The show’s first panel discussion was an interesting overlook of North American market trends hosted by Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism, Rodolfo Elizondo. The discussion included six prominent travel industry professionals including Peter Yesawich, president of YPartnership, which monitors U.S. travel trends.
Yesawich, arguably the panel’s best speaker, emphasized the need for Mexico to offer value deals if it wants to succeed in 2008 and 2009. Yesawich says, due to the weak U.S. economy, 29 percent of all U.S. households traveling to Mexico last year have taken fewer vacations; 16 percent picked less expensive vacations; 12 percent stayed fewer nights; and seven percent changed their destination. “The American traveler in 2008 will be trading down, looking for better value,” Yesawich said. “The good news is they are not trading out, they’re still coming to Mexico.” There are two demographics that agents should target, Yesawich says—the older vacationer and the younger traveler. Citizens over the age of 65 make up more than 20 percent of the U.S., which is 72 million people, Yesawich said. In fact, another panel speaker, Sarita Skidmore, president of the consulting firm MENLO, which also tracks U.S. travel trends, said one-fourth of all travelers to Mexico last year (which totaled about 20 million) were over the age of 62. The other demographic to be considered is the “Millennials” or those born between 1977 and 1998 that make up about 75 million of the U.S. population. “This group is demanding better deals, looking for bargains,” Yesawich said. “And there is no better place for that than Mexico.”