Tune in: Tianguis 2011

By Patricia Alisau

Andre Agassi may be the next ambassador for Mexico tourism, or so it seemed at the country’s annual travel trade show in Acapulco. The world-famous tennis legend gave a presentation on “How to be a Winner” as a prelude to the opening of the 36th edition of the event called Tianguis, an indigenous word for “marketplace.” Later, departing from Tianguis tradition, he was enthusiastically invited to the stage during the official inauguration to sit with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his state governors.

Surrounded by heavy security in the Acapulco Convention Center, Calderon set the tone for the show, announcing that 2011 has been dubbed, “The Year of Tourism,” and that all stops are being pulled out to reach the goal. Translated, this means record promotion budgets, building and upgrading infrastructure like highways and hotels, and increasing airline flights and the competitiveness of tourist destinations. The far-reaching objective, however, is to position Mexico among the top five travel spots in the world, the president added. (Mexico is currently ranked 10th globally in international tourism arrivals.)

Secretary of Tourism Gloria Guevara. The three-day Tianguis, which took place March 26-29, drew around 6,000 travel professionals broken down into buyers, exhibitors, media and representatives from 22 countries including newcomers Chile, Korea and China. As the list of countries expands so, too, do Mexico’s tourism numbers. So far, according to Secretary of Tourism Gloria Guevara, figures from last year indicate tourism is on the upswing following bumps in the road from the recession. Mexico received 22.4 million foreign visitors last year, up 7 percent from the previous year. The income they generated was $11.9 billion, an increase of 5.3 percent over 2009 but down from 2008 when tourism was booming.

Guevara announced at the close of Tianguis that next year tourism officials will choose a different city from Acapulco as the site of the show. The Pacific port had been hosting it non-stop since its inception in 1975 and Cancun has already expressed interest in being a frontrunner for the event.

What’s new?

Keeping abreast of trends and expectations of travelers, Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, head of the Mexico Tourism Board based in Mexico City, revealed that themes like Romance, Luxury Travel, Adventure and Gastronomy – “where Mexico excels” -- will be strongly promoted in the U.S. in 2011.

Additionally, among a number of new developments and activities announced during the trade show were:

Sol Melia Hotels & Resorts plans to inaugurate two new hotels under its upscale Paradisus brand in Playa del Carmen along the Riviera Maya. Opening in November, both will carry Royal service, described as a “hotel within a hotel.” Guests will also have access to a new 18-hole golf course.

Mazatlan is advertising its cultural festivals, Mardi Gras and Art Walk to visitors apart from a new golf course by David Fleming going up at Marina Mazatlan. An ambitious government development being planned nearby on the Pacific coast is expected to add thousands of deluxe hotel rooms in the future.

San Cristobal de las Casas in the southern state of Chiapas will sponsor the Adventure Travel World Summit conference for the first time Oct. 17-20. The theme will be Prosper with Purpose.

Los Cabos’ latest star is the luxurious Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa, which opened Phase I earlier this year within reach of the much-photographed Arch at Land’s End. The hotel is part of the Solmar Hotels & Resorts family.

The Tequila and Mezcal Museum, where the entrance fee includes a shot of tequila, and the Soumaya Museum of art built by Carlos Slim, one of the world’s wealthiest men, according to Forbes magazine, are two new cultural venues in Mexico City.

Cozumel has relaunched the $40 million Marina Cozumel project, which will be able to moor 332 small yachts and eventually debut several new hotels.

Huatulco, along the coast of Oaxaca, plans to open a 400-room, adults-only Secrets resort in July on the Bay of Conejos.

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