Mexico president faces anxiety at the tourism trade show

ACAPULCO, Mexico — It was an important week for Mexico tourism at the 44th annual Tianguis Turistico here last week, perhaps one of the most important ever.

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First, there was mounting concern about the new government’s dissolution of the Tourism Promotion Council of Mexico (CPTM), and second, there was growing uncertainty surrounding president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s tourism policies.

The big questions were what it all means for the future of tourism promotion and what it portends for the Tianguis event.

The industry’s response to the demise of CPTM was not sugar-coated. Directors of tourism boards, heads of destination management companies, tourism officials and public relations managers all expressed various levels of anxiety about the closing of the country’s tourism board. 

Regional tourism boards quickly responded with action. Last week, several regional destinations signed alliances at Tianguis, pooling resources, and finances to pick up where the CPTM left off, attempting to spread Mexico’s marketing message without funding from the federal government.

Representatives from four Mexican states and Mexico City sign an alliance to promote tourism, attempting to spread Mexico's marketing message without funding from the federal government.

Mexico City and four states — Jalisco, Zacatecas, Guanajuato and San Luis Potosi — signed an alliance on April 9 spearheading an initiative to begin promotional efforts as a unit and joining with tour operators who will offer multistate itineraries to show off the best of central Mexico.

Maria del Rocio Lancaster Jones, promotion director for the state of Jalisco, said, “What we are doing is because of the lack of promotion. The strategy is not clear about what is going to happen [in the federal government], so we decided to keep going.”

The reason for the collaboration, she said, is that “Tourism is one of our main incomes. … We set one budget as a whole and are going together to visit the main producers of our region in the United States and in Europe.”

There are still many details left to be ironed out, but the main message is that the states of Mexico are not waiting for a top-down answer. They are ready to move forward now. 

It’s unclear if the five states will join together under one official name or slogan, but what is clear is that they are working as a unit to promote an authentic Mexican experience. A website is planned once more funds are available. 

“We are promoting the big cities like Mexico City, Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta as well as the colonial cities inland,” Lancaster Jones said.

A similar initiative was signed by the northeastern states of Mexico, including Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua and Coahuila.

The dissolution of the CPTM, Lancaster Jones said, is a shame, but there will always be something happening. “If we don’t do anything, we won’t get anywhere. Every one [of the five states] has pitched in,” she said. “This is a team effort.”

That sentiment was widespread among the big tourism players across the Tianguis trade show floor.

Lopez Obrador has redirected funding that once supported the tourism board to the development of a 200-plus-mile rail route that will link Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche, Chiapas and Tabasco, making once out-of-the-way sites in those states more accessible to mainstream tourism.

Alex Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group, said that reallocating Mexico’s marketing budget to the new railroad was counterproductive. 

“In the end, we need to keep investing in infrastructure,” Zozaya allowed, “but lack of promotion and publicity is killing the chicken that laid the golden egg. If you take gasoline out of automobiles, they won’t run. The tourist will have the choice of going somewhere else, and we are competing against the whole world.”

At the opening ceremony of this year’s event, Luis Barrios Sanchez, head of the National Association of Hotel Chains, addressed Lopez Obrador directly, making the case that while the government ultimately stands behind the president’s plans to help make Mexico safer, sustainable and better for its citizens, the need for marketing and promotion is a necessity.

“We need your support to have capital to carry out Mexico’s tourism promotion,” Sanchez told Lopez Obrador. “However, the financing of this work cannot leave behind the effort of attraction of tourism.” 

Sanchez asked the president to have the federal government contribute $125 million per year, about 0.5% of the revenue that tourism brings to the country.

Fatima Aviles, a representative of the office of Visit Baja California, agreed, saying that, going forward, “We have to use our imaginations.”

The closing of the CPTM has forced regional tourism boards to become more creative.

Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board, said, “There are different challenges and different views. But what we have to do is concentrate on performing better every day. We have the responsibility to keep working hard and moving forward.”

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Because the rail construction is expected to get underway next year, the Yucatan city of Merida has been chosen as the 2020 location for Tianguis.

Source: travelweekly

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