Report From Tianguis

Mexico’s largest trade show promises greater focus on tourism

By: By Maribeth Mellin

This administration will be the administration for tourism,” President Felipe Calderon announced emphatically during the closing ceremonies for Mexico’s 32nd annual Tianguis last month.

Speaking to an enthusiastic audience of governors, tourism leaders, travel agents and journalists from 30 countries, Calderon said tourism development is a major priority for Mexico’s social and economic well-being.

Oil profits are on the wane and income from Mexicans working outside the country is threatened by immigration reform. On the other hand, investors from Spain and the U.S. are eagerly developing resort communities and entire new destinations in Mexico.

“Tourism is labor intensive, and we are a labor-intensive country,” Calderon said, citing abundant new jobs and improved infrastructure as just two of the positive outcomes of all this development.

To emphasize his commitment, Calderon has increased the tourism secretary’s budget by nearly 37 percent and increased the budget for tourism promotion by 40 percent.

Tourism secretary Rodolfo Elizondo Torres praised the president’s moves during Tianguis speeches and press conferences. He also announced a major shift in the way Tianguis is conducted. The 2008 show, he said, will include buyers and sellers from throughout Latin America.

“We are the leaders in the market,” he said. “If we have a global vision we should include Latin America.”

Elizondo fueled recurrent rumors by adding that Acapulco may not be the best venue for the expanded Latin American Tianguis, which could be held in Mexico City or another city. A few days later, President Calderon said Acapulco would host the 2008 meeting.

Behind-the scenes negotiations were surely intense. Acapulco’s new convention center, Mundo Imperial, is slated to open in spring 2008 and will eventually include ballrooms, convention space, exhibition halls, a 4,800-seat performance hall and an 800-room hotel. The pressure is on to complete the center in time for the 2008 Tianguis.

The push for increased tourism development and revenue was also highlighted in a speech by Miguel Gomez Mont, director general of Fonatur (the national trust for tourism development). The agency responsible for Los Cabos, Cancun, Loreto, Huatulco and Ixtapa is now transforming the coast of Nayarit, just north of Puerto Vallarta, into another master-planned destination. Three projects are under way, including a major resort called Litibu with a Greg Norman golf course and several Iberostar hotels. According to Nayarit Gov. Ney Gonzalez, the developments will create a “Riviera Nayarit” that will rival the wildly successful Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

On the coast of Baja, Fonatur is once again promoting the Escalera Nautica, a chain of marinas along the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Coast. The agency is also at work in Huatulco, Chiapas, Veracruz and the Costa Maya (the southern Caribbean coast).

Fonatur’s existing destinations receive more than 65 percent of the tourists who visit Mexico, Mont said, adding: “Tourism is a generator of riches. Fonatur is the facilitator to encourage further development.”

Signs of this renewed commitment to tourism are already visible. The Mexico Tourism Board recently opened a new office in Washington, D.C., to increase contact with major tourism associations, government agencies and embassies. The MTB also plans to expand its West Coast office, headquartered in Los Angeles. According to MTB CEO Francisco Lopez Mena, the West Coast region is by far the most important U.S. tourism feeder market for Mexico, responsible for more than 2.4 million international tourists visiting the country in 2006.

Mexico Tourism Board