Meagan Drillinger
Meagan Drillinger

It was an opening night of pure hometown pride for Mazatlan. The colonial city by the sea in Sinaloa is playing host this week to Mexico's most important event for tourism, Tianguis Turistico. This is the moment Mazatlan has been waiting for for quite some time, and in the past year it has invested millions of dollars into the refurbishment and rejuvenation of its hotels and infrastructure in preparation for the event. 

And what a debut it was. The inaugural dinner took place on Olas Altas, where the city had shut down the main coastal road for dining under the stars on the completely renovated malecon, or waterfront esplanade. After President Enrique Pena Nieto moved his procession through the street, the city exploded with live entertainment to show off what makes its citizens so proud to be Mazatlecos. First, an elaborate carnaval parade rolled through the streets, complete with flying confetti, massive floats, colorful costumes, vibrant music and dancing. Following the parade, the audience turned its attention to the sea, where a fireworks display set to music told the story of the most important civic and military date in Mazatlan: March 31, 1864, when Mexican troops prevented French invaders aboard the frigate La Cordeliere from taking the city. It was a shining moment for the city of Mazatlan, which has been itching for its chance to return to the spotlight of Mexico tourism.

But not all was shiny for the evening. Prior to the dinner, an inaugural ceremony was held in Mazatlan's historic Angela Peralta Theater for select members of the government, VIPs and Mexican media, in which the president addressed the crowd on recent safety concerns in the country. 2017 was a trying year for Mexico, from travel advisories to natural disasters and questions of tainted alcohol at select hotels. As was to be expected, the president told the crowd that Mexico is "very safe," and that Mexico is the sixth most important tourist destination in the world. Mexico's tourism has grown 68% since 2013, and its next goal is to reach 60 million visitors. 

"In 2013, it was just the 15th most important country in the world," said Enrique de la Madrid Cordero, Mexico's tourism secretary. "We climbed, grew and reached 39.3 million last year; to give a reference, the five most important powers in the world grew 12% in this entire period, and we grew at 68 percent."

The inaugural event spoke much about the future of Mexico tourism, which hinges on the upcoming elections, as well. The elections will take place this July to determine the next president of Mexico, and much of tourism is dependent on that, in terms of airline connectivity and infrastructure. Questions about whether or not the much-anticipated new airport in Mexico City will actually come to fruition hang in the balance, as well. 

The 43rd annual Tianguis Turistico is reporting that there are 204 national and 477 international companies registered, with 1,100 buyers to attend. The event will have 1,600 national and international exhibitors. Mexico is the eighth most visited country in the world and the most visited in Latin America.

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