Sunday, 30 April 2017

MEXICO: Mexico Visitors Increase Inspite Of Travel Warnings

A recent report released by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) revealed that Mexico has surpassed Turkey as the eighth most popular tourist destination in the world.

Mexico welcomed 35 million visitors last year, with a nine percent increase in foreign tourists arriving in the country.

Due to political unrest and security concerns, Turkey welcomed 28.3 million visitors last year.

Mexico had dropped in the UNWTO rankings to 15th in 2013 but has since climbed back to ninth due to improved security and a steadily recovering tourism industry in certain regions.

The country finished eighth for last year, with only 600,000 fewer visitors than the seventh-place United Kingdom.

Tourism revenue was also up in Mexico, climbing to $19.6 billion.

Tourism officials in Mexico believe the country will enter the top five in the UNWTO rankings soon due to the 50 percent increase in visitor numbers since 2012. Mexico’s Tourism Secretariat also said the nation is working to provide more activities and attractions to entice travelers to stay longer when visiting.

Despite remaining concerns about crime in certain areas of the country, a recent survey of travel agents saw business to the country increase, including 45 percent who reported an increase in Mexican vacation sales by more than five percent.

In terms of specific markets that have performed the best over the last year, the Riviera Maya, Cancun, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit were all considered the most desirable destinations in Mexico.

The summer vacation season is almost upon us, and Visit Mexico is looking to entice American families to enjoy the warm nature of the country.

To help convince people that spending time in Mexico is a great vacation plan, the nation’s tourism bureau points out the country was named No. 1 in the world for Family Travel. Puerto Vallarta also ranked as the No. 2 destination in the world for LGBTQ travel at the prestigious Travvy Awards.

What's more International Living named Mexico as the No. 1 retirement destination in 2017.

In addition, Mexico was ranked as the friendliest and most welcoming country in the world during a recent survey of expatriates. National Geographic went on to name Baja California as one of its top places to visit in 2017.

Travel + Leisure also had glowing things to say about Mexico, naming San Miguel de Allende as the fourth friendliest city in the world and highlighting five Mexican destinations in its Top 10 Best Cities in Latin America rankings, including Oaxaca, Mexico City, Merida, San Miguel de Allende and Guadalajara.

A recent report released by the World Tourism Organization revealed that Mexico has surpassed Turkey as the eighth most popular tourist destination in the world, welcoming 35 million visitors last year.

While much of the news surrounding Mexico has been positive, the United States Department issued a travel warning ahead of the December holidays, urging American tourists to exercise caution and be vigilant in some parts of the country due to the “activities of criminal organizations.”

Hatching a new destination brand is never easy; taking a fallen icon into a new era is even harder.

The world is strewn with vacation spots where the lights don’t shine so brightly. Flights stop landing and decay overtakes debut. Destinations have lifespans, from Honolulu to Havana, Las Vegas to the Costa Brava. Some pivot to stay relevant but many don’t; it’s part of an inevitable fall from grace to the place “no one goes anymore.”

Creating a destination identity where there was none comes with risk.

Two of Mexico’s most successful beach brands illustrate the challenges. First came Quintana Roo’s Riviera Maya, followed some years later by the Pacific’s Riviera Nayarit. Today vacation mainstays, many may not remember the fact these regions stumbled out the gate. Playa del Carmen, Xel-Há and Tulum remained day trip backwaters 20 years after Cancun’s rise in the 70’s. In the shadow of Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta sat nearly abandoned through the 1980’s and 90’s.

Today it’s hard to imagine these “Rivieras” will ever be on the has-been list of places no one goes anymore, but a destination’s destiny and decline can be two sides of the same golden coin.

That’s exactly what happened to the place that literally invented the mass market vacation: Acapulco. Like its famous cliff divers, Acapulco’s drop from stardom was spectacular. The place that invented the swim-up bar went stale and American travelers started looking to Baja and the Mexican Caribbean.

Since its 1970’s decline, pronouncements of an Acapulco “rebirth” and “comeback” have been more hype than reality. International nonstop air service nearly vanished (there is but one daily arrival). Last week, Mexico’s tourism showcase (Tianguis Turístico) rolled back into an over-the-hill Acapulco. Trade press reported how suppliers, buyers and agents decided to pass on this year’s event. By doing this, they missed experiencing what will become Mexico’s third Riviera: the newly coined Riviera Diamante.

While some development has been here for decades, the branding is new. Adopting the name Riviera Diamante was a brilliant stroke. While Diamante is really a mini Riviera compared to its bigger sisters, the name leverages Mexico’s other Riviera success and gives travel agents and travelers a fresh-faced Pacific Mexico option.

Mexico’s newest Riviera starts south of Acapulco Bay at Puerto Marques and continues for miles along a palm grove shoreline toward the Acapulco airport. Puerto Marques retains its rustic simplicity of beach palapas, roaming vendors and grilled fish-on-a-stick. But it’s also home to four luxury resorts: Quinta Real, Banyan Tree, Camino Real and El Encanto. Beyond these luxury leaders, you can now zoom at 70 miles an hour over the Pacific on Xtasea, the world’s longest (1.8 kms) overwater zip line adventure.

