Tianguis Turistico 2010, Mexico’s biggest travel trade show, was held April 25-28 in Acapulco, with more than 300 vendors and 1,000 buyers from the tourism industry in attendance. While the majority of the buyers were from the U.S., there was also significant attendance from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, China, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand. This year’s event was much more successful than last year’s Tianguis, which faced the twin hurdles of the swine flu epidemic and a 5.6 earthquake that rocked Acapulco at the height of the conference.
There was a guarded optimism in the air throughout the four-day event. Mexico’s hotel occupancies are on the rise in 2010 and should exceed both 2009 and 2008 levels; and the Transport and Communications Ministry reported that Mexican ports registered an increase of 9.6 percent in arrivals during the first two months of 2010 in comparison with the same period in 2009.
“Now that we’ve seen the beginnings of an economic recovery in Mexico’s most important feeder markets, it’s only natural to see it positively affect our tourism industry as well,” said Mexico President Felipe Calderon during the opening ceremonies.
For many of the attendees, this was the first time they saw Gloria Guevara, Mexico’s new minister of tourism, in action. Guevara was previously CEO of Sabre’s Mexican division. She replaced Rodolfo Elizondo, who served as minister of tourism since 2003.
During this year’s Tianguis, TravelAge West spoke with some of Mexico’s most vital tourism players.
Alberto Trevino Angula, secretary of tourism for Baja California Sur, noted that a recent survey by the Mexican government found that Baja Sur is the third safest of Mexico’s 31 states and Federal District, topped only by the states of Yucatan and Colima.
“Los Cabos is clearly going after the high end — there’s no equivocation about trying to create a tourism product that appeals to all facets of the market. We’ve always felt that we were a suburb of Beverly Hills,” said Ella Messerli, Los Cabos Hotel Association member and general manager of the Marquis Los Cabos Beach Golf, Spa & Casitas Resort.
Messerli went on to tick off Los Cabos’ resort openings in spite of a challenging year: The all-inclusive 547-all-suite Barcelo Los Cabos Palace Deluxe; the 66-room Capella Pedregal; the 150-suite Hacienda Encantada Resort & Spa; the 36-room Sirena del Mar, a Welk Resort; and the 42-suite luxury all-inclusive Zoetry Casa del Mar.
Even in these troubled times, when so many destinations have been reporting dips in their visitation figures, Mazatlan has posted consistent growth. The destination has been seeing a 5 to 8 percent annual growth in occupancy.
“Why are we having such success?” said Carlos Berdegue, the vice president of the Mazatlan Hotel Association and president and CEO of El Cid Resorts. “Five years ago, I sat down with Raul [Llera Martinez, the state of Sinaloa’s secretary of tourism] and we had a conversation about the uniqueness of Mazatlan — that it was a true blend of Mexico. We came up with five categories that we would concentrate on promoting. These were gastronomy, history, culture, family appeal and sports. We’ve been hitting the same message for five years.”
Mazatlan receives about 60 percent of its visitors from the U.S. and Canada. Berdegue described the typical Mazatlan visitor as being “high middle” in income and expectations.
“We’re fine with that — we don’t want to see this change,” he added.
Las Brisas Acapulco has been a cornerstone of the upscale Acapulco market for decades. Brisas Hotels & Resorts also has properties in Huatulco, Ixtapa, Las Hadas, Mexico City, Queretaro and Vera Cruz.
“We want to expand to other destinations,” said Antonio Cosio, owner and vice president of Brisas Hotels & Resorts. “Places we’re looking at include Los Cabos and the Riviera Maya. We have a big piece of land already in Los Cabos — 346 acres with 1.24 miles of beachfront. In the Riviera Maya, we’re looking at various parcels of land, but we haven’t placed anything under contract yet. But I predict we’ll be in the Riviera Maya within three years.”
Cosio also had some thoughts on Acapulco.
“Acapulco has potential, especially from our Las Brisas Acapulco resort into the Diamante area,” he said. “We have good restaurants and shopping. As we see a greater number of high-end hotels enter the market, we’ll see the destination gain in appeal for the high-end traveler and it will once again become an international destination. We need more direct flights — that’s one of the biggest challenges for Acapulco.”
• In other news from Tianguis, Grupo Presidente highlighted its recently completed renovation efforts at a quartet of properties: Presidente InterContinental Cancun Resort, Presidente InterContinental Ixtapa All Inclusive Resort, Presidente InterContinental Guadalajara and Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort & Spa.
• Solmar Hotels & Resorts announced next January it will open its fifth property, the 326-room Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa in Cabo San Lucas.
• Real Resorts inaugurated its Royal Wedding Specialist Program. The program allows travel agents to earn 10 percent commission on wedding packages at any four of Real Resorts’ all-inclusive Mexico properties: The Royal in Cancun and The Royal Playa del Carmen, the Gran Caribe Real in Cancun and the Gran Porto Real Playa del Carmen. The resorts offer a variety of wedding celebrations from a complimentary basic wedding to more extravagant celebrations priced from $700 and up. Interested agents can download a registration form at RRMembers.RealResorts.com.