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Mexico City is pulling out all the stops when it comes to promoting the city as an international travel destination.
That was the message tourism officials hoped to send media and travel buyers at the recent FITA travel show, held at the Expo Bancomer convention center in Mexico City’s upscale Santa Fe district.
The show, now in its third year, commenced with a two-day, trade-only format. Nearly 2,600 exhibitors, representing 800 companies — within Mexico and around the world — demonstrated their travel products to 6,000 buyers in a series of nearly 20,000 business appointments.
Although FITA is run by an independent organization, Global Trade Business Partners, Mexico City is one of the fair’s major sponsors and contributed $10 million to this year’s fair, according to Mexico City’s “El Economista” business newspaper.
Part of Mexico City’s contribution included hosting a large delegation of buyers, travel agents and media from around the world. The largest delegation hailed from the United States, which not coincidentally is also Mexico City’s largest inbound market.
While Mexico City welcomed 1.2 million visitors from the United States last year, nearly 10 percent of the city’s total visitor market, the destination continues to struggle with Americans’ perceptions.
Certainly at a time when Mexico can’t seem to shake headlines filled with violence and drug trafficking, many Americans are questioning any travel to Mexico.
Violence, however, was the last thing on the minds of FITA delegates enjoying tony Santa Fe — home to a major international university, numerous international corporations, upscale shopping malls and plenty of five-star hotels.
Mexico City also continues to struggle to redefine its status as a stopover destination, as most Americans tend to make a brief stop at the Benito Juarez International Airport on their way to Mexico’s all-inclusive-dotted beach destinations.
“We know that our visitors tend to come from cities like San Francisco and Washington DC,” said Carlos Mackinlay, tourism minister from Mexico City. “We attract visitors interested in cultural travel.”
A recent survey by the Mexico City government revealed that 50 percent of visitors list culture, recreation and pleasure as the reason for their visit.
Indeed the city has a strong cultural core. It is home to more than 150 museums, and more than 1,400 colonial buildings. Furthermore, it is home to 60-plus archaeological sites, including four designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Additionally, the city is home to nearly 50,000 hotel rooms, and expects to welcome a number of new properties in the coming years. Domestic brands like El Camino Real and Grupo Habita are redefining contemporary luxury, and most international brands already have a presence in the city, or expect to open new properties soon.
Although Mexico City has not yet returned to pre-2008 tourism levels, tourism officials are optimistic that visitation is heading in the right direction, citing 70.1 percent occupancy rates in July and August of this year, the highest level in recent years.
FITA 2013 is scheduled for Sept. 26-29, 2013. Interested parties can learn more at the FITA website.