Column: Lessons Learned in Mexico

lessons Learned in Mexico

In May, we assembled the top executives of the leading tour operator companies to Mexico at Tianguis Turistico and put them in a room with three heavy-hitting travel consultants who deliver a healthy amount of business to the country. We heard that travel in general is up, and that’s following an up year in 2013, and that consumers are spending more on their vacations. Because the bulk of sales from these tour operators (and in some case, all of their bookings) comes from travel agents, that means your business must be up as well.

RELATED: Mexico Roundtable: Key Hotel and Investment Insights

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Here are the other takeaways I garnered from our exclusive meeting of the minds:

Many clients have learned to reserve space much further out, into 2015 and 2016, rather than booking close in. If your customers still aren’t doing that, warn them that they won’t get optimal space options if they are trying to get away for a specific date for a special occasion.

Luxury all-inclusives have earned the respect of the travel agent market. In Mexico, the food and service at these resorts are comparable to what’s being offered at EP resorts, says Robert Whorrall of Beach Bum Vacation.

But do your homework: All-inclusives in Mexico are now being designed to appeal to very specific age groups and mindsets. Millennials, families and those seeking adult-only environments cannot be placed in properties that are not catering to them.

Seek out Millennial couples: They like to travel with other Millennial couples and they insist on good food and premium liquors. They want to dine off-property, even if they’re at an all-inclusive, and they want to go to nightclubs and take part in daytime activities, such as scuba, snorkeling and trips to nearby towns.

Consult with your Millennials before they travel: Even if you assume they want to lie on the beach for five days and read, when they see their fellow resortists coming back from exciting excursions, they’ll wonder why you didn’t talk to them first about their needs. If they won’t take the time to talk to you in person, have them fill out a questionnaire online.

Consider Mexico’s unique areas: Hope Smith of Born to Travel says she gets requests all the time for Tulum’s unique hotels and for Mexico City’s culinary offerings. She’s great at finding quality properties that allow her luxury clients to immerse themselves in cultural destinations. Tour operators are also reporting that emerging and re-emerging destinations include Huatulco, Ixtapa, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta. If a client tries a branded hotel in a more-traveled destination, recommend they try a new resort within the same portfolio in an area that’s up-and-coming.

Upgrade the transfer: Virtually everyone on the roundtable agreed that the days of putting clients on a 50-person bus to get to a hotel are over. Insist they reserve a private transfer that gets them to and from their resort quickly. In Cancun, warn them ahead of time of the crowds they’ll walk through to find their transfer company so they won’t be confused. If your clients are traveling with kids, be sure there are munchies in the limo or SUV; if you know your clients like beer, have a few bottles of Corona or Dos Equis in a cooler for their ride to the hotel. The little things that don’t cost a lot go a long way.