Roundtable Video: Mexico’s Evolving LGBT and Family Travel Markets

As part of a Mexico roundtable discussion Travel Agent moderated during this year’s Tianguis Turistico event in Acapulco, we chatted with travel professionals to learn how the LGBT market continues to grow and evolve in the country. 

We also followed that up by uncovering some of the hottest family travel trends in Mexico and beyond.

Here are the highlights from that portion of the roundtable conversation. 

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LGBT Market Growing Beyond Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta, according to the agents and operators we’ve spoken to on the subject, was the first LGBT-welcoming destination in Mexico. 

About 10 to 15 years ago, the destination was considered the LGBT mecca of Mexico and is still often described as the “gay capital of Mexico.” 

But in the last few years, other Mexico destinations have come around to this lucrative and loyal market.

“I think if you look back, Puerto Vallarta was kind of a stepping stone for [the LGBT market in] Mexico, but you can see that throughout the resorts,” says Federico Moreno-Nickerson, director of product development for the Caribbean and Mexico for Classic Vacations. “Quite frankly, Mexico City is a destination that is at the forefront of the LGBT community and LGBT rights. That might not be the case in secondary destinations throughout the interior of Mexico because they may be a couple of steps behind in terms philosophy or customs, but without a doubt, Mexico welcomes the LGBT community, not only Puerto Vallarta, but in all the major destinations that you see – Cancun, Riviera Maya and Los Cabos without a doubt - and Mexico City.”

In fact, Mark Benson, vice president of leisure product and sales support for Flight Centre, the parent company of GOGO Vacations, describes the market as “the most profitable market to go into,” which is why his company created a brochure roughly 10 years ago targeting the LGBT market. 

Benson notes that the sensitivity training, which he considered “patronizing” and was required by most companies about a decade ago, is no longer required by his company.

“All the caveats [with selling the LGBT market] have totally gone away,” says Benson. “Fast forward 10 years on and in working with this market and now starting to develop gay wedding groups to Mexico, and we have a program in place for that, attacking the market more vigorously now.” 

And Benson, like Moreno-Nickerson, has seen the popular LGBT tourist destinations in Mexico spread beyond Puerto Vallarta. 

“Ten years ago, Puerto Vallarta was where we put all our Mexican product in that brochure and a pocket full of Caribbean stuff and whatever and now it covers the country, and of course Quintana Roo has been the most progressive state in taking legislature within same-sex marriage in Mexico and translating it so we can work with it with same sex weddings in the destination that are legally binding back in America.”

And Alfonso Sumano, regional director for Americas of the Mexico Tourism Board; says he doesn’t expect the growth in the LGBT to slow down anytime soon.

“[There is] an interest, an appetite,” says Sumano, “and people are willing to learn more.”

Family Travel Trends

Experiential travel is not just popular amongst Millennials.

As far as hot Mexico trends for family travel goes, a lot of the experts we spoke to say multi-generational clients are paying up for unique experiences that entertain the entire family.

“Families don't want to just go to their rooms or to the beach,” says Rienk de Jong, director of sales and marketing for Karisma Hotels & Resorts. “They want to do all these experiences together. No kid will want to leave Mexico without knowing how to make guacamole. Also, families are doing cooking experiences or language experiences.”

De Jong also says multigenerational clients are paying up for more space. A large part of Karisma’s inventory growth in the Riviera Maya, specifically Playa del Carmen, is in the two- and three-bedroom suite categories, says de Jong.

“Before, you would come to a family hotel and the parents would would go to the adults-only pool and the kids to the Kids club. We feel families want to spend more time together now and you have to create those opportunities at the hotel, the experiences and space to spend time together.”

But with more demands from the clients comes the need for hoteliers to pay more attention to detail, de Jong says.

“For larger families traveling and wanting to spend more time together at the resort, there're small things you have to make sure of like if there is enough large tables available so when families come to the restaurant they don't have to wait until four small tables are put together for them to finally dine,” he says. “And family-style dining is something we're seeing more of in the hotels.”

In fact, Elizabeth Moriarty, vice president of product development for Delta Vacations, says a lot of Delta Vacations’ hotel partners are now confirming connecting rooms as part of their inventory, something Moriarty says Delta has been requesting for years.

“That's really setting apart those partners where you can confirm it instantly,” she says. “If more hotels can do this and offer those types of amenities and services, I think that's really going to go a long way. Because I think there's a lot more multi-generational families that are traveling. It's not just one unit with a couple of children.”

Visit www.visitmexico.com and keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for all your latest travel news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent's Joe Pike on Twitter @Travelpike and Instagram @pike5260.

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