All week we're running the highlights from our recent roundtable discussion at Tianguis, which drew top tour operators, hoteliers and the Mexico Tourism Board together to discuss trends, market dynamics and the country’s very bright future for tourism. We've already taken a look at Mexico's stellar travel growth, the rise in celebration travel and an inside look at the Los Cabos recovery. Here we take a look at the future.
The roundtable wrapped up with a look toward Mexico’s future. Rick Karnes, VP, destination and government relationships, La Macchia Enterprises, said the company is excited about new hotel developments, as well as the country’s advancements in culinary offerings. “Mexico is easy to sell,” he said. “There are a lot of new things going on. And with the destination weddings business growing, those brides are coming back very happy, so maybe they’ll be coming back for their anniversary. We feel good and I think the Mexico Tourism Board has done a great job.”
Larry Chestler, president, Sun Country Vacations, agreed that Mexico’s culinary scene continues to grow. “There are also a lot of people discovering its art and culture,” he said. “All of this makes Mexico a very attractive destination and we expect to see strong growth for a very long time.”
“Mexico is doing a great job of catering to the emerging trends and to everyone’s tastes and needs.”
—Duke Ah Moo, Pleasant Holidays
The developments of secondary and tertiary markets within Mexico are exciting to Jeff Clarke, president, Travel Impressions. “The Cancuns and the Cabos of the world are very defined and very easy to sell, but as the brands expand into more experiences within Mexico, it offers the opportunity for the client who’s been to Cancun five or six times to do something different and unique,” he said. He added that it’s the role of the tour operator to ensure it’s educating its sales people as well as the distribution channel about what those opportunities are and who they are right for.
“It also gives us the chance to recycle that consumer and to keep them in Mexico versus trying some other destination. I look at that as an opportunity but equally as a challenge,” said Clarke.
Tim Mullen, president, Apple Vacations, agreed that these emerging destinations within Mexico create opportunity and pointed out that the development of infrastructure in the country, such as water treatment, new roads, electricity, cellular and mobile enhancements, over the past 10 years has been strong. Most recently, such advancements into places like Playa Mujeres, Punta Mita, Riviera Nayarit and Litibu have allowed hoteliers to grow in new beach destinations. “That creates new demand and new airlift. For tour operators and travel agents, that’s a boom to the business,” he noted. Coupled with the rise of the all-inclusive offerings, that dynamic makes it easy for tour operators and travel agents to sell Mexico more effectively.
“It also allows us to grow our business more easily,” he added.
MLT Vacations President Jon Caldwell reiterated that Delta’s 24 percent increase in lift to Mexico wouldn’t have happened if the airline hadn’t seen demand and opportunity in the destination. But then there’s the simple fact that Mexico is an enjoyable destination, he said.
“The one thing that I’ve learned, having been on this side of the house for about three years, is that every time I come down to Mexico I have a fantastic experience, a more diverse experience,” said Caldwell.
Classic Vacations Director, Product Development, Caribbean and Mexico Federico Moreno-Nickerson said he is especially excited about the evolution of Mexico as a wine destination. “We’ve had wine culture for years and now we’re in a perfect spot because everything is working wonderfully, so now we can tell the wonderful story. We’re very excited,” he said.
Pleasant Holidays VP, Product, Partner Relations and E-commerce Duke Ah Moo concurred, pointing out that AMResorts has an entire resort in Mexico themed around wine called Secrets of the Vine. “If that doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what will. Ten years ago, no one would have ever thought that we’d have a wine-themed hotel in Mexico and it’s hugely successful. Mexico is constantly evolving and changing and that’s what makes it so great. You’re never going to have the same experience each time you come. With the continual reinvestment in the infrastructure, and the capital, and new hotels being built and new restaurants, Mexico is doing a great job of catering to the emerging trends and to everyone’s tastes and needs,” he said.
To Colette Baruth, VP of sales and marketing, AMResorts, the genuine quality of the service one gets in Mexico is the key selling point for the destination. “It really does truly come naturally,” she said. “We can have the best food in the world and we can have the most interesting historical and cultural attractions, but it’s the people who deliver that.” As the destination has grown, and more hotel rooms have come on line, the country hasn’t lost that personalization, she said.
“As I said, you can have a great meal but if the person who serves it to you isn’t smiling, it defeats the purpose of the pleasure of the food,” said Baruth.