Mexico City is a Touch Away with New Travel App

Guide to the Ancient City Offers Contemporary Insight for First-Time and Frequent Visitors

MEXICO CITY, July 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — One of the world’s largest metropolitan spaces is now easier to maneuver with the launch of the StyleMap Mexico City application, now available to download for free at the iTunes store. The newly released app invites travelers to get a feel for Mexico City before boarding the plane and be fully prepared to live like a local upon arriving to the dynamic city.

Whether a veteran or novice traveler, the StyleMap Mexico City app is the quintessential guide to navigating the third largest city in the world. The user-friendly interface empowers travelers with insider guides to Mexico City’s neighborhoods, restaurants, hotels, art galleries, boutique shopping and museums. The app is compatible with the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and requires iOS 3.1.3 or later.

“This is the most comprehensive and functional Mexico City app to launch and we are excited about the opportunities it will afford our visitors,” said Marcelo Ebrard, mayor of Mexico City. “The app allows travelers to utilize accessible, insider guides to our exceptional city, highlighting our vibrant culinary, fashion, architectural and entertainment scenes.”

Created for the universal traveler, the app includes suggestions such as:

Exploring Mexico City’s cultural and art-influenced history at Casa Lamm, a cultural center and public art gallery located in the colonial Roma neighborhood.
Shopping along The Presidente Masaryk Stip in Polanco, often compared to New York City’s Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
Grabbing a cool drink and listening to live local music at the charming T Gallery lounge in the Condesa neighborhood.

Mexico City is the country’s premier tourism destination, welcoming more than 12 million visitors a year.  The ancient capital presents a vibrant, contemporary culture combining pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern influences that span nearly seven centuries.  With 160 museums (more than any other city in the world), 31 distinct archeological and historic sites, as well as 100 art galleries, the city’s tourism industry is enhanced with the support of the Mexico City Tourism Promotion Fund (Fondo Mixto de Promocion Turistica del Distrito Federal).  This government entity works with industry partners to attract both leisure and business travelers by implementing the use of dedicated public- and private-sector funds.

For more information, please visit www.mexicocityexperience.com, download the free StyleMap Mexico City app, and for daily updates, please friend/follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/MexicoCityExperience) and Twitter (@MexicoCity).

 

The Travel Agent… Still a Very Important Part of Planning Your Trip to Mexico

By: Lisa Coleman

There was time (not so long ago) when you still needed a paper ticket to fly and there was no such thing as airport security.  Back then, using an agent was THE only option when considering international travel.  But technology and online booking engines stepped in and suddenly everyone spent hours surfing the web and travel became somewhat of a do-it-yourself business. Now I enjoy looking at hotels and destinations just as much as the next person, but when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of a trip, especially an international trip, the travel agent is still the way to go.

I attended the ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents – the world’s largest association of travel professionals www.asta.org) annual Fiesta in the Desert show last weekend. It was great to see over 150 agents in one room still thriving and going strong. According to the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) there are 9,386 travel agency firms operating 15,671 retail locations across the United States. (Not to mention a stout number of very successful agents operating from their homes.)Today’s agent is a completely different breed from those our parents used. Today’s agent simply has to be knowledgeable and savvy to succeed.

Mexico has always been one step ahead of the game in terms of building travel agent relationships. Perhaps it’s the country’s traditional nature, but Mexico has a very long history of partnering with travel agents, and has always taken tremendous steps to keep those agents educated and motivated to sell south of the border.

Leading the way for travel agent education is the extremely popular and successful Magic of Mexico program. Run by Greg and Jane Custer of Destination Ventures in Bend, Oregon, this educational series was launched in 1991 and caught the eye of Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism in 1992.  Since then, the Magic of Mexico seminars have become the standard in the industry for learning about Mexico. They have kept pace and evolved the program into a comprehensive online sensation with accredited courses, interactive “campuses” and webinars to ensure travel agents have the most complete Mexico education possible.  (www.destinationventures.com and www.magicofmexico.com). Thousands of agents have successfully completed the Magic of Mexico courses so there is a good chance you can find one in your neck of the woods.

