Early in 2011 Mexico’s government promised that Mexico would become one of the world’s top five tourist destinations by 2018,and if the current trend is any indication,that goal is already well within reach.
Mexico is currently listed as one of the world’s top ten tourist destinations,according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization,but the government has been working hard to improve that ranking. From aggressive advertising campaigns in North America and Europe,to serious efforts by the Mexico Ministry of Tourism to attract new visitors from China,Russia,and other parts of the world,interest in the country’s impressive array of offerings is growing worldwide in a grand way.
Growing Diversity Among Visitors
A January 2012 article posted on the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch.com stated that December of 2011 saw tourism in Mexico hitting record-breaking numbers,with a significant increase in the number of international visitors. According to the Mexico Ministry of Tourism,1,072,180 foreign tourists made their way to Mexico in December of last year,which is an impressive 13% increase from the same period in 2010. This not only represents the largest number of visitors ever recorded for the month of December,but it also marks five consecutive months of increased tourism numbers,as compared with the same period in 2010.
According to the report,“More than half the December number was made up of visitors from the U.S.,but the figures also show that the ministry has been working hard to attract tourism from non-traditional countries,such as China and Russia,where the number of visitors in December increased by about 50% year-on-year in each case.”
In 2011 Mexico also saw a significant increase in the number of visitors from Canada (up 9.1%),Spain (up 6%),Italy (up 10.5%),Argentina (up 21.4%),and France (up 12.4%).
The Mexico Ministry of Tourism predicts that at least 52 million tourists will visit Mexico in 2012,making it another record-breaking year. The government also plans to continue driving its aggressive strategy to attract diverse visitors from countries around the world in order to achieve its goal of being counted among the world’s top five tourism destinations by 2018.
“Mexico’s tourism industry is undergoing a stunning transformation – based on a bold strategy of diversification – focused on promoting a broader range of tourism products,such as cultural tourism,adventure travel and health-related tourism,aimed at attracting a new breed of global consumer,” stated Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete,COO of the Mexico Tourism Board. “We will continue to market directly to tourists from non-traditiona l origins in Europe and Asia,while at the same time strengthening our hold on American and Canadian Travelers.”
Riviera Maya – Mexico’s Tourism Hotspot
One of the most popular regions for tourism in Mexico is the Riviera Maya,which is located on the Yucatán Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo. Home to the vacation hotspots of Cancun,Puerto Aventuras,Playa del Carmen,as well as the up-and-coming city of Tulum,visitors from around the world are increasingly drawn to the rich cultural heritage and stunning beauty of the Mexican Caribbean. In fact,the 80 mile stretch of coastline from Cancun to Tulum accounts for more than 70% of the tourism in all of Mexico each year. The Riviera Maya is located the only Caribbean coastline in Mexico and runs along 80 miles (128 km) of stunning white sand beaches that Conde Nast magazine recently named the most beautiful in the world.
Impressively,more than 47 countries are represented in the local culture of the Riviera Maya,with residents hailing from the U.S.,Italy,Canada,Argentina,Spain,Great Britain,Switzerland,Germany,France,and many more. The region’s diverse culture has been the focus of articles in the New York and LA Times,which compared Playa del Carmen to “a beautiful,boutique European village sitting by the sea.” As a result,most of the locals speak English,and typical modern amenities and American brands,such as Sam’s Club,Wal-Mart,Starbucks and Blockbuster are everywhere. In addition,all of the movie theaters here show films in English. Throw in the ancient Mayan culture that still thrives throughout the region,and it starts to become obvious that the diversity found in the modern-day Riviera Maya is truly unique in the world.
Entertainment,Fashion & Food in the Riviera Maya
That might explain why Corona beer has chosen to film its now-famous commercials in Tulum,and why A-list celebrities like Angelina Jolie,Tom Cruise,Leonardo DiCaprio,Drew Barrymore,Fergie,Mick Jagger and many others prefer this region’s secret hideaways to other,less private tropical destinations. The water here is always warm – between 80ºF/27ºC all year – and visibility in the clear turquoise water is at least 300ft/90m.
A recent article by The New York Times dubbed Tulum the world’s “new fashion hot spot,” thanks to a growing number of fashion insiders,photographers,stylists and creative directors who are buying property and frequenting the area. Early in 2012,the article stated that Tulum had become “a destination so popular with the fashion crowd that it almost feels like Fashion Week.” Notable visitors include Calvin Klein designer Francisco Costa,Linda Fargo from Bergdorf Goodman,Amanda Hearst of Marie Claire and Michael Carl of Vanity Fair.
The Riviera Maya also boasts some of the best gourmet dining and couture shopping in the world. Many of the local eateries have been featured in Gourmet Magazine,offering fabulous French,Thai,Mayan,Italian,Argentinian and Brazilian cuisines,in addition to some of the freshest Sushi on the planet and,of course,exceptional traditional Mexican fare. If shopping is your thing,the Riviera Maya is home to boutiques of famous brands like Coach,Burberry,Louis Vuitton and Cartier,to name only a few.
