A new organization is seeking to balance the narrative in the consumer media surrounding travel safety in Mexico. YesToMexico, a U.S.-based nonprofit, is comprised of a five-member board who all have strong experience in the travel industry and, specifically, travel to Mexico. Travel Agent spoke with two of the board members, Tom Brussow, president of Sunsational Beach Vacations, and Shawn Warmstein, vice president at rbb Communications, to learn more about the group’s plans.
“Seeing the misinformation and sensationalized reporting that’s out there, it’s reached a breaking point where we say, this is not right,” says Brussow. “It’s really portraying Mexico in a very negative way that doesn’t match up with our experience.”
Brussow is a travel industry veteran of more than 30 years, who has served in executive level positions at America West Airlines and The Mark Travel Corporation. He has taken more than 150 trips to Mexico, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Costa Rica and the United States. In his time at rbb, Warmstein has served travel industry clients including Hilton, Virgin Voyages, Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina, and more. He is also a member of rbb’s crisis communications team. YesToMexico’s other three board members are Sandra Lovick, CEO, Travel Leaders – Market Square, Kate Murphy, president, Wings Travel Group and Sarah Kline, president – Time for Travel.
YesToMexico’s goal, Brussow says, is to balance out media representation of the destination for travel advisors and consumers.
“Context is important,” adds Warmstein. “When people talk about the State Department travel advisories, the reality is that they’re the same for Mexico’s tourist areas as they are for popular tourist destinations in Europe.” (Mexico’s tourist areas are rated at Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution on the State Department’s four-point travel advisory scale, a designation they share with Italy, the United Kingdom and Spain, to name a few popular European destinations.)
“The consumer has built all of these misunderstandings and myths, and part of our goal is to help debunk that – to separate fact from fiction,” says Brussow. “We’ve been collecting data to get a sense of what the real information is about Mexico.”
One of the group’s findings, courtesy of the Mexico Tourism Board: 94 percent of visitors reported that their travel experience to Mexico exceeded their expectations, while 86 percent of travelers would like to return to Mexico in the next six months.
YesToMexico’s plan, then, is to serve as a resource and source of information to address stories in the consumer media as they come up. “We’re looking to build some accountability and balance the conversation, versus just having the media reporting driving the narrative,” says Brussow.
“We’re an independent organization – we’re not affiliated with any one group – so we don’t have the same skin in the game,” says Warmstein. “So when there is an opportunity to set the record straight, we can be there to be that voice.”
For travel advisors, YesToMexico is hosting a repository of information on its website, including a number of articles that agents can reference to understand what the media portrayals look like.
“We have also planned ongoing email communication with agents, and as a part of that we also want to get feedback from them,” says Brussow. “We will be conducting surveys among agents and we will use that to develop materials that agents can use in their day to day interactions with clients.”
The aim is to develop a comprehensive toolkit that agents can use, including fact sheets, video testimonials and FAQs.
“Finally, we definitely want to engage with social media, to engage with the consumer messaging and elevate the conversation,” says Brussow. “We want to get more real, factual information out there, so consumers just aren’t relying on what they’re seeing on the 5 o’clock news.”
“The main point is that Mexico is a safe destination, and it’s our job to help deliver that message in a very fact-based way,” says Warmstein. “After years of experiencing an amazing destination, we just want to be a voice for that so that consumers can hear that messaging and understand.”