Meagan Drillinger
Meagan Drillinger

Amid the flurry of questions over what the disbanding of international Mexico Tourism Board offices will mean for Mexico's tourism industry, the country's Ministry of Tourism, Sectur, is forging ahead. Earlier this month, tourism secretary Miguel Torruco Marques announced that Merida, the capital of the state of Yucatan, will host next year's Tianguis Turistico, Mexico's largest tourism event.

In terms of tourism, Yucatan is a priority for the new administration, which is planning to build a  Mayan Train line connecting top sites in southeastern Mexico. During a press conference, the president of the Confederation of National Chambers of Commerce, Services and Tourism of Mexico, Jose Manuel Lopez Campos, stressed the importance of Merida serving as Tianguis host, since it will help spotlight sites to be seen along the rail route. According to DataTur, a division of Sectur, the 200-mile-plus Mayan Train line would link Merida and Cancun at a cost of about $945 million.

In addition to Merida, Yucatan is home to some of Mexico's most impressive sites, and while the state does not boast the international visitor numbers of its neighbor, Quintana Roo, it does acquire a lot of spillover and is blossoming in its own right. Merida is the amalgamation of three major cultures: Mayan, Spanish and Lebanese. The combination of the three makes it one of the most unique places in Mexico. It is a colonial city, surrounded by Mayan ruins, fringed with beaches, and packed with unique architecture and culinary offerings.

Top sites in the Yucatan include the pyramids at Chichen Itza, the Mayan archaeological city of Uxmal, the beaches of Progreso and Celestun -- where visitors can enjoy powdery white beaches and flocks of brilliantly pink flamingos -- the colonial history, architecture and food of Merida, the surrounding underground rivers that were holy sites for ancient Mayans, and Valladolid, which is another colonial city that was said to be the eastern capital of the Mayan empire.

The Yucatan peninsula is one of the country's top destinations for gastronomy travel. "Food connects tourists to culture and heritage and is becoming one of the most noticeable examples of the tourism experience," the DataTur report says. "The experience in coordinating across a diverse range of actors and interests may serve as a useful template developing other cross-sectoral clusters, such as the food industry-tourism cluster in the Yucatan peninsula."

Mexico is seeking to leverage the supply-chain linkages between agriculture, food and tourism in the Yucatan in order to bolster tourism, combining ritual practices, age-old skills, culinary techniques, and ancestral community customs into developing and highlighting what the Yucatan has to offer.

Each year Tianguis Turistico draws thousands of suppliers, hoteliers, tour operators, travel advisors, government officials and media from all over the world. This year's event, the 44th, will be held next month in Acapulco.

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