Mexico Fights BackSeptember 8, 2010 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent
Aerial view of Puerto Vallarta
One of the key highlights as Mexico’s travel industry emerges from a difficult period has been the appointment of Gloria Guevara as the secretary of tourism. That’s because Guevara comes with the mandate of restoring confidence in travelers who turned away from the country because of all the negative press over the past year. She needs to address still lingering fears over swine flu, the ongoing drug wars near U.S. border towns and, more recently, the bankruptcy of Mexicana Airlines.
Now, more than ever, there is the need of a synergy between the government and travel agents, who have the power of bringing Mexico tourism back to the forefront. Guevara probably needs to work more closely with agents than any government official ever has.
Fortunately, with extensive tourism industry knowledge and destination promotion experience, she has outstanding credentials in working with travel agents. Prior to being named to her current post, she was vice president and general manager at Sabre Travel Network, Mexico, connecting travel buyers and sellers through the world’s largest travel marketplace.
“Some travel agents know Mexico more than others,” she says. “But I value every one of them. After 15 years with Sabre, travel agents have become very close to my heart. I have really learned to appreciate the value of the industry.”
And in her few months as secretary of tourism, this appreciation has been evident. She has been in touch with agents, in spite of the negative media coverage, educating them on how to handle the situation without losing business. She won’t take credit for the signs of resurgence setting in if you ask her, but her role has been pivotal.
“Travel agents were crucial last year and are still crucial today,” she says. “The travelers depend on their expertise and because of that, despite all of the travel warnings, we are seeing improvements.”
The results have been positive. From educating clients about the geography of Mexico to dispelling crime myths, travel agents have been a key reason why people still travel to the country.
“We think travelers are more aware of the geography of Mexico, which is resulting in increased business,” says John Hanratty, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Travel Impressions. “We have taken an active role in programs and on panels featuring background information on Mexico targeted at travel agents, and believe the agents have exercised strong influence by educating their customers and relating their own travel experiences in Mexico. And campaigns by Mexico’s tourist destinations and government have also made a difference.”
The number of international tourists reaching Mexico by air has risen 35.2 percent in June compared to the same month last year, marking an impressive first half of the year for its tourism industry.
In June, 818,278 tourists of different nationalities visited Mexico vs. 605,435 in the same month last year. Of those, 573,016 travelers arrived by air from the U.S., representing a 23.7 percent growth over June of last year. Even more impressive were the 41,184 arrivals from Canada—21,322 more than in June of 2009 and a whopping 107.4 percent increase.
“Mexico is such an incredibly rich travel destination, from its seaside resorts to the culture and charm of its colonial cities—and all this with an affordable price tag,” Hanratty says. “Group travel to Mexico is on the rise, with destination weddings and family reunions topping the list. Finally, I believe that the entire travel industry has realized the importance of transparency and accurate information to help travelers make informed decisions, no matter the destination.”