Also of note,Hard Rock International has announced that a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino will open in Cancun by spring of 2012,followed by another in the Riviera Maya that will open in the fall near Puerto Aventuras,a world-class residential community. These are the first properties for the Hard Rock brand to open in Mexico. Playboy also owns a $7.5 million casino in Cancun,offering slot machines,gaming tables and a betting parlor where sports fans can place bets on major international sporting events.
Mayan Heritage & Archaeological Sites
In fact,the region’s Mayan culture is partially responsible for the growing tourism numbers,thanks to the “Mundo Maya” campaign launched by Mexican president Felipe Calderon,who plans to spend upwards of $23 million to promote the region and attract visitors from around the world. This coincides with the end of the Mayan calendar on December 21,2012,which marks the completion of a 5,125-year cycle and has some doomsday theorists predicting cataclysmic events.
Although scientists say it was actually intended to be a celebratory time for the ancient Mayans,more than 18.2 million visitors have already made the trek to visit the various archaeological sites,museums and historical monuments located throughout the Riviera Maya in 2011. And thanks to efforts by the Mexico Ministry of Tourism,including updating existing infrastructure and launching in-depth presentations at international expos in Greece,India and China,many more visitors are expected to do so in 2012.
As part of the festivities,Sir Paul McCartney is scheduled to perform in early 2012 at the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá,which are located a little more than an hour south of Cancun near the city of Tulum and have been named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. In addition,the city of Tulum itself is also home to a number of impressive Mayan ruins,including the only pyramid on earth that overlooks the sea.
“We have no intention of simply being seen as a sun and beach destination,” stated Lopez-Negrete. “Mundo Maya is a prime example of this strategy as we are converting the southeast into a coveted tourist destination internationally.”
Golf Rules on the Mexican Caribbean
Mexico is also home to a number of the world’s best golf courses. In fact,according to the Mexico Ministry of Tourism,Mexico is second only to Hawaii for U.S. golf enthusiasts. From the unique beauty of Baja California and Puerto Vallarta on the west coast,to the fantastic professional courses located in the Riviera Maya,Mexico is home to more than 150 golf courses,many of which were designed by some of the world’s top architects,including Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman.
When you consider the many benefits that a trip to Mexico has to offer,it’s really no surprise that Cancun was named one of the favorite destinations for travelers between the ages of 20 and 60,according to surveys conducted by the Mexico Ministry of Tourism. In addition,Felix Gonzalez,the governor of Quintana Roo,said he also expects international tourism to continue to increase dramatically,with the Riviera Maya attracting around 80% of the growth,making it an obvious niche market for international travelers and retirees alike for years to come.
Medical Tourism in Mexico
Travelers from North America and other locations around the world have been visiting Mexico to access affordable medical care for many years. But today this trend is more popular than ever,thanks to the growing number of high quality hospitals and medical clinics that can be found throughout Mexico’s largest cities. From cosmetic surgery,weight loss surgery and dental work,to heart surgery,orthopedic treatments and many more,Mexico’s state of the art hospitals offer visitors affordable access to procedures that can be very costly elsewhere in the world.
Mexico is easy to reach from almost anywhere these days,thanks to a large number of daily and weekly round trip flights from around the world,which also helps add to its appeal for tourists seeking medical care. In some cases,Mexico’s physicians also have much more experience than doctors in the US or other countries,since certain procedures have only recently obtained approval from regulatory bodies like the FDA. In 2009 a study by researchers at UCLA showed that more than 1 million people from the US state of California headed to Mexico for medical care,a number that continues to grow and attract interest from more international travelers each year.
One more thing…
Airline traffic is another important indicator of the economic health of any region,and according to a recent report by Travel Weekly travelers to Mexico in 2012 will have more flight options than ever before. Here are a few of the recent additions:
- Russian airline Aeroflot offers flights between Moscow and Cancun.
- British Airways offers service to Cancun.
- Air France offers service to Cancun.
- Virgin America launched a new service in 2011 from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta,and also regularly serves Cancun and Los Cabos.
- Aeromexico offers nonstop flights between Chicago and Zacatecas,Denver and Mexico City,from Brownsville,Texas,to Monterrey, and from Las Vegas to Guadalajara and Monterrey.
- Southwest Airlines and its subsidiary AirTran will begin offering flights in 2012 from Orange County,California,to Cabo San Lucas and Mexico City,and also from San Antonio to Cancun and Mexico City.
- Interjet offers service from San Antonio to Mexico City.
- VivaAerobus offers service from San Antonio to Monterrey.
Also of note,many of the new routes are added after existing flights become critically overbooked,forcing airlines to offer additional service. Air France,British Airways and Virgin America are among those that have followed this trend,adding a number of new flights after experiencing an overwhelming response from travelers who are interesting in flying to Mexico.
Perhaps most importantly,however,there is a new international airport in the planning stages that will be built in Tulum as early as later this year. It will have the initial capacity for up to 3 million travelers each year and will open up tourism throughout the region. Located just over 60 miles from the existing Cancun International Airport,it will continue to bring improvements to the local infrastructure and is expected to cause real estate prices in the area to skyrocket.
“The government wants the Riviera Maya International Airport because the region,just south of Cancun,is a booming tourist area – especially around Playa del Carmen – which is popular with U.S. and European visitors.”