Last month, TravelAge West presented a lively webinar on Mazatlan called “Earn More Selling Mazatlan: The Colonial City on a Beach.” The moderator for the event was Mary Pat Sullivan, president of Sullivan Marketing Advisors. Mazatlan is getting behind the marketing tagline “Colonial City on a Beach” in a big way, using the descriptor to set the destination apart from other beach resort areas in Mexico.
“The first question I get asked by travel agents is, ‘How can I sell Mazatlan differently from other tourism destinations in Mexico,’” said Julio Birrueta, marketing director, Mazatlan Tourism Board. “Mazatlan is the cultural beach city of Mexico. It was founded in the 1500s by Spanish conquistadors. We’re blessed with wonderful beaches, a rich culture, history and traditions and wonderful cuisine — we have the largest shrimp fleet in the world and we have fresh shrimp year-round.”
Birrueta noted that there are nonstop flights to Mazatlan from U.S cities along the border, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. The flights average two hours, making Mazatlan easy to reach for short vacations throughout the year.
“Although we have very good all-inclusive resorts, Mazatlan is mostly an EP destination,” said Birrueta. “This is due to the great number, high-quality and good value of the restaurants available throughout the destination.”
Birrueta outlined the various districts comprising Mazatlan, all within a 15-mile expanse of beach and city. These include the 175-block Historic District Downtown, with shopping, restaurants, cultural venues and historic sites; The Golden Zone, where most of the hotels are located; Nuevo Mazatlan and the Marina area, where the newest resorts are being developed and where the new convention center is located; and the city’s 4.3-mile Malecon or ocean boardwalk. He also noted that there were many smaller villages surrounding Mazatlan worthy of day-trip guided tours. Agents can receive commissions by booking their clients into these tours.
Birrueta pointed out that more than 9,000 Canadians and U.S. expats make their home in Mazatlan.
“Mazatlan was once mainly known as a spring break market,” said Birrueta. “A market shift began 22 years ago, when we began restoring the historic district. We changed how we marketed the destination and the average age of our visitors is now 35 to 55 years age.”
Mazatlan’s rich calendar of special events, including golf, cycling, surfing and sportfishing tournaments, was also pointed out by Birrueta. Tourist attracting events also include music and cultural festivals, as well as an annual Mardi Gras celebration that is family friendly.
The safety issue was addressed by Roger Culbertson, Mazatlan Homes, Mazatlan Tourist Aides. Culbertson is a Californian who made Mazatlan his home 25 years ago.
“I’m safer here in Mazatlan than most Americans would be at home,” said Culbertson. “The crime down here is drug dealers killing drug dealers.”
In 2011, Culbertson formed a group called Mazatlan Tourist Aides. The group is formed of volunteers who answer tourists’ questions and help visitors find their way around the city. The group currently numbers 60 American and Canadian expats, as well as handful of Mexican nationals.
“You can’t see Mazatlan in a day,” observed Culbertson. “You can get started, but there’s always something new to see and do. I’ve been seeing a large number of families come down with young children. The beaches are calm, we have an aquarium, a waterpark — there are tons of things for kids to do.”
Joyce Essex, a travel counselor for Royal Wings Travel in Aurora, Colo., recently returned from a fam trip to Mazatlan. Standout experiences for her were a Stone Island tour, a tequila tour and ocean kayaking. Essex was so impressed by the destination that she is working on building some Mazatlan groups.
In closing, Birrueta noted that travel agent fams are available. He also recommended that agents become specialists in selling Mazatlan by enrolling in the Mazatlan Mazters training program.