For the Mexican meetings industry, the past 12 months have been brutal. Acknowledging a "perfect storm" of economic woes, public reaction to headlines about the H1N1 flu and drug-related violence, plus corporate skittishness about selecting resort-oriented destinations for business meetings, Eduardo Chaillo, CMP, CMM, strategic business unit director, Mexico Tourism Board, is looking ahead with a measure of optimism.
"We are recovering," he says. "Our occupancy is at normal levels for right now." Airlift remains an issue, at 15 percent below normal in terms of available seats. "However, we are meeting with the major carriers, offering them marketing tools to bring people back," he says.
Chaillo credits meetings industry associations with supporting the destination by communicating to members and "setting the record straight on all of the issues." The so-called AIG effect still lingers, he adds, with Los Cabos labeled only as "luxury" and Cancun as purely "fun." They are these things, he emphasizes, "but there is another Cancun that has the infrastructure to host the World Trade Organization. It is exactly halfway between North America and South America. There are 70,000 rooms in the Riviera Maya and Cancun. This is a business destination as well."
Attendees at the Meeting Professionals International MeetDifferent conference will see that firsthand when they arrive in Cancun in February. "We are thrilled with the opportunity to host MPI and for the chance to show what we are really all about," Chaillo says. "We are working very hard and we will be showcasing all of Mexico during the meeting."
There will also be a strong corporate social responsibility component to the program, Chaillo notes, with community service projects under consideration for before, during, and after the meeting dates.
Finally, Mexico is renewing its efforts to attractby working to connect the content and interests of associations to specific areas or specialties of Mexico. Chaillo is based in the Mexico Tourism Board's Washington, D.C., office, which opened two years ago to focus on the growth of association business.