Forget what you may have heard about US travelers' hesitation to visit Mexico. According to industry execs, who gathered at a Travel Agent magazine roundtable at this year’s annual Tianguis Turistico, held May 6-9 in Cancun, Mexico is hot on the minds of the consumer.
“People are calling me about Mexico and not asking about security. They are just going,” says Hope Smith, owner of Born to Travel. “My business to Mexico City especially has increased. I can’t believe how many people are going.”
“Mexico is our largest growth market,” says Mitch Toren, chief vacation engineer, Trip Guy. “Two years ago Mexico was off the table before you could even pitch it. We see much less resistance now.”
|Travel Agent hosted a roundtable at Tianguis Turistico in Quintana Roo on May 7, with top industry leaders who discussed the evolution of Mexico’s tourism product. Shown here are (front row, left to right): Mitch Toren, chief vacation engineer, Trip Guy; Hope Smith, owner, Born to Travel; Robert Whorral, vice president of marketing & sales, Beach Bum Vacations and Mandy Chomat, vice president, sales and marketing for Karisma Hotels. Back row, left to right: David Hu, president, Classic Vacations; Tim Mullen, president, Apple Vacations; Jack E. Richards, president & CEO, Pleasant Holidays; Jeff Mullen, president & CEO, Travel Impressions and American Express Vacations and John Caldwell, president, MLT Vacations.|
Mexico in the Hot Seat
In fact, Mexico business has been so hot for these agents and suppliers, that it is stealing business from Hawaii. “Business is up double digits for us. We are seeing a shift from Hawaii to Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe,” says Jack Richards, president & CEO, Pleasant Holidays. “This is related to airfare. Mexico is a value option. Luxury all-inclusives are selling very well.”
“I think that is what is helping over the last couple of years - good hotel rates,” says David Hu, president, Classic Vacations. “When you’ve got that backdrop where there is good airlift and great hotels at good value points, that’s a great option for consumers.”
Speaking to the luxury all-inclusive market, this has been a rising trend in Mexico travel. “The all-inclusive experience is getting better and better for the client,” says Robert Whorral, vice president of marketing, Beach Bum Vacations. “It’s incredible how it’s changing. I would put a five-star EP up against a five-star all-inclusive any day.”
Not only are the hotels improving, but airlift is increasing, as well. “Delta is expanding dramatically into Mexico,” says John Caldwell, president, MLT Vacations. “We will see a 25 percent increase this year. There will be lots of new service from Los Angeles and Seattle, and there are applications for routes to Mexico from both coasts from a lot of interesting interior points.”
The infrastructure in Mexico is also improving dramatically. “The hotel product has gotten fantastic, but because there are fewer safety concerns, people are venturing outside the hotels to see what the destination has to offer,” says Hu of Classic. “The infrastructure for all tourism activities is well established. All of these things are what make the destination better. It makes the entire experience exponentially better because it becomes more authentic.”
Some of these new activities include new parks that have opened, emerging destinations like Chiapas, Oaxaca and Huatulco, and hotel companies like Grupo Habita that are gaining popularity. “There’s so much to see here. Every time I come there’s something new,” says Smith.
That goes for attractions and nightlife as well as accommodations. “It used to be, ‘Let’s find the right hotel.’ Now it’s to the point of finding the right action park, the right nightclub, the right restaurant in town," says Toren.
Mexico for Millennials
Among the groups looking to get out and explore Mexico are Millennial travelers. According to statistics gathered from MMGY Global, Millenials have the highest level of interest in visiting Mexico from the United States.
“We’re seeing a lot more group couple trips among Millennials,” says Toren. “They are looking for the culinary aspects, the zip lining, the snorkeling. These are not the type of people who want to sit on the beach and read a good book. Good food and alcohol becomes so much more important. If you’re not evolving in those areas, you are old news.”