Mexico tourism push...Travel + Leisure hotel, airline ratings for 2010...
Mexico and Canada - separated at birth?
Well, not quite, but the Mexico tourism folks made an interesting comparison at an event they held Wednesday at the posh Carlu facility at Yonge and College.
Folks for years categorized Canada as Moose, Mountains and Mounties, ignoring the great cities and cultural attractions this country has to offer, said Stephen Austin, executive marketing director for the Mexico Tourism Board. Similarly, Mexico has been much-loved for its sun and beaches (Canadian tourist numbers are up 9 per cent this year), but many folks ignore the rich history and archaeology and the big-city sophistication.
Officials say they have 30,000 listed archaeological sites, as well as dozens of world heritage sites. They also have a world-class cuisine, although we don't hear much about it in a Canadian world dominated by nachos and Taco Bell and maybe the odd fajita.
"We're one of the top 10 tourist destinations in the world but we should be top five or top three," said Tourism Secretary Gloria Guevara, who also spoke Wednesday with the Star's Brandie Weikle.
Mexico's ambassador to Canada, Francisco Barrio, delivered a podium-thumping speech with tremendous passion, telling tour organizers and other industry types that if they go to Mexico and have any problem they should let authorities know right away.
"Call the tourism board," he said. "Call the consulate. Call me. Put this ambassador to work!"
Officials want to focus more on big-city shopping (try the Zona Rosa in Mexico City, shown in photo below left) and glitzy hotels and fancy spas. Alvarez said Mexico is the number one country in the world for spas, with more than Thailand. I don't know what measuring stick they use for these things, but with all the beach (there's that word, sorry) hotels and such I'm sure they're right up there in terms of spas.
I found it fascinating to watch one of the speeches where someone was outlining the various companies Mexico has employed to try to burnish its tourism credentials. Among the p.r.-type firms taking part are Young and Rubicam, JWT, Burson-Marsteller and Hill and Knowlton. That's a helluva lot of public relations/marketing fire power right there, folks and it illustrates the strength of Mexico's desire to move up the tourism ladder.
"We've got challenges," Austin said, referring perhaps to the drug and violence issues that get so much attention north of the border. "We've got big challenges."
But he said the new campaign, which will carry TV and other advertisements with the tagline "Mexico - the place you thought you knew," should help change people's minds.
The ads are lovely and convey lots of urban action as well as beach scenes. As much as Mexico wants to emphasize Mexico City shopping or fancy cuisine in Los Cabos, they also know that Canadians, especially, go there mostly for sun and sand. And the odd margarita.
I've only been to Mexico once, and it was for an International Olympic Committee meeting in Mexico City when Vancouver was just beginning its 2010 Winter bid. I stayed at a nice hotel and we had some great meals downtown, as well as a beautiful show at the stunning Palace of Fine Arts (above). It was pretty impressive. We also got out to see the stunning pyramids at Teotihuacan, which is featured in the photo at the top of this page.
It's always fun to see ratings roll in for Travel + Leisure magazine. I spotted their 2010 ratings this morning, and there are some pretty cool findings. But not much Canadian content, which makes me wonder just a little.
Canadian spots did nab the bronze medal in the category of top small hotels in U.S. and Canadian cities, with the stunning Auberge Saint-Antoine in Quebec City placing third. (See photo, below, of the remarkable Panache restaurant at the hotel). Ahead were the
In the category of top resorts in the U.S. and Canada, I was happy to see the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, B.C., where I stayed last year, reach the number four spot. They were way down at 42 in 2009, so it's nice to see them back near the top where, I think, they belong.
Right behind The Wickaninnish was the Post Hotel and Spa in Lake Louise. The Four Seasons in Whistler was 36th; the only other Canadian entry in the top 50.
I see the Breakers in Palm Beach came 26th in U.S./Canadian resorts. It's another great spot, for sure. And it's interesting to note that 14 of the top 50 are located in California.
But I didn't see a single Canadian hotel in the top 50 for large city hotels, which makes me think there's a bit of a U.S. bias to the report. I could be biased myself, but I'd think that at least one larger hotel in Canada - the new Fairmont Pacific Rim or the Four Seasons in Vancouver, or the Opus or perhaps the hip Le Germain in Toronto - would make the list. The top 50 list had 10 Four Seasons hotels on it, which is at least a a Canadian-based group, but they all were located in the U.S.
On the airline front, magazine readers named Virgin America top Domestic Airline by a hefty margin. Virgin America, of course, just began flying into Toronto a couple weeks ago. After that came JetBlue, Midwest, Southwest, Hawaiian Airlines, Sun Country Airlines and Westjet. Air Canada often gets good marks in these types of polls, but not this time.