Travel Agent was recently on hand for the 13th annual Luxury Travel Expo at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino last week and found that Mexico – for better or worse – was many agents’ and suppliers’ main topic of conversation.
During our exclusive coverage of the show, Travel Agent sat in on a panel discussion of tour operators, who shared the latest trends, challenges and opportunities for 2011, 2012 and beyond. And of course Mexico was quick to pop into the discussion.
The panelists for the session, titled "Handling Challenge and Change: Tour Executives Outline Tends and Opportunities for 2012 and Beyond," included Greg Bernd, co-president of Classic Vacations; Dan Mahar, CEO of Tauck; Ian Swain, president and owner of Swain Tours and Scott Wiseman, president of Abercrombie and Kent USA. It was moderated by Stephen McGillivray, chief marketing officer for the Travel Leaders Group.
"Mexico has been a real challenge for us with all the negative press," Bernd says. "It's bounced back for the last three months, but that's really because there hasn't been any real negative press for the last three months. However, I personally feel that Mexico is back. It will still have challenges to face moving forward, but its back. I really feel like the infrastructure there and service level there are better than they've ever been before. I encourage all of you to pitch this destination to your clients."
And Bernd pointed to honeymoons and weddings as another reason agents cannot abandon the country despite all of the negative publicity.
"One destination that is hot for us is our is our Europe product, which is up 25 percent," says Bernd. "We are getting a lot more groups requests and destination weddings are at a rate like we've never sense before. When I was in Mexico, every day there was two to three weddings on the beach."
Wiseman added that the best way to gage whether a destination is safe or not is by having ground operators in place.
"When we look around the world, whether it be geopolitical or natural disaster, the question is how do we remain relevant," Wiseman says. "When there is one incident in a small part of the country, we all know that is doesn't affect the entire destination. Do you ignore that destination? Having offices on the ground is very important in dealing with these challenges. For example, in Egypt, we have over a 430-person office. We rely on them. We call them and ask if what we are seeing on CNN is the same as what they are seeing. Communication is key.”
And the communication didn’t stop there. In fact, one of the most highly attended discussions throughout the first day of the show was a presentation sponsored by the Mexico Tourism Board, titled “Create the Ultimate Vacation in Today’s Mexico.