Tulum is part of the Riviera Maya. // © 2012 Thinkstock
While some areas in Mexico are struggling to attract tourists, this certainly isn’t the case for the Riviera Maya. Of the 10.2 million international travelers visiting Mexico in 2011, 28.4 percent traveled to the Riviera Maya area. Last year, the region shattered tourism records by welcoming more than 3.6 million visitors. This represented a 7 percent increase in overall visitation from 2010 and an increase of more than 200 percent from the year 2000. TravelAge West reached out to Dario Flota Ocampo, general director of the Riviera Maya Destination Marketing Office, for his take on why the Riviera Maya continues to hum so merrily along.
In light of all the negative press Mexico is receiving, what in your opinion accounts for the Rivera Maya’s recent strong tourism numbers?
The Riviera Maya has always been a very popular destination for travelers. It remains a safe destination for tourists, and it is thousands of miles away from many of the areas that have been receiving negative press in Mexico. Also, the Riviera Maya is easily accessible with numerous direct flights. Our growing hotel inventory is attracting many reputable brands including Hard Rock Hotels, which will debut later this year.
Most travelers to the Yucatan Peninsula will be arriving at Cancun’s International Airport. Why should they travel the extra distance to the Riviera Maya, instead of vacationing in Cancun?
Riviera Maya and Cancun are very distinct destinations with different offerings for tourists. The Riviera Maya has a variety of outdoor attractions that are ideal for families traveling with younger children. Overall, the Riviera Maya offers an array of vacation options for every traveler — from unique spa treatments to world-class dining and nightlife to ecological and historical explorations that are ideal for adventurers of all ages. The area also features accommodations suited for every type of vacation that range from intimate boutique hotels to large, upscale all-inclusive resorts.
With the success of Mayakoba and the buzz surrounding the upcoming Kanai development, is it correct to say that the Riviera Maya is making a special effort to attract the upper end of the travel market?
The upper end of the travel market is a growing segment in the Riviera Maya; however, the destination makes every effort to accommodate guests of all types and budgets.
Can you give us an idea of what to expect from the Riviera Maya in the lead up to the end of the Maya Calendar in December?
The destination will host several cultural events throughout 2012 that celebrate and honor Maya heritage by linking the past to the present and future. Many of our partners anticipate doing special activities, hosting enlightening events and offering authentic cultural experiences surrounding the start of a new era. These include a nightly commemoration of Maya times, “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular,” from Dec. 1-21, cultural packages at hotels, yoga and meditation by the sea at Xel-Ha and more.
What advice would you give to travel agents who want to take advantage of the heightened interest in all things Maya and book more travel to the Riviera Maya as we approach December?
The Riviera Maya Destination Marketing Office is a great resource for travel agents who are looking for something specific related to the Mayan culture. Our team is always happy to provide ideas and suggestions that are tailored to what each travel agent is interested in.
Are there any misperceptions about the Riviera Maya that you would like to address and correct?
The Riviera Maya is not just a city, but a region that expands across 81 miles of coastline and includes a variety of communities such as Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Akumal, Puerto Morelos, Coba, Paamul and Punta Allen.
Will there be any new initiatives in the months to come to reach out to travel agents to educate them about the destination, such as travel agent education programs, fams, and roadshows?
The Riviera Maya has a travel agent training program, accessible at RivieraMayaTravelAgentProgram.com. It is a program divided into five modules and travel agents have the option of taking a short test after each module. Once the five tests have been completed, the travel agent will receive a diploma for having completed the Riviera Maya Travel Agent Program. There is also participation in different roadshows in North America. The destination always welcomes travel agents and is constantly supporting travel agents who wish to visit the destination, go on-site inspections and participate in different activities in the region.