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At a recent dinner in Los Angeles hosted by the Mexico Tourism Board (MTB), Rodolfo Lopez Negrete Coppel, the COO of the board, spoke to TravelAge West about the challenges the office faces and its efforts to strengthen travel to Mexico.
What are some of the goals of the Mexico Day road show?We’re doing this road show for several reasons. One reason is to display the new programs, plans and initiatives we have for the remainder of the year for the U.S. market. Another reason is that by being here, we are able to engage with the consumer and trade media and are able to voice our message of perception versus reality when it comes to safety and travel to Mexico. Thirdly, we’re able to have a dialogue with the trade that has been so supportive of Mexico and readily identify what else we can do to support them in further educating consumers about Mexico as a destination.
You mentioned perception versus reality. Can you elaborate more on the reality of safety in terms of tourism?We have facts and figures that demonstrate Mexico’s destinations are safer than some cities here in America. The majority of travelers visit six or seven destinations in Mexico, and these places are perfectly safe. In terms of numbers, international tourism to Mexico has grown 2.1 percent through June. Every major market has grown, except for the U.S. There are many factors to why this is happening, including the perception of safety.
What are some of the challenges with the U.S. that the MTB has come across? What about in the airline industry?The economy, on one hand, has been a contributing factor — the strength of the U.S. dollar versus the Peso is a factor too. Of course, the issue of the perception of safety continues to be a stigma in the market. Right now, we are investing in resources in the U.S. more and more to increase interest in Mexico destinations and to continue to get great support from our U.S. market. The airline industry has also shown tremendous improvement. On a domestic level, other Mexican carriers have been able to fill gaps in coverage. Internationally, we will continue to encourage carriers and, so far, we have seen increased frequencies in flights to Mexico.
Previously, there were problems with cruise lines pulling ships from places such as Mazatlan. Have you had any discussions with the cruise lines about this? Yes, we were surprised with their decision to pull out, but we are continuing to work with them. We maintain excellent relationships with all of the cruise lines, and hopefully they can resume service to Mazatlan and the other arrivals that were cancelled in Puerto Vallarta.
What other steps has the MTB taken in dispelling any negative images on Mexico destinations?Aside from road shows to promote awareness and educate the public, we are planning to do many webinars as another way to express our message to the trade. The webinars have been critical for us in order give to the trade the tools to explain to their customer base the reality of what’s going on in Mexico’s tourism destinations. We also have been stepping up our investments and we are putting more money in the market more than ever before to help with this issue.
What are some noteworthy destination updates?The Puerto Vallarta/Riviera Nayarit airport is undergoing a massive $40 million renovation since the area was chosen as the new destination for Tianguis 2012. The airport is a really big project, and the government is continuing to fix downtown Puerto Vallarta as well. In addition, major hotel companies also continue to show investments in Mexico, from Starwood opening a second W hotel in Mexico City to Rio’s recently opened hotel in Guadalajara, and much more.