InsightMexico welcomed 23.1 million foreign visitors in 2012, topping its 2011 record of 22.7 million, according to Gerardo Llanes, chief marketing officer for the Mexico Tourism Board.

“The numbers are excellent, but we want more,” he said. “Travelers from the U.S. grew to 5.9 million visitors, a jump of more than 3.7% over 2011, and the U.S. market continues to be the No. 1 international market for us.”

Targeted marketing and promotions that zero in on specific sectors are methods that Mexico uses as building blocks to grow its visitor numbers, according to Llanes.

“The tourism slogan — ‘Mexico, the place you thought you knew’ — is very apt,” he said. “We want our visitors to know that Mexico is diverse and is much more than mariachi music, sun, sand and beaches.”GayNagleMyers

Focus areas for Mexico include the luxury travel market as well as the general consumer and the first-time traveler.

“Mexico’s luxury properties not only include resorts and hotels but also spas and golf courses, so we are pitching to the upscale traveler through niche publications that are geared to that market,” Llanes said.

First-timers are critical to Mexico’s tourism strategy, “because once they visit Mexico, they come back, and our repeat visitor numbers continue to grow each year,” he said.

Travel agents are key factors in all of Mexico’s visitor demographics.

“We launched a pilot program for agents last year called Mexico Country Awards, and it was very successful, generating thousands of incremental room nights,” he said.

“Based on their volume of sales, agents get prizes that range from a Starbucks card to $10,000,” Llanes said. “We plan to roll out the program in a bigger way in April.”

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