The Riviera Diamante continues as a beachfront corridor of hotels, condos, private residence, shopping and golf. Mexican developers Grupo Mundo Imperial, Grupo Vidanta and Grupo Posadas are the Riviera Diamante’s key players.

Mundo Imperial owns the venerable Acapulco Princess (now the Princess by Mundo Imperial) and renamed its sister Pierre Marques as simply Pierre by Mundo Imperial. Add the flagship Resort Mundo Imperial and guests can now move via shuttle across three spectacular hotels, Mexico’s most modern conference facility (Expo Mundo Imperial) and concert venue (Forum Mundo Imperial). The master plans call for retirement communities, a hospital and assisted living care. Add the Princess/Pierre golf courses (36 holes) a world-class tennis tournament venue and the bustling La Isla shopping/dining complex and airport proximity.

The other big player is Grupo Vidanta. Its four hotels under the brands Grand Mayan, Mayan Palace, Sea Garden, stretch along Costera de la Palmas and sit adjacent to its Jack Nicklaus Design golf course, an Aqua Park, Lazy River and over 16 restaurants and bars. Mexico’s hotel leader Grupo Posadas is building a Grand Fiesta Americana Diamante and luxury condo towers can’t go up fast enough.

Is there room in Mexico’s eclectic resort portfolio for yet another Riviera? Will travelers embrace a return to Mexico’s original beach vacation playground? The Riviera Diamante is a self-contained luxury complex that’s betting it can lure airlines to return, really the only missing piece for this newest Mexican Riviera.

During a conference on how digital technology is changing the face of tourism, Mexico Tourism Board CEO, Lourdes Berho unveiled the new platform for the visitmexico.com. The site received a complete overhaul that not only includes a new look but a back-end system that can identify user preferences according to how they share on social media, using Big Data to adjust the offerings to what users are looking for.

During the presentation, Jorge Ruiz, Director of Facebook Mexico, also pointed to the importance for destinations and tourism providers to be a part of the digital ecosystem.

Taking a green cue from the UN’s declaration of 2017 as the "International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development", the event organizers took a series of actions making this the very first Tianguis to be carbon neutral.

Among the initiatives was the selection of the Silver EarthCheck-certified Expo Mundo Imperial Acapulco Diamante as host for the event; offering the event program and other information online and via their app to save paper; exhorting exhibitors to choose technology over paper, adequately disposing of their trash and more.

The event also generated a new tagline for the Mexico Tourism Board’s promotional efforts, inspired by the words of UN World Tourism Organization General Secretary Taleb Rifai, a special guest of President Enrique Peña Nieto during the inaugural ceremonies.

An avid admirer of Mexico, whose comments regarding the concept of open borders during the World Trade Market in London have been heard by millions thanks to social media, Rifai referred to Mexico as “a world unto itself.” That description resonated with Lourdes Behro, who presented it as the official tagline during her closing speech. Mr. Rifai was also named Honorary Ambassador for Life of the Mundo Maya.

On the final night of the event, Acapulco authorities “passed the baton” to those representing Mazatlan, the chosen destination for the 2018 Tourism Tianguis.

Mazatlan is already preparing to become the focus of the tourism industry next year. In an interview with Edna Yadira Gutierrez, (Director of Tourism Promotion for the state of Sinaloa), Jose Alberto Ureña Trujillo (CEO of the Mazatlan International Center) and Silvestre Carvajal (Sales Director for Don Pelayo and Royal Villas) indicated large infrastructure investments are already underway.

This includes a sort of rebirth for the destination, sparked by new connectivity that includes additional flights from Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas and Minnesota, along with five new hotels (Holiday Inn, Marriott, and Sleep Inn, among others) added to the already strong offering of 6,000 four- and five-star accommodations ready to welcome attendees, exhibitors and buyers next year.

“During the year, we will also be working to ensure our service providers are prepared as well, offering workshops and training to everyone from housekeeping staff to the transportation, public, urban and tourism services and restaurants,” commented Ms. Gutierrez.

“It’s not just because Tianguis is coming,” mentioned Mr. Carvajal.

“We’ve been hard at work since our occupancy dropped a few years ago and we had to strategize. Part of the plan was the Convention Center, training sessions for providers and attracting recognizable brands to the destination. In the past, 90% of the hotels were domestic, operated by their owners. Today it’s still at 80%, and that’s a peculiarity of Mazatlan. It’s one of our greatest attractions, as it makes our guests more like family and gives us a high rate of return clients.

"It’s a very local, very accessible destination, where locals, as well as tourists, frequent the restaurants and attractions, giving our guests a unique experience where they’re not segregated into a ‘tourist zone.’”

This year’s event showed notable growth over 2016 (final numbers are still being tallied):

10,000 attendees – +6%

44,312 business meetings – +35%

1,608 Buyers – +29%

973 tourism companies – +37%

38 conferences

88 countries participating – 9 more than 2016

3 honored guest invitees: Houston, Pacific Alliance and Canada

#TianguisTuristico hashtag was Trending Topic in Mexico for 14 hours and 1.5 hours on a global level, all positive comments

Improved connectivity of five states in the Mundo Maya plus Oaxaca and Guerrero to enhance the new Maya World Tourism project