Writer Mary Kay Shanley joined travel agents on TWA's inaugural
flight from St. Louis to Mexico City, attended a presentation by
the Mexico City Ministry of Tourism and took a tour of the capital
city's main attractions. Her report follows:
MEXICO CITY -- For decades, U.S. corporate types have been doing
business in Mexico City. But when the weekend rolls around and
they're finished taking care of business, they usually pack up and
head to a Mexican beach or back home.
that means," said Eduardo Yarto, director of conventions for the
Mexico City Ministry of Tourism, "is that we have 52 low seasons a
year -- every Saturday and Sunday. Our hotels are filled Monday
The ministry and other tourism interests intend to change that
by turning Mexico City into a destination for leisure travelers as
well as for business travelers. It will be a challenge. "Our guest
ratio here is 80 to 20 business to leisure," said Renza de Pirro,
director of sales for the Sheraton Maria Isabel in Mexico City.
Moreover, only 15% of the hotel's leisure market is from the
U.S., according to de Pirro. "Worse yet, the leisure market was
down overall last year," she said.
In 1998, Mexico City received 7.5 million tourists, with foreign
visitors spending an average of three nights. Whereas Mexico's
biggest destination for European travelers is Mexico City, its
biggest for U.S. travelers is the beach.
Yarto's goal -- to extend the corporate traveler's stay through
the weekend -- is being coupled with an effort to get U.S. visitors
to stop in Mexico City on their way to or from the beach resorts.
"It's difficult, though," said de Pirro. "You're fighting with the
seven-day package to Cancun, and that package is going for good
TWA's decision to launch daily service from St. Louis to Mexico
City in January may help the city compete as a destination. "TWA's
reentry into the Mexico City market not only signals a new
opportunity for business travelers from St. Louis doing business in
Mexico's capital city; it also provides a convenient new connecting
point for travelers from the upper Midwest," said Don Casey,
executive vice president of marketing for TWA.
If the service develops, TWA would consider adding capacity,
according to Jim Brown, director of media relations. "It would be
nice to have three or four flights a day," he said.
Meanwhile, Mexico City officials are taking steps to boost
leisure tourism business. The efforts mainly are being spearheaded
by the newly formed Mexico City Ministry of Tourism, along with the
Mexico City Hotel and Motel Association, the Mexico City Travel
Agent Association and the International Council of Museums.
"Our new Ministry of Tourism was formed because [we] realized
that Mexico City tourism is good for the state of Mexico and for
the country of Mexico, as well as for our city," said Yarto.
The ministry is working with the capital's five surrounding
states to push leisure tourism throughout the region. "We have many
things in common in our history," said Yarto. "We have many of the
same products. We want tourists to come here and to travel beyond
The following are some of the initiatives to increase leisure
traffic.Promotion to the U.S. travel trade, including a plan to develop
agent familiarization trips.The addition and improvement of travel services within the
city.Last year's addition of a 2% lodging tax to promote leisure
tourism and safety.Development of new products in the areas of adventure travel
and ecotourism within the federal district of Mexico City, 45% of
which is forested.The creation of tourism corridors offering main points of
interest, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and shopping. For example,
one corridor features the city's Historic Center, and another is
built around the floating gardens of Xochimilco.Establishment in each corridor of government-implemented
security measures such as police presence and installation of
special information booths, where visitors can file
complaints.Efforts to educate tourists about safety precautions, which
includes a list of five safety tips given to hotel guests when they
check in.Requesting that tourists arrange for a taxi through their hotel
or that they use Taxi Mex instead of hailing any passing cab.Closer cooperation with the embassies to ensure tourists'
"I know that safety is a point of concern for the American
tourist," said Yarto. "Yes, there is crime here. In all major
cities, risks exist. But we are working at reducing the risks