It’s got nothing to do with Cancun – Mexico’s Yucatan State, which is situated on the north end of the Yucatan Peninsula between Campeche and Quintana Roo, is looking to promote itself to travelers as a destination in its own right, separate from its more famous neighbors.
“All of the Mayan culture, gastronomy, natural reserves, cenotes and haciendas are right here, in the heart of the Mayan world,” Michelle Fridman, Tourism Secretary for Yucatan State, tells Travel Agent. “We see Quintana Roo as our partners, not as our competitors, but it is important for us to let people know where we are.”
The area is primarily known for its relatively unspoiled beaches, as well as a number of archeological sites, including Uxmal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To help get the word out the state is developing a number of programs focused around cultural tourism, the most notable of which will let travelers visit Mayan villages.
“There’s a lot of richness in the Yucatan,” explains Fridman. “If you happen to go to one of these villages, you’ll find Mayan people collecting honey from the melipona bee, which is only found in the Yucatan.”
Plans call for the development of experiences that will take travelers into the villages, where they can take part in activities like honey making and viewing traditional houses, while staying in the area or in nearby haciendas.
“We’re trying to build a program in terms of sustainability,” Fridman says. “If we bring tourism to those villages, we’ll bring money and opportunities to those people while offering authentic experiences.”
The destination is also increasing air connectivity, with direct flights currently available from Miami, Houston and Toronto into the state capital of Mérida. Another flight from Tijuana also launched recently, which Fridman says helps the destination reach the California market.
In terms of accommodations, 13 hotels are currently under development. Grupo Xcaret is also expected to open a cenote park near the colonial city of Valladolid and Chichén Itzá next year.
For travelers visiting by cruise ship, the state is also looking to redevelop its main port, Progreso. “Unfortunately it wasn’t concieved as a tourist destination in the beginning, so it hasn’t been the most accessible place for tourists,” Fridman says. “So now with the new government we’re investing a huge amount to develop Progreso.”
Investment at both the federal and state level will go into building up Progreso’s infrastructure, including a complete reconstruction of the port area.
Finally, next year will see Tianguis Turistico head to Merida. Ahead of that event, Merida is renovating its oldest convention center, which is in the northern part of the city. The city’s other convention center is only one year old.