Mexico Fights BackSeptember 8, 2010 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent
The Mexicana bankruptcy last month hurt airlift to the country but even that had a positive countereffect. The increased demand for Mexico among American travelers has been reflected in a handful of new, important flights to the country.
Aeromexico announced a new Monterrey-Miami service that became effective June 28, and its new Monterrey-Houston route started July 5. The airline also introduced special summer services in the high-demand routes, such as Mexico City to Miami, New York, Orlando and San Antonio; Merida to Miami; Monterrey to San Antonio; Los Angeles to Aguascalientes and Bajio; and Chicago to Durango and Guadalajara.
In November, British Airways is slated to begin operating the only direct flight between London and Cancun, for which tickets are already available. China’s Hainan Airlines also has plans to start a nonstop flight to Mexico City.
Other airlines such as US Airways and Frontier Airlines have taken up new routes—US Airways’ Charlotte-Los Cabos and Charlotte-Puerto Vallarta; and Frontier’s San Francisco-Los Cabos, San Francisco-Cancun and Los Angeles-Cancun. Meanwhile, Virgin America is set to launch new nonstop service from San Francisco to Los Cabos and Cancun, as well as Los Angeles to Cancun.
Guevara recently announced that hotels throughout Mexico have experienced substantial growth. The number of available hotel rooms has increased 4.6 percent during the first half of this year compared to the same period in 2009. According to DataTur, which provides statistical information on the hospitality industry, this growth was recorded in 56 of the 70 destinations monitored.
Among the 70 destinations analyzed by DataTur, room availability jumped from 310,391 to 323,916, registering an increase of 13,525 rooms. Across these destinations, the number of hotel rooms occupied during the first six months of this year was 11.3 percent higher than in the same period of 2009.
This increase in hotel rooms has been a nationwide phenomenon, impacting lesser known areas of the country. For example, during January-June, Morelia saw a growth of 19.3 percent room availability and a 30.2 percent increase in room occupancy compared to January-June of last year. Likewise, Huatulco saw a spurt of 9.6 percent in room availability and 15.4 percent growth in room occupancy, while Merida experienced 5.9 percent growth and 6.6 percent growth, respectively.
“Fortunately, the Mexican Tourism Promotion Board is taking steps to work closely with tour operators to support our efforts to promote Mexico due to the downturn in 2009,” says Elizabeth Moriarty, vice president, product development, MLT Vacations. “Mexico is getting positive recognition because it had to lower its prices, so agents are very aware of the tremendous values available, especially the all-inclusive packages.”
Cruise travel is also on the rise, registering a 6 percent increase in the number of American cruise passengers in the first four months of 2010 compared to 2009. The rise in Canadian cruise passengers was a robust 9 percent from the same period last year. Today, Mexico has a repetition rate of 95 percent among cruise passengers.
Last year, Mexican ports received 5 million cruise passengers. This year, the ports expect nearly 6 million. Some lines want to increase their presence in order to accommodate the spurt in demand. In 2009, cruises alone contributed $500 million, despite the economic crisis, swine flu and gang violence.
“With regard to outbreaks of violence, our customers and the general public have gained a much better understanding of where the incidents are taking place,” says Ken Pomerantz, president and chief marketing officer, MLT Vacations. “They understand that the main tourist areas are hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away and that they remain safe. The one thing we continue to do is to stress to our customers the recommendations of the U.S. Department of State, which really apply for any destination—that tourists use common-sense.”
Educating clients that attractions such as Chichen Itza are thousands of miles from high crime areas has helped improve tourism numbers
Despite the good news, there is still a lot of work that travel agents need to do, says Marianne Braly of Now Voyager Travel in Huntington Beach, CA.
“Getting rid of the misconceptions about Mexico is going to take a long time. These have been around for so long,” says Braly. “The food of Mexico is so much more than tacos and burritos. The tequila is for sipping not guzzling. There was no swine flu in Cabo San Lucas. There isn’t violence everywhere. There is a lot of fascinating history, the stories of the Aztecs are quite interesting and there are lots of ruins to visit. There is an amazing first-class bus system in Mexico and it is not just ‘riding with the chickens’ as many people think.
“When I speak to people about Mexico and tell them all this, they look at me like I’m nuts. But when I take them to Mexico and show it to them…that’s what changes their minds,” she says.