Eduardo Chaillo, executive director, meetings industry, for the Mexico Tourism Board // © 2011 Mexico Tourist Board
Mexico tourism received a nice boost recently when the country’s Ministry of Tourism announced the results of a new study on the significance of the country’s meetings market. The study, which was conducted in partnership with Pricewaterhouse Coopers, revealed that meetings in Mexico account for 18 percent of the total income from travel and tourism. The study also shows that in 2010, approximately 197,000 meetings were held in Mexico and 23 million individuals participated, generating 24.2 million room nights and a direct expenditure of $18 billion U.S. dollars.
“This is a new story,” said Eduardo Chaillo, executive director, meetings industry, for the Mexico Tourism Board. “We knew that the meetings and incentives business was important to Mexico, but we didn’t know it was this big.”
Chaillo also noted that meetings and incentives travelers spend more. While 7 percent of visitors came to the country as meetings and incentive travelers, they account for 11 percent of the income from foreign visitors. They also account for a disproportionate 25 percent of food and beverage spending and 21 percent of room nights.
With more than 57 major convention and exposition centers across the country and half a million hotel rooms in more than 3,000 luxury hotels, Mexico is equipped to handle its share of international meetings. As a result of public and private sector investment, Mexico improved its global position in the world congresses ranking by the International Congress and Convention Association, moving from 27th place in 2009 to 22nd in 2010.
“Growth has been impressive,” said Chaillo. “We’re not just selling the large cities and resort areas — we’re also seeing a spike in meetings and incentives to such cities as Veracruz and Merida. We’re also in a strong position with a wide choice of direct flights from Dallas and Houston, as well as many direct flight options from the U.S. West Coast to cities like Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan.”
According to Chaillo, a city for travel agents and meetings planners to keep an eye on is Querataro.
“Querataro is a very safe, colonial city with a lot of appeal for meetings,” said Chaillo. “The hotel infrastructure is strong, and it’s close to Mexico City. Meetings are not just about airlift and rooms, they are also about connecting with the destination.”
Chaillo also pointed out that convention centers in Los Cabos, Tijuana and Oaxaca are in the works. The new convention center in Los Cabos is already garnering attention. It’s been decided that Los Cabos will be the host city for the 2012 G20 Summit, scheduled for June 2012, and the new 653,400-square-foot Convention Center will house the G20 meetings and events. Construction of the center is set to begin this month. Designed to accommodate over 6,000 people, the Convention Center represents a $100 million investment by the federal government, a $1.5 million investment from the State of Baja California Sur and a $1 million investment from the Los Cabos Tourism Board. The municipality of Los Cabos endowed a 15-acre tract of land for the center. The Convention Center will be designated a green facility, meaning that it will be designed with energy efficiency in mind and will be equipped with solar panels.
“Technology is another trend,” noted Chaillo. “There are now options to create hybrid meetings that allow people to experience the meeting via the Web through video contact, without traveling to the destination. Hybrid meetings work nicely and give an opportunity for people who were not going anyway to experience the meeting.”
Among the initiatives to be announced by the Mexico Tourism Board at IMEX was the launch of a new meetings industry website. The new website will provide event planners with all of the information that they need to organize a meeting in Mexico. It will feature resources including question-and-answer sheets and messages on safety and security that event planners can easily download when proposing a meeting in Mexico. The new website went live last month.
Chaillo is aware that it takes more than infrastructure, access and technology to capture the meetings market.
“Culture is always part of the formula,” observed Chaillo. “Many meeting attendees bring their spouses. In fact, many times the spouse is decides whether or not to attend. I think in these busy times, when many people are traveling on business away from their families, they look for the chance to bring their families and enjoy a pre- or post-convention vacation.”