Eyewitness Report: Tianguis Turistico

A first-hand glimpse of Mexico's annual tourism show

By: Meribeth Mellin/Photos by Patricia Alisau

The sight of a boa constrictor draped over an exhibitor’s shoulders rated barely a glance. The crowd was far more interested in platters of paella at a nearby stand. Over-stimulated and exhausted from late-night parties, the attendees at Mexico’s Tianguis Turistico 2005 fueled their bodies with whatever was at hand, gladly accepting free ice-cream cones, shots of tequila and chocolate bonbons.

It takes a lot of energy to truly experience Mexico’s annual tourism show, held this year April 10-13 in steamy Acapulco. Sunday night’s opening fiesta on the lawns of the classy Fairmont Acapulco Princess celebrated the 30th anniversary of Tianguis, which never fails to challenge and excite participants. Some 2,080 sellers and 1,286 buyers negotiated contracts and commitments over the next few days and nights.

Scenes from throughout Mexico were replicated at the Acapulco Convention Center, where destinations and businesses competed for attention. Tour operators described train journeys in Yucatan’s Maya-inspired meeting room; sales managers raved about spas in mock hotel lobbies. Dancers twirled in crowded aisles beside kaleidoscopic displays promoting Veracruz and Michoacan. According to organizers, more than 19,000 meetings were arranged before Tianguis began (though buyers often had trouble finding sellers and schedules fell apart). Agents, journalists and meeting planners stuffed posters, sales kits, brochures and souvenirs into shopping bags dangling from weary arms.

Mexico launched a new brand at Tianguis, updating the logo design that has been used by the Secretary of Tourism (SECTUR) since 1997. The Mexican Tourism Board (MTB) and Sectur will use the new logo in marketing and branding materials, and are encouraging its use throughout the tourism sector.

“Now Mexico has a brand identity that truly communicates our country’s positioning as unique, diverse and welcoming,” said Francisco Ortiz, CEO of the Mexico Tourism Board.

Seminars at Tianguis focused on low-cost airlines and Mexico’s increasing promotion within Asia. John McCarthy, the managing director of Fonatur (Mexico’s National Tourism Trust), outlined the agency’s major projects for thefollowing year. Fonatur’s proposed Escalera Nautica (Nautical Ladder) series of marinas along the gulf coasts of Baja and the mainland is now called the Sea of Cortez Project. Puerto Los Cabos, a new marina outside San Jose del Cabo that’s part of the ladder, is projected to open in Fall 2006. Fonatur is also developing a resort area in Nayarit just north of Punta Mita and another on the southern Caribbean coast in the Costa Maya.

During a gourmet breakfast at the Villa Vera Hotel, buff performers presented Starwood Hotels’ WestinWORKOUT Powered by Reebok, a fitness program rolling out at Westin hotels in Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun.

At the convention center, Sol Melia announced the opening of a hip Nikki Beach Club at the Melia San Lucas in Cabo San Lucas, and an alliance with Warner Brothers to bring Flintstones characters to kids clubs at Melias in Cozumel, Ixtapa and Puerto Vallarta.

Pueblo Bonito touted the April opening of its Pacifica Holistic Retreat & Spa in Los Cabos, sure to please the Hollywood set.

Tianguis officials claimed more than two-thirds of all negotiations discussed during last year’s Tianguis 2004 resulted in deals. Chances are good many of those arrangements were sealed long after the meeting halls closed for the day. Coveted invites to cocktail and dinner parties in private villas overlooking Acapulco Bay were distributed to valued agents and operators. Tables at Baikal, El Faro and other chic restaurants were in high demand for special wining and dining sessions. Acapulco’s famed nightlife scene was in full swing as tourism officials crooned ballads at the piano bar in Syboney and hard-working agents danced the night away at Baby O disco.

As President Vicente Fox presided over the closing ceremonies, attendees were happy to rest their backs and soles in the convention center’s air-conditioned theater and prepare for the night’s last dance. At least until next year.