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Mexico may be a nation easily navigated by many independent travelers, but for a truly in-depth view, there’s nothing better than a guided tour. And according to some tour operators, certain destinations are especially ripe for growth.
Stephanie Schneiderman, president of Tia Stephanie Tours — a company that offers a variety of cultural packages in Mexico, as well as in Colombia — says that vacationers are becoming more sophisticated in how they view Mexico.
“We are excited that travelers are discovering that Mexico is so much more than a beach destination and that its vast diversity offers endless opportunities to travel deeper or broader within this fascinating country that has an ancient past and vibrant present,” she said.
Among the hot tour destinations right now is Mexico City, which has benefited from an upswing in positive media coverage, according to Schneiderman and Zachary Rabinor, CEO of Journey Mexico, an upscale Mexico holiday travel company.
“We've seen a real surge of long weekend and even weeklong trips that seek to really explore the cuisine, culture and archeology,” Rabinor said about the appeal of Mexico’s capital. “We've also seen an interesting trend developing of mixing high culture and cuisine, with more authentic, locals-only, under-the-skin street food, nightlife and art and design galleries.”
Likewise, Tia Stephanie Tours is excited about the growth of interest in Mexico City, Schneiderman says.
“While we have been designing and operating group and private tours to this fascinating and culturally rich capital city since 2007, the media and new travelers to this destination are finally catching up,” she said. “’The New York Times’ travel section named Mexico City the No. 1 place to visit in 2016. We have known all along that Mexico City truly is one of the world’s great capital cities, rich in art history — from ancient to contemporary — and eating experiences, from corner taco stands and ‘fondas’ to innovative Mexican cuisine from some of Mexico’s hottest chefs.”
For 2016, Tia Stephanie Tours is offering Mexico City travel programs, including Mexico City: Art, Culture and Cuisine, which is available as a private journey or custom group departure, as well as a scheduled group departure in both April and August.
Colonial cities and sunny coastal destinations are also trending for Journey Mexico, according to Rabinor.
“Guadalajara, and more specifically Tequila, seems to be picking up steam, typically as part of a longer itinerary visiting Mexico's colonial heartland, along with global interest in the spirit,” he said. “The same could be said for Oaxaca and Mezcal. Of course, there's nowhere hotter to be in Mexico than Tulum, and Sayulita is following this trend of bohemian, barefoot chic. Let's face it: Surfing and surfers are cool.”
Baja California is another hot spot for tours, according to Schneiderman.
“Travelers are learning about and eager to explore this unique wine and food hub just south of San Diego,” she said. “We have designed a tour, ‘The Flavors and Landscapes of Baja California,’ for travelers and food and wine aficionados to belly up to some of the best food trucks on the planet in Tijuana, to meet the chefs who have coined the term ‘Baja Med’ cuisine and to savor their creations based on Mediterranean ingredients such as olive oil, fresh produce, seafood and fish.”
Indeed, food and wine are a big draw — and a perfect reason to join a guided itinerary, Schneiderman says.
“We explore the wine-producing valleys of Valle de Guadalupe and Santo Tomas, as well as the cheese producers in Ojos Negros,” she said. “Traveling up the Pacific Coast, we love to visit the fish markets and purveyors in Ensenada and Rosarito. Some of the best seafood tostadas, fish tacos and margaritas can be savored there — and, it’s said that the margarita was invented in Ensenada. That alone makes this destination worthy of a visit, to pay homage to the emblematic cocktail of Mexico. Our journey through this region is offered on an individual basis, as well as custom group departures.”
Delta Vacations also reports an uptick in bookings to non-beach destinations in Mexico.
“Along with steady increases in Mexico’s traditional beach destinations, Delta Vacations and Aeromexico Vacations are also seeing solid double-digit booking growth to interior destinations such as Mexico City,” said Tina Iglio, senior vice president of marketing for MLT Vacations, parent company of Delta Vacations. “This growth is so significant that four of Delta Vacations’ top 10 fastest-growing excursions are available from Mexico City. These commissionable activities include cultural and historical tours of Cholula and Puebla; Cuernavaca and Taxco; Guadalupe Shrine and Teotihuacan; and a wide-ranging tour of Mexico City.”
According to Iglio, a variety of Mexico destinations are prime for tourism growth.
“We are seeing that as U.S. travelers continue to seek richer, more immersive vacation experiences, they are increasingly discovering that Mexico City is home to an abundance of world-class museums and architectural, historical and cultural attractions, as well as flourishing fashion, culinary and nightlife scenes,” Iglio said. “Added to this is the focus that the Mexico Tourism Board has put on colonial and interior cities in recent years. These factors mean that inland cities in Mexico represent a tremendous opportunity for travel agents with clients looking for what’s trending in Mexico.”
Itineraries offered by larger, global tour companies appear to back up the appeal of Mexico’s food, drink, history and interior cities. For 2016, Latour is offering a six-night Mexico City, Puebla & Oaxaca by Private Car itinerary, as well as a five-night Food, Wine & Tequila – a Luxury Experience in Central Mexico excursion. Kensington Tours features a 10-day Highlights of Mexico: Art & Archeology tour that includes stops in Mexico City, San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque, as well as a seven-day Mexico City & Copper Canyon itinerary. Additionally, Trafalgar Tours offers a 10-day Treasures of the Yucatan with Riviera Maya Beach Stay itinerary.
Kensington Tours www.kensingtontours.com
Tia Stephanie Tours www.tiastephanietours.com