Tourism to Mexico increased by 3.5 percent in 2011. // © 2011 Thinkstock
Mexico is coming off an impressive set of numbers in early 2011, which bodes well for a prediction of a strong showing next year. Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism shows tourism investment in Mexico for the first quarter of 2011 as up 127 percent in comparison to the same period in 2010. This healthy dose of investment is linked to supply and demand; from January through July 2011, 1.35 million international tourists traveled to Mexico — a 3.5 percent increase over the same period last year. Furthermore, Mexico is the only Latin American destination ranked in the top 10 for international visitors and ranked second after the U.S. in top visitor arrivals in the western hemisphere.
Much of the new investment is coming from heavy-hitting hotel chains. In the next few years, $1.5 billion will be spent on new hotel developments, with major global hotel chains opening and redeveloping hotels throughout Mexico. These familiar brands include AMResorts, Four Seasons, Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Marriott International Inc., Ritz-Carlton, Rosewood, W Hotels and Sol Melia. For example, Marriott International Inc. plans to add 11 new hotels and nearly 2,000 rooms to its Mexico portfolio.
But not all of the tourism development is high-profile hotel projects. There’s a full slate of infrastructure and restoration projects under way throughout the country. About $125 million has been allocated to 263 infrastructure improvement projects in 171 municipalities. Key infrastructure projects include improvements to Mazatlan’s hotel tourism corridor (also known as the Golden Zone); a malecon renewal project in Puerto Vallarta; and Global Entry kiosks at San Jose del Cabo International Airport, set to open in May 2012 (these kisoks will grant pre-approved low-risk travelers expedited customs clearance).
Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism also announced the results of a new study, which revealed that meetings in Mexico account for 18 percent of the total income from travel and tourism. The country is capitalizing on this with major convention centers in the construction pipeline. Plans have been finalized to construct Experiencias Xcaret, a state-of-the-art convention hall in Riviera Maya that will hold up to 1,200 people. The $28.3 million Expo at Mundo Imperial, Acapulco will be a new meeting and convention center in Acapulco’s Diamond Zone, comprising 355,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, and scheduled for completion early 2012.
Airlift to Mexico is also on the rise. A noteworthy recent development is Southwest Airline’s codeshare arrangement with Mexican low-fare airline Volaris. Virgin Atlantic has introduced service from San Francisco to Los Cabos and Cancun and from Los Angeles to Cancun. In December, Virgin will add its third Mexican market when it initiates service from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta. Airlift to manufacturing cities in the country’s north will also increase in order to service the business market. This increased lift to cities such as Monterrey and Guadalajara may also translate into more international tourism arrivals for these cities.
Adventure in Mexico
A market that will see a lot of future promotion in Mexico is the adventure market. Tourism organizations throughout the country are heralding Mexico’s natural beauty and encouraging travel agents to learn about the adventure segment. It’s clear that Mexico has what adventure travelers are looking for. A 2010 market study on adventure travel from the Adventure Travel Trade Association polled travelers on what they required from an adventure travel experience. Three areas stood out: adventure travel must have a physical component, a connection to nature and a cultural element. Mexico delivers big in all three of these categories. And while major resort areas such as Los Cabos and Cancun have plenty of adventure programs, travelers are also encouraged to travel further afield and seek out authentic experiences in such destinations as Chiapas, Durango, Oaxaca and Veracruz. The soft-adventure market is also a high-spending market; on average, a soft-adventure traveler from North America spends $914 a trip (excluding airfare), while a typical tourist spends $605.
Another aspect of Mexico that will get a lot of attention in the months to come is Mundo Maya 2012. For nearly 3,000 years, the Maya civilization ruled southern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, producing amazing achievements in architecture, art and science. One particular Maya prophecy has captured the world’s imagination. According to the Maya Long Count Calendar, Dec. 12, 2012, will mark the end of a 5,126-year cycle and the beginning of a whole new era. For many travelers — clients who have been to Mexico as well as first-time visitors — this is the perfect time to explore the Maya world. The modern-day states of Campeche, Chiapas,
Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Yucatan are home to countless Maya treasures and a variety of tour operators in North America have established tours around the theme of the Mundo Maya 2012.