So next time you Google “vacation in Mexico” and 1.7 million results pop up, ask yourself if it’s worth the time to book the trip yourself. Chances are pretty good it’s not. After all, saving money isn’t just about price, it’s about value. What’s your time really worth? What’s peace of mind worth if something goes wrong with the flight, the hotel or the tour? Think about it, and after you’ve burned hours surfing that trip,  maybe take another look at your local travel agent.

 

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own. Mexico Today is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination.

Las Brisas Acapulco in the World’s Best Hotels 2011’s List – Travel + Leisure

This year’s Travel + Leisure “World’s Best”  has a fantastic list of Mexico’s finest properties. Things have been very tough for the Acapulco hoteliers this year, so we wanted to give a special shout out to our good friends at Las Brisas Acapulco. They are proof that excellence always thrives in Mexico. Congrats Las Brisas for being world-class for more than 50 years!

MIAMI, FL. – Las Brisas Acapulco has been named one of the ‘Top Resorts in Mexico” by Travel + Leisure magazine’s 2011 World’s Best Hotels in its August 2011’s edition.  Each year Travel + Leisure asks readers to vote on their favorite hotels around the globe. Readers were asked to rate hotels, island destinations, spas, cruise lines, airlines and other travel industry services in their annual readers’ survey; Hotels were evaluated based on five characteristics: rooms/facilities, location, service, restaurants/food, and value.

“It is a tremendous accomplishment for Las Brisas Acapulco to have been awarded by the highly recognizable and leading travel publication, Travel + Leisure,” said Rafael Millan, CEO for Las Brisas Hotel Collection. “It is an honor to learn that we were rated so highly by the readers, as we continuously strive to deliver excellence and customized service in order to achieve the highest level of satisfaction and loyalty for each of our guests,” added Mr. Millan.

Nancy Novogrod, editor-in-chief of Travel + Leisure, said this year’s results reflected readers’ travel interests in these challenging economic times. Readers rated the winners in the different categories based on their top priorities: value, intimacy, service, and discovery.

For additional information on the 2011 World’s Best Awards, please visit: http://www.travelandleisure.com/worldsbest/2011/hotels/resorts-mexico/291 For information visit www.brisas.com.mx.

About Las Brisas Acapulco
Las Brisas Acapulco is located in Acapulco, Mexico, one of the largest tourist regions in the Mexican Pacific. With its distinctive “white and pink” color scheme and the charming bungalow style rooms known as ‘casitas,’ the resort has been a favorite among travelers for over 50 years.

About Las Brisas Hotel Collection
Brisas Hotels and Resorts, Mexico’s luxury hotel leader, operates four Resort properties: Las Brisas Acapulco, Las Brisas Huatulco, Las Brisas Ixtapa and Las Hadas Manzanillo and three Corporate properties: the Galería Plaza in Reforma, Galería Plaza Veracruz and Hacienda Jurica in Querétaro.

Brisas Hotels and Resorts is world renowned for providing unparalleled personalized service and luxury accommodations in a warm, friendly environment in exotic resorts as well as city center locations.

One Particular Harbor

by David Simmonds

But there’s this one particular harbor
So far but yet so near
Where I see the days as they fade away
And finally disappear
Jimmy Buffett

I’ve been traveling Mexico most of my life, and have been writing about it for nearly twenty years. And the question I have been asked the most is, by far: “What’s the best place in Mexico?”  Of course, the answer is that it all depends on what you like. I can tell you the places that stir my searching soul, but it probably won’t be yours. Although I greatly admire the colonial cities with their fascinating histories, culture and architecture, I inevitably experience serious withdrawals when I am away from the beach for over a week. I like to see the sun set over the sea, not rise. I like green plants better than brown. That’s right…it is the west coast on the Pacific Ocean in the tropics that keeps me coming back. From around semi-tropical Mazatlán, and continuing all the way south and east to the Guatemala border is my preference. I especially like the states of Nayarit, Jalisco and Colima. Many of my best times have been spent riding waves all day and slapping mosquitos all night. That’s just me. But there are some significant negatives at the coast that many people cannot adapt to. The summers are hot, humid, and buggy, with the occasional hurricane lurking off shore, ready to blow your pants off. And many of the small coastal villages have few amenities that many people can’t do without. But you can dine cheaply on fresh fish, there are no brain-bending traffic jams and the ubiquitous swinging hammock is always nearby, beer in hand, for an afternoon siesta. You need to know what you like and what is important to you. Like Jimmy, you need to find that One Particular Harbor.

