm in Los Cabos – this went largely unnoticed, and can be understood given the much larger Hurricane Harvey taking up the majority of press bandwidth. Most people flying into Cabo shortly after the storm did not even know that a storm had hit. After Hurricane Odile a few years ago where the destruction was thorough, we all learned some very important lessons in how to deal with the backlash of such a storm. We in Terramar have fine-tuned our hurricane response plan and have clear guidelines as to who does what, where and when. We have also created a continuity of business plan which details who takes over and who contacts who in the event that we are cut off from communications. A satellite phone was also incorporated into our plan as after Odile we were let without any reliable form of communication to the outside world. All of our clients have a full list of phone numbers of our key staff as well as how to call and send messages to our satellite phone.
While of course Los Cabos still has more opportunities for growth and improvement, this is not the same destination as 10, or even 5 years ago. As a local, it is truly exciting to see the growth and the product availability in the destination. And this investment can be seen not only on the hotel side, but also in every walk of life in the community. From new golf courses and private catamaran experiences, to a culinary scene that is now home to premier chefs from around the world experimenting with new dishes and flavors from the surrounding farmers and seas.
I strongly believe that the most important lesson learned by many of us here in Mexico during the large-scale catastrophes that we have experienced is that we have to remain calm and well informed. This is followed closely by staying connected and being able to communicate the reality on the ground to our clients. By being truthful and precise as to what the reality is we have gained respect and loyalty from our clients. While it can be very easy to simply switch on the news to educate yourself on a recent event, the perception that is given by the media is often not completely accurate. Often times, reporters will search out the most impressive and impactful images to try and depict what is happening – and while this makes for ‘exciting tv viewing’ it can often make a destination's situation seem worse than it is. This is where having a reliable and trustworthy source on the ground is invaluable for a meeting planner when making a decision on an upcoming meeting or event.
Sunny Irvine is the Managing Director of Terramar - a DMC Network Company, in Los Cabos, Mexico.