Many years ago I went to Israel at a time when governments were warning travellers not to go there. I always remember a sign on a jewelry store window…15% discount for brave tourists!
I have been thinking about this sign during the past week as I lounged about a Conchas Chinos beachside condominium and wandered the streets of Puerto Vallarta. This is my first visit to PV in twenty years; however, my wife has been coming here annually with two friends for the past ten. One of them liked the place so much she and her husband purchased a condominium above us and her daughter recently got married here.
As I write, the Canadian government is warning tourists about travel to Mexico. In addition to the gangland slayings that regularly occur, (an estimated 50,000 deaths over the last 5 years), there have been a couple of tragic and unusual incidents involving Canadian tourists.
Of course, anyone who knows the country knows that PV is about as far away from Mexican drug lord violence as Ambleside Village. However, this hasn’t stopped many tourists from cancelling travel plans, even to this part of the country. Sadly portions of the beach outside all-inclusive resorts were quite deserted when I recently visited. I’m also told that flights in and out of Puerto Vallarta are less than full, which was not the case in the past.
Puerto Vallarta is a city of contrasts. In recent years the old town has seen some major upgrading with an attractive new waterfront walkway known as the Malecon and wide new sidewalks along some streets. However, there are also many streets that are difficult to navigate due to uneven surfaces, high curbs, garbage and debris.
While there are many attractive hotels and resorts, there are also signs of abandoned resort developments visible along the main thoroughfares.
The buildings are also very mixed. There are many upscale shops, galleries and restaurants. However, they are often interspersed with decaying or partially renovated buildings, vacant storefronts, and scenes that one does not generally find in tourist brochures.
The neighbourhood where I am staying is just south of the town centre. Conchas Chinos is generally regarded as an upscale area with many expensive hillside villas and condominiums overlooking the ocean. While the condominium market has been in the doldrums over the past few years, due in large part from the disappearance of American buyers, a surprising number of new projects are underway. Prices range from under $100,000 for a new studio to well over $1million for penthouse suites. A good quality, two bedroom, two bathroom condominium apartment in a well maintained older building will be in the mid $300’s.
North of the old town is Nuevo Vallarta, in the neighbouring state of Nayarit. A master planned resort community, now being branded as Riviera Nayarit, it includes a number of large all-inclusive resorts, hotels, condominiums, timeshares, marinas and golf courses. I was surprised to learn that one of the larger new community developments, Paradise Village, has a Vancouver connection. It was started by Graziano Sovernigo, a Canadian-Italian developer from West Vancouver who according to the Paradise Village website has spent the past 22 years developing resorts in Mexico.
It's an impressive development, with a number of new projects underway. Sadly, the one thing it is missing is 'a village centre'. Instead, it has an enclosed mall with too many vacancies.
Since I had never heard of Sovernigo, I Googled him and was interested to discover his involvement with a charitable undertaking known as Families at the Dump.
For many years, visitors to the area were increasingly aware that there were families living amongst the garbage in the city dump. A partnership was formed between Sovernigo and concerned community residents which has led to the provision of support services and other community amenities for these people.
More details about this initiative can be found here: http://www.pvrpv.com/blog/families-at-the-dump-celebrates-5-years-in-puerto-vallarta/
For those of you who are wondering whether it is safe to come to Puerto Vallarta and similar resort areas in Mexico, I would say most definitely. While at first I was 'on my guard', I quickly realized this is a reasonably safe place to be. However, if, as reported in this week's PV News someone tells you there is a ketchup stain on your shirt and pants, don't let them take you into the washroom to clean you off...because what they really want to do is take your wallet and clean you out!
But of course, this could happen almost everywhere...except perhaps Ambleside Village!