The state of Morelos was an exhibitor during the sixth annual LGBT Confex in Mexico City. // © 2016 Mark Chesnut
Feature image (above): More than 600 people attended the annual event, which is nearly double the attendance of 2015. // © 2016 Mark Chesnut
The sixth annual LGBT Confex, Mexico’s largest LGBT business and tourism conference, attracted a record number of participants to Mexico City’s World Trade Center in October. But some of the biggest news came from the ever-increasing number of Mexican destinations that are promoting LGBT travel products and services.
More than 600 businesspeople, tourism officials and members of the general public — about twice as many as the previous year — registered for two full days of presentations, workshops, networking and a trade show that featured a variety of companies and organizations. Major sponsors included AT&T, Scotiabank and Mundo Cuervo; exhibitors included Interjet, Mexico Boutique Hotels and the tourism offices of Mexico City and the state of Morelos.
This year’s event provided the opportunity for the Mexico Tourism Board to further highlight its strategy to attract more LGBT travelers, through a certification program that provides education and marketing support for tourism offices and private-sector suppliers.
In addition, representatives from state and city tourism offices presented new initiatives and programs targeting the domestic and international LGBT market. The secretary of tourism for the state of Morelos has introduced an LGBT travel section on its official website, although for now it’s only in Spanish. Meanwhile, the secretary of tourism for the state of Veracruz now has an LGBT tourism guide in Spanish that’s free to download from its website.
The private sector provided the biggest news from Oaxaca, where a company called Live Open Travel, billed as the first travel agency in Oaxaca focused on the LGBT market, is offering a tour program focused on the Muxhe tradition, which allows some male members of Oaxaca’s Zapotec cultures to assume roles and mannerisms of female members.
Mexico City suppliers present at the conference included Leemba Travel, a tour operator with a variety of LGBT offerings, such as Boda Express, a four-day wedding package in Mexico City that includes ground transfers, event-planning assistance and some meals, and Boda de Lujo, a six-day wedding package that includes a private city tour, a nighttime helicopter tour with a bottle of sparkling wine, a “foodie walking tour” of the Roma district, and a hot-air balloon ride above the pyramids of Teotihuacan.
Tying the Knot
LGBT weddings and honeymoons continue to grow in popularity, according to Gelsey Fadul, director of sales and marketing at Costa Sur Resort & Spa in Puerto Vallarta. Fadul, who participated in a panel discussion about hotel trends, notes that this segment can prove especially lucrative for gay-friendly hotel properties and the travel agents who sell them.
Costa Sur, she says, has seen consistently positive results since the property began actively courting LGBT weddings.
“In 2013 we had our first two weddings, which were small, with a revenue of $50,000 in rooms and food beverage,” she said. “We are forecasting at least 12 LGBT weddings, with $220,000 in revenue, to close the year 2017.”
Fadul adds that 60 percent of her property’s LGBT weddings involve couples and guests who are domestic Mexican travelers, and 40 percent are from the U.S.; 70 percent of those marrying on property are women, and 30 percent are men. In addition, she says that wedding party size is growing.
“The first few weddings were smaller, with 20 to 30 guests. The tendency now is larger weddings, for up to 150 guests,” she said.
LGBT Confex is also gearing for growth. Ruben Sandoval, the event’s CEO and founder, announced plans to debut a similar conference in Bogota, Colombia, on May 26-27, 2017 — in addition to the next Mexico City gathering, which is slated for Sept. 29-30.
“We’ve seen great success providing education and networking for the LGBT market in Mexico City,” Sandoval said. “We see similar opportunities in Bogota, and look forward to meeting there next year.”