Jalisco’s new development reinvents luxury: Travel Weekly
This is not the story of a luxury development in Mexico. Luxury developments in Mexico are a dime a dozen. This story has been told. Instead, it’s a story about the community, about bringing together a local and a tourist, and how we can work together for the good of all. What better way to approach the New Year, when connection, teamwork and hope are more important than ever.
As with many industries around the world, the pandemic has exposed loopholes in the travel industry. But none were as gaping as the crack he revealed in the country’s sustainability. But a new luxury development on the Jalisco coast is working to change the status quo, with the aim of creating a community that is equally accessible to tourists and locals.
The project is called Xala. It is the convergence of a luxury lifestyle community that would fit seamlessly into the community, providing social and cultural integration, environmental preservation and high end luxury living. The development will include residences, boutique hotels, a youth hostel, a mango plantation, beach clubs for guests and locals, a skate park, a cultural center and more, all located south of Puerto Vallarta on nearly 3,000 acres of the Pacific coast. Although the idea was born over a decade ago, it feels like it comes at exactly the right time.
Repair a broken model
Almost 9% of Mexico’s GDP comes from tourism, which had devastating consequences for the Mexican economy when foreign dollars stopped flowing due to global travel restrictions. In June 2020, job losses in Mexico exceeded one million. According to a survey conducted in August 2020 in Mexico, 49% of those surveyed lost their jobs or were made redundant due to the pandemic. While Mexico fares better than the rest of the world in tourism during the pandemic, with the arrival of 31 million tourists in 2021, generating more than 490 tourism projects and attracting more than 7 billion dollars of Tourism investment, the downsides of reliance on tourism for economic stability has become more than evident over the past two years.
âAs developers, we have seen how fundamentally the traditional development model is broken,â said Ricardo Santa Cruz, founding partner of Xala. âThis has to change. Being in Mexico, we would see either of two types of development: massive, large-scale, all-inclusive hotels that are devastating to the environment and generate all kinds of problems, or you have the top of the line. planned communities, but these traditionally build a huge wall that displaces existing communities and takes over land. “
When the local community is not incorporated, development becomes sterile. Traveling is immersing yourself in the local environment, learning from the locals and discovering a new culture. But these two development models, which tend to be the biggest generators of income in Mexico, achieve the opposite. This creates a very âus and themâ mentality, which harms both the traveler and, more importantly, the community.
“What ends up happening is anything, from the extreme case of social resentment, or closed channels of communication to [locals] fit in naturally. There is an awkwardness between tourists and foreign residents so it is difficult for them to integrate culturally. The surrounding communities do not really benefit directly, except to potentially gain jobs. But there are no collateral benefits for them, “said Santa Cruz.
A community, not a seaside resort
Xala was conceptualized under three main pillars: social integration, environmental conservation and the lifestyle proposition.
âI mean real social inclusion, not just a punchline,â Santa Cruz said. He was part of the team that developed resorts like the One & Only Mandarina, the Four Seasons in Mexico City and Mayakoba. âXala is different because we create a community, not a resort. It is a community that will offer many opportunities to visitors or residents. “
Within the community, guests and residents will be able to get involved in a variety of projects, be they environmental, social or agricultural. Xala will have five miles of coastline, two of which are naturally protected estuaries. But this part of the coast was also home to 68 families who had lived here for generations. Their voices had a say in how the project was developed.
âIt’s really important as a developer to listen to the community,â said Santa Cruz. âA lot of developers come in with big egos and think they know what’s best for poor and uneducated communities, when the fact is. [the communities] learn more about what they need and what is good for them. “
The initial plan was to build a school for the local communities, but after discussion with them, it turned out that they did not need schools. They already had schools. What they didn’t have were after-school programs. Xala therefore opted for the construction of a cultural center, a football field, a skate park and a beach club for the residents. Students will be driven by bus to the cultural center every afternoon from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. to participate in activities that illuminate their passions, including skateboarding, soccer, art, dancing, music, volunteering with local turtle sanctuaries and learning English.
âThe local community already has a whole way of life that is not dependent on tourism at all. The moment the first hotel guests arrive, the whole dynamic changes. For the local community, they have a sense of pride and pride. ownership of the project, and for the guests or residents who come in, they see who was there first and ask, “How do I fit in? What can I do to give back?”
The environmental aspect is just as detailed. This part of Mexico is not known for its rainfall. Erosion is a problem, as is the use of pesticides on crops and farmland. One of the things Xala has done is restore the quality of the land. They worked with the community, farmers and fishermen on an estuary restoration program, as well as a program to deoxygenate the land and purify it. The whole process took five years and organized the community to help bring it to fruition.
In order to bring water to the development of Xala, a waterway had to be organized that would cross the peripheral communities. Xala now provides these families with drinking water all year round, which was previously inaccessible to them. This allows farmers to start growing higher value crops and selling them year round. This allows farmers to negotiate better prices for their crops, as they are less dependent on the seasons.
Of course, there will be luxury in Xala – and in abundance. The development plans to open three boutique hotels, each with 30 rooms, as well as a long list of amenities. They are slated to open in the first quarter of 2023. The residences are also a big part of the plan, but the project was designed to be accessible to a larger group of people.
âWhen the minimum ticket price is millions of dollars, you leave out a lot of very cool and interesting people – young people from all walks of life who are people you want to hang out with; people you want to hang out with. part of the community, “Santa Cruz said.” So what we’ve done is we’ve created a residential product of one, two and three bedroom homes that start at as low as $ 450,000. ”
Of course, Xala will also have a product that can cost up to several million dollars, but no matter what your property costs you, the rights, access and amenities are the same across the board.
âIt injects vitality and diversity and keeps the community alive,â he said.
Building a better future
We still have a ways to go before we can see the true effect of a place like Xala. Some community aspects, such as the cultural center, the football field and the skatepark have already opened. The local community takes its place in this new, revitalized atmosphere before any stranger arrives. This is how Xala proceeds differently.
âCovid has really made everyone think about our responsibility and the fact that we should all give back in different ways,â said Santa Cruz. “We want to invest in this region. It has the greatest potential for sustainable and upscale tourism development in Mexico. In the long term, this will remain a region that is fully focused on sustainable development.”