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Special report from Mexico’s Tianguis travel trade fair

Story and images by Bob Schulman

Next time you’re planning a vacation south of the border, chances are the bargain rates you’ll see in the travel ads – one might say: “7 nites in Los Cabos for $750 PPDO incl. air” – came from a deal cut at Mexico’s annual “Tianguis” travel trade fair.

The name comes from an ancient Aztec word meaning marketplace, where  traders gathered to dicker over things like feathers, corn and chocolate; today, tianguistas haggle over hotel rooms, airline seats and things to see and do on the ground.

This year’s 39th Tianguis, held last week in the state of Quintana Roo on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, was attended by a record 8,000 delegates.

Most were “suppliers” (representing Mexican resort areas, individual hotels, airlines, ground operators and the like) who came to meet close to 850 “buyers” (mainly wholesalers or tour operators who put air and ground packages together for sale to the public through travel agencies) from the U.S., Canada and 59 other countries across the globe.

In his keynote speech, Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto stressed the importance of tourism to his country.

“Tourism is the powerhouse that fuels our economy,” he said.

Pena Nieto noted his administration is pursuing tourism strategies aimed at placing Mexico “in the top tier of global destinations.”

The three-day conference was held principally at Lakam Center, a new, 215,000-square-foot facility near Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

More than 150 pavilions offered colorful looks at Mexico’s travel products, from beach resorts to inland colonial towns.

Exhibitors included all 32 federal entities and 120 companies from the country’s tourism sector.

Among 21 press conferences held during the convention, Cirque du Soleil unveiled details of its first permanent show outside the U.S.

Developed with Mexico’s Grupo Vidanta, the 70-minute “intimate theatrical experience” will be presented at a 600-seat dinner theater being built for Cirque du Soleil on the Riviera Maya near the Grand Mayan Resort.

The project is set to debut Nov. 21.

Two reports from resorts on the other side of the country detailed ongoing growth at Mazatlan and at Los Cabos on the tip of the Baja Peninsula.

The latter destination now has 58 hotels with a total of 14,000 rooms – figures set to rise next year with the addition of five more properties with 1,300 more rooms.

Also in the works there are two more golf courses slated to open this fall – bringing the resort’s overall tally to a whopping 14 championship courses.

Vacationers arriving at the Mazatlan airport will be able to get to their beach hotels much quicker when a new, 17-mile turnpike skirting the city opens later this year.

Drive time from the airport to Mazatlan’s main hotel zone will be cut to just 20 minutes vs. nearly an hour on the old road.

Meanwhile, the city’s recently improved docking area will be welcoming a fourth cruise line this winter with the addition of Mazatlan to Princess Cruises’ ports of call.

In the conference’s closing ceremony, Mexico Secretary of Tourism Claudia Ruiz Massieu and Quintana Roo Governor Roberto Borge Angulo confirmed that this year’s Tianguis “greatly exceeded” the targets set for the number of buyers, countries represented, commercial spaces, pre-scheduled appointments and attendees.

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