Mexico Authenticity is tour op's aim By Gay Nagle Myers / July 16, 2013 Share 1 -- Agents seeking answers to questions on travel to Mexico have a bounty of websites and resources at their disposal.For programs that offer vacations at incredible beaches and luxurious resorts, scores of operators more than fill that bill.If the unexpected in culture, nature, wildlife, cuisine and customized luxury experiences are on a client's bucket list, inbound operator Journey Mexico is one of the go-to experts.Zachary Rabinor, managing director and president, was seduced early on by Mexico's indigenous cultures; colonial cities; native communities; history and heritage; and butterflies and birdlife. He founded Journey Mexico in 2003 after completing his studies as an ecotourism specialist and public affairs specialist followed by a few years as a tour leader and guide."We handle approximately 2,500 guests a year, primarily on customized tours, although we do offer about six fixed departures for groups," Rabinor said. "We have a couple of small-group tours with a maximum of 13 participants and a couple of programs that carry up to 50 guests."He emphasized, however, that customized programs for couples and families with an average of three to six participants each account for the majority of Journey Mexico's business. "Our market is upscale, high-end, luxury travelers and active travelers, people looking for the real Mexico," Rabinor said.Travel agents account for close to 95% of Journey's business. To those concerned about safety, Rabinor responded that, with the majority of Mexico's destinations deemed safe for traveling and increasingly more tourists visiting, "Mexico is back on the map for many international travelers. Business definitely is rebounding. The recovery we see is reflected in increased arrivals, package sizes, forward bookings — a great indicator of traveler confidence in a destination — and more off-the-beaten-path trips to cultural, natural and adventure destinations, which are another indicator of travelers' comfort with their own safety and personal security."Best-sellers this year continue to be the Yucatan Peninsula and the southeastern part of Mexico, including Mexico City, Oaxaca, Chiapas and the Riviera Maya.New for 2013 are whale shark expeditions off Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox and a new lineup of exclusive expeditions for visitors to the Riviera Maya and Cancun.For travelers short on time, Journey Mexico arranges expeditions for small groups that avoid crowds and the heat of midday. The Tulum-Akumal day trip, for example, includes a certified bilingual guide, private transfer from hotel, entrance fees and tour of the ruins, a swim in the Caribbean followed by snorkeling encounters with the endangered sea turtles in the sanctuaries of Akumal and an a la carte lunch in a seaside restaurant.The tour is priced at $215 per guest for one to six guests in a deluxe sport utility vehicle.The nine-day Magic of Oaxaca program highlights the colonial city of Oaxaca, visits the artisan villages in the surrounding valleys and includes an excursion into the remote Sierra Norte Mountains before heading to Puerto Escondido overlooking the Pacific coast. The itinerary can be customized to suit individual client needs and wishes and is available year-round, according to Rabinor. Journey Mexico works with approximately 200 hotels, resorts and boutique properties as well as 70 villas in Los Cabos, Punta Mita, Puerto Vallarta, the Riviera Maya and private haciendas in the Yucatan and San Miguel de Allende."We have a very stringent process of approving accommodations," Rabinor said.Many of Journey Mexico's staff members accompany tours throughout the year."We have 22 full-time employees in three offices in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City and Cancun, and we also work with more than 50 expert guides throughout the country," he said.Tour costs generally do not include air from the U.S., although the company can offer it as a service with a fee.Journey Mexico is 10 years old now, and Rabinor said his goals for the next 10 are "to continue to share Mexico's incredible and authentic travel experiences with sophisticated travelers from all corners of the globe, while contributing to Mexico's environmental conservation, sustainable community development and positive economic impact, especially to remote and rural communities."Visit www.journeymexico.com.Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly. Journey Mexico's To-Do List, 2013For travelers seeking new adventures in Mexico travel, Journey Mexico suggests: • El Rosario Monarch Reserve: The North American monarch butterfly travels up to 3,000 miles each October to its warm wintering grounds in El Rosario reserve in Michoacan. • Chiapas: With its jungles, native communities, colonial cities and Mayan archaeology, Chiapas offers the towering walls of the Sumidero Canyon, the waterfalls of Misol-Ha and Agua Azul and the indigenous villages of San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. • Xilitla and the Sir Edward James' Gardens: Xilitla in the state of San Luis Potosi has waterfalls, tropical rain forests and magical gardens. • Isla Holbox: An island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula near Cancun with boutique beachfront properties, Isla Holbox welcomes the giant whale sharks from May through September. They pose no threat to humans, and swimming with these creatures is a must-do for adventure travelers. • Copper Canyon: Four times the size of the Grand Canyon, Copper Canyon has hiking, mountain biking, wildlife viewing and the famous Chihuahua al Pacifico train ride. -- G.N.M.