The first step in finding your spot, the place where you can easily live and adapt to your surroundings, is to do your homework and, above all, be honest with yourself. If you’re a beach person like me, don’t settle for the highlands (bajio) or Monterrey. If you need fine shopping and five-star dining, forget that little dirt-street village where the major entertainment is Saturday night’s cockfight. Consume everything you can about Mexico, talk to people who have traveled the country, go online, and eventually you will start to narrow down a few potential locations for consideration. Moving to a foreign country, or even making a real estate investment for your occasional use, is one of the most important things you will do in your lifetime. It is a big deal and you need to do it right.

After you have identified several possible towns that seem workable, you need to make an extended scouting trip. No words, photos or videos can come close to giving you a realistic view of what a town is really like, day in, day out. You have to personally experience the place, walk the streets, eat the food, absorb the sounds and the scents. Talk to the locals, native and expat, and determine if you like them. They call Mexico the amigo country, but some places are friendlier than others. At many towns in Mexico you will be readily accepted and will make friends easily. But the cultures of the country are very diverse, and the locals in some areas are extremely guarded and private. Those in the tourist towns have learned to cater to the gringo. They have seen how a large influx of gringo dollars has improved their lives over time. But, there are other less-traveled areas where they don’t really care if you are there are not. You will easily recognize the difference.

Check out the little things as well. Are the streets clean? Are the health facilities adequate for you? Is it too noisy (Mexico is not as quiet as many believe)? Are fresh vegetables abundant? Cold beer? Internet? Is the sewer and water system in good shape? Does it feel safe? What does your “gut” tell you? When in doubt, trust your intuition. Talk to anyone you see and ask them how things are. Ask if the drug cartels are visible in the area, and if they are, look elsewhere.

Then once you have decided on the best place for you, spend some time – live a few months in a rental before you buy. If you plan on being a year-round resident, make sure you test drive the rainy season, generally the months from June through mid-October throughout most of the country. Northern Mexico and Baja get little rain any time of the year. I have heard it said that the city with the best climate in the world is Tepic, Nayarit.

Of course, you may already be a seasoned, long-time Mexico traveler and know exactly where you want to live. I have known my spot since the first day I pulled into town. Now, after having seen just about every place in Mexico, that town is still the one.

 

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Contributor for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own. Mexico Today is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination.

 

The Boutique Hotel Experience…A Unique Way to See Mexico

By Lisa Coleman

For many, many years the big chain hotels defined tourism in Mexico. Over time, however, the boutique hotel experience has carved out quite a niche for itself. It seems more and more travelers are looking for an intimate and authentic look at Mexico. They are stepping away from the one price fits all “wrist band” vacation and opting for time in something with some cultural bite.  In 1999, I was working in Mexico full time and started to hear a buzz about a new hotel group. Back then, Mexico Boutique Hotels (MBH) was just getting a foot hold in the market. Today MBH is one of Mexico’s most prominent and respected hotel associations and has raised the bar high for small luxury properties. 

The lovely and brilliant Sylvie Laitre is the Director of Mexico Boutique Hotels (MBH). Originally from Canada, Sylvie graduated with dual (bilingual: English and French) degrees in Communications and Leisure Studies (specializing in tourism development) from the University of Ottawa. She worked in Canada in museums, at festivals, and even as a private fashion consultant (while in college). She moved to Mexico to learn Spanish and never looked back. She moved up through the ranks of the hotel world wearing a number of hats ranging from guest services, sales, and reservations to accounting, reception, and public relations. I recently talked to Sylvie about MBH and learned more about the “boutique” experience in Mexico.

Sylvie Laitre

 Tell me about MBH and how it came to be, how long it has been around and a bit of the history?

