Mexico is home to four of the top 10 destinations in Latin America for the LGBT market, including Cancun. // © 2016 iStock
Feature image (above): A new certification program aims to grow LGBT travel to Mexico. // © 2016 iStock
If the Mexico Tourism Board has its way, next year may see a surge in LGBT travel to Mexico. That is, if the organization’s plan to grow the niche is successful.
“Mexico’s doing a lot of things to increase LGBT travel,” said Ivan Martinez-Vega, northeast director for the Mexico Tourism Board, who is also heading the new strategy to increase the number of LGBT travelers. “Over the past two years, the federal government has been developing a certification program for suppliers.”
The certification program, according to Martinez-Vega, includes education and marketing advice for city tourism offices, tour operators and hoteliers so that they can better understand, serve and target the LGBT market niche. The program is being operated in conjunction with Talento Consultores, a Guadalajara-based consulting firm. So far, tourism offices from seven Mexico destinations have enrolled in the program: Guerrero, Veracruz, Morelos, Oaxaca, Mexico City, Guadalajara and the city of Tequila.
“The destinations are aware now that this is important,” Martinez-Vega said.
He says the first thing the tourism board is working on is educating people, adding that another goal is to inform travel agents and the media about the effort, as evidenced by a recent meeting with agents and journalists in New York City.
Some progress is already visible. This year’s edition of Tianguis Turistico — Mexico’s big annual tourism conference, which took place most recently in Guadalajara — marked the first time that an exhibitor pavilion featured destinations and suppliers that target LGBT travelers.
In August, the Mexican Secretary of Tourism (SECTUR) confirmed its interest in the LGBT market with a lengthy statement about its goals: “The objective is to increase the economic proportions and length of stay of the LGBT market segment through innovation and new tourism products, as well as having a trained [group] of suppliers specialized in this market niche.”
SECTUR estimates that some 2.9 million LGBT travelers visit Mexico every year, and notes that among the top 10 destinations in Latin America for the LGBT market, Mexico is home to four: Cancun, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara. However, they all receive fewer LGBT visitors than the top two: Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Rio de Janeiro.
While the program may be news for many, it has been in place for a while, albeit in an evolving state. According to SECTUR, approximately 220 suppliers and organizations received accreditation in 2015, and the goal is to reach a total of 400 by the end of this year. For 2017, SECTUR aims to start LGBT-specific fam trips, organized by the Mexico Tourism Board office in New York City and focused primarily on destinations involved in the program.
According to Martinez-Vega, more details are still to come regarding next year’s plans — including the promotional and developmental budget and how travel agents and the general public will access information about which destinations and suppliers are accredited. For now, there is no LGBT section on the Mexico Tourism Board website and no easily viewed information about LGBT accreditation on the sites of the participating destinations — although the official tourism sites for Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta, for example, have their own LGBT travel sections.
“For next year, we’re still putting together a strategy,” Martinez-Vega said.