Mexico tourism officials recently completed the first phase of an aggressive trade initiative in the U.S., designed to showcase products and tools to help their travel partners sell the destination and to deflect the negative publicity regarding safety and security in recent months.
Secretary of Tourism Gloria Guevara and Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, COO of the Mexico Tourism Board, headed the delegation, which visited six key U.S. markets.
"There seemed to be far fewer questions regarding safety and a lot more heightened interest in our upcoming events, promotions and winter season offerings," Lopez Negrete said. "We are starting to turn the corner. The crime topic is old news now, and agents were eager to hear our tourism updates."
Although year-to-date U.S. visitor numbers are down 6% as compared with the same period in 2010, "that slide has slowed down in the past three months, and we hope to recoup that after the summer," Lopez Negrete said. "Overall visitor numbers are up 2%, especially from Brazil, China and Russia."
He said the current summer season in Mexico's resorts and colonial cities "is rocking. Hotels report 95% occupancies, airlines tell us the flights are full and recent surveys indicate that 97% of U.S. visitors had a positive experience in Mexico. And 98% of those surveyed said they would recommend a Mexico vacation to their families and friends."
As for cruise lines, which canceled some calls out of Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta earlier this year, he said dialogue was "ongoing."
"Our aim is to have the lines reinstate the calls and return to both ports," Lopez Negrete said. "We think there was overreaction to the pullouts, which were predicated on economic reasons rather than concerns related to safety and security."
During the road show that ended Aug. 12 in Atlanta, Guevara and Lopez Negrete hosted receptions in each city that included a one-hour presentation with an analysis of Mexico's tourism picture, followed by personal exchanges with attendees.
"The agents had a tremendous appetite for information," Lopez Negrete said. "We hosted 300 agents in Los Angeles, 120 in Seattle, 175 in Atlanta, 250 in Houston and had equally high numbers in New York and Washington."
A follow-up campaign aimed at the meetings and conventions market is slated for the end of August in Minneapolis, Chicago and St. Louis.
Upcoming events touted by the tourism board include the 2011 Pan American Games Oct. 14 to 30 in Guadalajara and the Mayan World 2012 celebrations that launched in July and will run through Dec. 21, 2012, a date that marks the official end of the Mayan calendar.
"Mexico is hosting the Pan Am Games for the third time, and we expect more than 6,000 athletes from 42 nations, including 275 from the U.S. This is a very big event for us," Lopez Negrete said.
The Mayan celebrations will highlight the country's Mayan heritage and civilization with events slated for southeastern Mexico's Mayan World, comprising the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, Quintana Roo and Yucatan.
The region is home to six of Mexico's 27 Unesco World Heritage sites, the most found in any country.
"This is an important milestone and opportunity for Mexico," Lopez Negrete said. "We want the world to know the splendors of the Mayan civilization, with the end goal of positioning Mexico as a unique tourist destination."
The country also will host the eighth annual Adventure Travel World Summit
from Oct. 17 to 20 in San Cristobal Las Casas in the state of Chiapas. That event is expected to draw more than 600 adventure tourism professionals from more than 50 countries.
Mexico's winter season campaign kicks off in September and will run through December and pick up again in January, Lopez Negrete said.
"Our message is that Mexico offers the best buy in terms of price, value, diversity and customer satisfaction," he said.
The bulk of the $30 million ad spend is aimed at the U.S. market. The series of on-air TV spots focuses on different parts of the country, including Cancun, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.