MBH was created at a time when hotels didn’t have websites (and if they did, they were unilingual or very poor), when large travel sites didn’t see the point of promoting small boutique hotels and when it was still difficult to find someone that spoke proper English when calling hotels. The founder—John Youden—met boutique hotel owners through his travels in Mexico and realized they all had similar challenges; promoting on a very, very small budget, being taken seriously as far as quality, and understanding the hotel business (as most were not hoteliers).

These small properties needed economies of scale and a brand of quality that would help put them into a group and give travelers, agents and writers the confidence that these were quality hotels. They needed a bridge and MBH became that bridge. These hotels also needed eyes and ears outside their property… Someone who was watching trends, keeping up with technology, monitoring the industry, etc… And I do that for them.
How many properties in how many states? And what are the requirements are to be a member?
MBH was founded in 1999. Today, we have 35 hotels in 26 destinations throughout Mexico. The criteria are part tangible (quality linens, elegant decor, original artwork, great amenities, etc) and part intangible (how does this hotel make you FEEL? Are you inspired to take a photo everywhere you look? Does the property tell a story? Is it part of the local heritage? Does the hotel a clear voice and personality?) In translating this concept into hotels, potential member properties must be intimate in size (our requirement is under 50, but most have less than 30 rooms), be meticulously and tastefully decorated, have perfectly choreographed, impeccable service and, most importantly, be willing to go to great lengths (and think outside the box) to provide guests with a faultlessly tailored, exceptional experience.

 What do you feel the appeal is of the smaller properties in Mexico for the boutique traveler?

This is a great question as I just posted something in Spanish on our blog (inspired by a recent study I read about the appeal of B&Bs and Inns): My title was Hoteles Boutique de Mexico; calidad, calidez y conocimiento (quality, warmth and knowledge). Basically, the appeal of a small hotel is just that: Quality of experience, decor and services. Warmth in service and details.  Knowledge of local culture and the ability to help guests connect with this.

As a society, we are over-informed, over-digitalized, and over-programmed nowadays. The small, boutique hotel takes you back to simpler times where you matter, and where the experience is truly personal. Travelers want unique, meaningful experiences and MBH is one of the channels. Small boutique hotels are also affordable, competitive, good to their loyal visitors and focused on ‘celebrating’ your visit.

Hacienda De Los Santos

 Boutique traveling is a completely different experience than the all-inclusive route, what’s the single most important thing you want travelers to know about that experience?

All-inclusive experiences (aside from their economical pluses) are tailored to please groups of people and therefore must be standardized and somewhat generalized in terms of what they offer. They are molded to please the majority of guests who do not want to venture out of their comfort zone too much. A boutique experience throws you out of the zone…in a good way. It allows you to connect, to experience something different and to immerse yourself in a local culture. 

I know some of the properties are located in “off-the-beaten-path” locations; can you address the fears that travelers may have?

True, many are off-the-beaten-path. But, the very nature of the boutique hotel (taking care of you even before you arrive) makes sure someone is expecting you, in many cases picking you up directly at the airport, sending a driver, etc.  My personal philosophy is that an unbeaten path presents much less traffic and thus, less interest for potential trouble makers. Like anything, and anywhere in the world, preparedness, knowledge and common sense are important.

Quinta Real Huatulco

How are the hotels working together to thrive in this tourism climate?

I’ve seen more cooperation in terms of recommending each other. Group promoting is important and necessary. Shared co-op ads have been placed in key national magazines, and we have a good repeat guest program where our hotels pamper past MBH guests (even if the person did not stay in their own hotel). The hotels are working together to make the MBH traveler feel special and hopefully encourage more repeat business between properties.

There are other hotel groups in Mexico, what makes you unique?

 Our niche. Our bi-cultural position (knowing and living in Mexico yet still understanding what a foreigner expects and needs). Our size (in terms of operation): we’re not corporate. We’re not government run. We’re just a very tiny group of people that love Mexico, love hotels and curate them in order to help others have the best experience possible. We don’t accept hotels that want to buy membership and we must know each of our properties.

