Carlos MackinlayWhile traditional core markets still remain the primary focus for Mexico City's Ministry of Tourism, officials there also are casting a wider net with initiatives and promotions aimed at niche-specific segments in markets new to the destination. In an interview with Mexico editor Gay Nagle Myers, Mexico City's minister of tourism, Carlos Mackinlay, shared positioning strategies designed to showcase the contemporary capital city as a destination offering something for every business and leisure visitor.

Q: How important is the U.S. market for Mexico City?

The U.S. is our largest market and our biggest revenue earner. Mexico City welcomed 12.5 million visitors in 2011, with the U.S. accounting for 1.2 million of that total number, representing an increase of 5% to 6% over 2010. This year's numbers from the U.S. will be even higher. Canada is our second-largest market, followed by Latin America and parts of Europe.

Q: What new initiatives are aimed at the U.S. traveler?

Medical tourism will be big. We plan to launch a new medical program this fall targeting the 1.6 million Americans who seek medical treatments outside of the U.S. We're not getting that market now, and we want it. We're working with four private hospitals in Mexico City to tailor treatments for that market. Airlines, hotels and ground operators will offer packages in conjunction with medical stays. We're also heavily focused on developing programs for other niche markets, such as the gay and lesbian market, spa and wellness, culture and fashion and the culinary segment.

Q: In addition to the American traveler, what other groups are you targeting?

We're looking hard at the Russian and Chinese markets, even as we continue to work our traditional visitor groups. We're attending Russian trade shows, visiting Chinese tourism officials there and inviting them here for inspection visits. Russian visitors in particular like to combine a Mexico City visit with a resort stay, so we're working with our partners on combination packages.

Q: What is Mexico City's message to its visitors, no matter where they are from?

Mexico City is contemporary, cultural, historical and avant garde, all rolled into one amazing city. We have more than 160 museums, small and large, more than 1,400 colonial buildings, 60-plus archaeological sites, including four Unesco World Heritage sites. Add to that our gastronomic offerings and restaurants, our high-end shopping and designer fashions, our 49,000 hotel rooms that fly the flags of every major hotel company and our airlift from every major gateway. We've got it all, and we've got something for everyone. We just have to continue sending that message.

Q: How big and how important is the meetings and convention market?

Big and getting bigger. Close to 60% of our U.S. visitors are business travelers, and many are here to attend meetings. Mexico City has 17 different venues for congresses of all sizes. We're hosting the FITA 2012 Tourism Fair Sept. 20-23 for the third time. This is an enormous international trade event that attracts professionals from all segments of the travel industry.

Q: Is pollution still a factor in your city?

It's way down from 10 years ago. We launched a bike program and have emission-free taxis too.

For Caribbean and Mexico news, follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly. 

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