Dispatch, Playa del Carmen: Kenny Chesney and the call to inaction


Destinations Editor Eric Moya was in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, from Sept. 18 to 21 to attend the Destination Britain Americas trade show at the Paradisus Playa del Carmen. His first dispatch follows.

At the Paradisus Playa del Carmen as well as the bars and restaurants lining Calle 12 and Avenida 5, it was common attire among vacationers in their mid-20s to early 30s: aviator sunglasses, trucker hats, maybe a classic-rock T-shirt. I pegged them as possible citizens of the No Shoes Nation.

For the uninitiated: "No Shoes Nation" was the name of country singer Kenny Chesney's 2013 tour, and it also describes his fervent fan base. According to music trade publication Billboard, from 1991 through 2014 he sold 28.8 million albums and from 1995 to 2014 generated $750 million in touring revenue; add to that the $114 million in revenue from his 50-city summer tour this year.

Starting out as a Stetson-hat act in the Garth Brooks mold, Chesney's wardrobe now owes more to Jimmy Buffett, i.e., ball caps and tank tops. And if he wears a cowboy hat, these days it's one made of straw (you can get one at his online store).

Chesney's music, too, owes a debt to Buffett's beach-bum persona. Take his 2002 album "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" or his 2007 No. 1 single "Beer in Mexico":

Sit right here and have another beer in Mexico
Do my best to waste another day.

Almost sounds like an ad for an all-inclusive, doesn't it? As a Paradisus bartender told me: "No work, no driving, just relax."

Can't get reservations at one of the property's restaurants? There are 13 others, plus room service. Shores stricken with sargassum? Hit one of the pools, and grab a drink at the swim-up bar. No wallet needed. No shoes, no shirt, no problems.

Chesney has a degree in marketing and advertising, and No Shoes Nation is an impressive bit of branding. Production values for his fun-and-sun music videos would be the envy of many destination marketing organizations.

Speaking of which, much of the talk at Destination Britain Americas was about the "call to action": how to persuade travelers to visit a destination sooner than later. For the U.K.-based suppliers I spoke with, their strategies included promoting anniversaries (the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, for instance) and, yes, pop culture (the "Outlander" TV show and novels).

We're talking about very different destinations and vacation types, of course. Still, I imagine it's a significant challenge to come up with something anywhere near as compelling as high-def images of cloudless skies, crystal-blue waters and white sand displayed on a couple Jumbotrons at a football stadium, with tens of thousands singing along to lyrics about leaving your worries behind. And repeating that message to tens of thousands of others in the next city, and on the airwaves of countless radio stations: Sit right here and have another beer.

A call to action might be inspiring. But perhaps even more so is a call to blissful inaction.

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