Mexico turns 200 and that means one big fiesta

The Mayan ruins of Palenque

The Mayan ruins of Palenque

Who wouldn’t want a big party for their 200th birthday?

On Sept. 16, Mexico will celebrate both the 200th anniversary of its independence from Spain, and the 100th anniversary of the revolution that overthrew dictator Porfirio Diaz.

After kicking off 2010 with the promotion of several new historic routes — The Zapatista Route, The Constitutionalist Revolution Route, the Route of Independence, and others — Mexico is inviting Canadians to get off the beachy path and get to know other aspects of the popular vacation spot.

Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism was in Toronto last week to announce an ad campaign geared at enticing tourists with the lesser-known offerings of the nation.

The delegation was also promoting 10 additional “Routes of Mexico,” a travel program that connects multiple cities under themes that tourists can pick according to their interest. These can either be purchased as a package or planned independently with an operator to according to budget and desired length of visit.

Secretary Gloria Guevara said that while Mexico may be thought of as a beach destination, her hope was to help tourists “learn about places you didn’t know existed,” such as a cave full of swallows as deep as the Empire State Building is tall, or the world’s tallest pyramid.

A former travel industry executive named to her cabinet position in March, Guevara said the tourism industry in Mexico is copying best practices from other markets, citing castle tours of Europe and the success of Italy’s Tuscany region in selling itself for its beauty and cuisine.

The 10 routes each end in a sunny destination, she explained, but highlight Mexico’s food, culture and history.

This comes during a year when Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advised against non-essential travel to Ciudad Juárez — a city in Mexico’s north, across the border from El Paso, Texas — “due to escalating violence linked to drug trafficking.” Two American nationals were shot to death in Ciudad Juárez on March 14.

“We know that there were some isolated incidents in some parts of Mexico,” acknowledges Guevara.

But she insists the country’s tourism industry has experienced no downturn as a result.

“We’ve had an increase in number of travelers from abroad,” she says, “including 9 per cent more Canadians.”

She adds that a study of 26,000 travellers found that 97 per cent said they’d come again.

Nevertheless, she’s launching a hotline this summer that tourists can call if they experience “any inconvenience.” The person on the phone will act as a sort of ombudsman to resolve problems.

In addition, the country will now have “touristic ambassadors” located at airports and popular points of interest to advise travelers and amp-up the friendly welcome.

Mexico’s Ambassador to Canada, Francisco Barrio, also spoke to the Star about Canada’s importance to the Mexico’s travel industry.

“You can’t understand the relationship between Mexico and Canada without speaking of tourism,” he says. Canadians stay in the sunny destination for an average of 11 nights, compared to the average American visit of three or four nights. “You need three Americans for every Canadian, so it’s very important for us.”

“We have found that when the average Canadian thinks of Mexico he is usually thinking of beaches and sun and Corona beer and that’s it,” he continued. “I think this new campaign is most opportune and relevant because there are many, many things that Canadian could enjoy in Mexico but seem not to know.”


Brandie Weikle – Staff Reporter for The Star in Canada