I recently made an important decision that I believe truly sets us apart. We no longer commission bookings. We can still help with reservations BUT not through commissioning. I am allowing the hotel to present its best rate and allowing the traveler to get the best deal on my site. I want to be a channel and a voice for small hotels. I want to be a friend for travelers that want a good recommendation. 

Villas Flamingos

What are the goals of MBH and what are your plans for the future to build your brand?

I want to give great, small hotels a platform to promote, a network to communicate with each other and share tips and strategies. I want to help fantastic hotels continue to get the word out and help them see what is so great about themselves. It’s also very important for me to be their eyes/ears on the Web. They don’t have the time or the resources to monitor activity and reputation. I enjoy doing this and keeping them aware.
For the traveler, I want to be a friend. I want to be the girl who lives in Mexico, who visits hotels; the one who will tell you the truth. The one who puts together a list of places she thinks are pretty fantastic.

For the media and travel agents: a one-stop shop. A place for advice, for recommendations, for the latest news on boutique hotels in Mexico, for current deals, etc.

I’m updating our site to be more of a portal with great links to others sites. I don’t need to know everything; I just need to know where to find it and how it all fits in. We’ll be posting relevant blog posts on our hotel pages for example now. Great articles on other sites, maps, destination reviews; anything I think can help a traveler make a more informed decision. And of course, if they need me, I’m always an email away.
 

Sylvie and Mexico Boutique Hotels are a dynamic combination. They are a small group with a huge impact. This attention to culture and detail is fantastic trend for all travelers and could change the face of how we see travel in Mexico. For more information visit http://www.mexicoboutiquehotels.com/ and for Sylvie’s blog go to http://www.mexicoboutiquehotels.com/wordpress/. MBH is launching a new website in the next few weeks so stay tuned.

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own. Mexico Today is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination.

Mexican Tourism Positioned to Break Records in 2011

International arrival numbers in Mexico continue to soar

MEXICO CITY, July 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — From January to May 2011, the number of international visitors to Mexico grew 2.1 percent compared to the same period in 2010. In total, more than 9.5 million tourists have visited Mexico in the first five months of the year. These numbers clearly indicate that Mexico continues to be a destination of choice for millions of people around the world.

Of particular interest is that there was substantial growth emanating from Russia (58.1 percent), Brazil (40.9 percent), and China (32.8 percent) over the period.

At this rate, Mexico is expected to receive a record number of international foreign visitors, trumping its previous high of 22.4 million achieved in 2010.

The Mexico Tourism Board has been working with industry and the private sector to attract overseas attention and to build the necessary infrastructure to accommodate such numbers. These numbers are a testament to the great things that can be achieved when the public and private sectors collaborate.

 

Mexico Wins Big at Travel + Leisure Awards

Four Mexican resorts and hotels score honors in prestigious survey  

MEXICO CITY, July 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following is being released by the Mexico Tourism Board:

Four of Mexico’s premier resorts and hotels won honors at the prestigious Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards readers’ survey. Notably, Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Baja California, was named the best destination spa in the world.

Mexico continues to be a highly sought after and world-renowned tourist destination. These awards are testament to the exceptional depth of quality Mexico possesses with regard to tourism infrastructure, specifically luxury accommodation.

This is the 16th annual Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2011 readers’ survey, which rates the world’s best hotels, cities, islands, cruise lines, airlines, car-rental agencies, spas, tour operators and safari outfitters.

Rancho La Puerta, the world’s first destination fitness resort and spa, sets the standard for multi-day destination spa vacations which encompass health and wellness for mind, body and spirit, offering fitness activities programs, healthful cuisine and luxury spa amenities.

The award for top resort in Mexico went to One & Only Palmilla Los Cabos and the top city hotel award in Mexico went to the Four Seasons Hotel Mexico, D.F. Mexico City.

Winners of the best hotel spa were named by region. In Mexico, tie honors went to both the Excellence Riviera Cancun Mayan Riviera and the Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach Resort & Spa Los Cabos.

The top winners in each category were honored at a ceremony on July 14 hosted by Novogrod and Vice President and Publisher Jean-Paul Kyrillos at the new Mr. C Beverly Hills hotel in Los Angeles. They are listed on www.TravelandLeisure.com and will feature as the cover story of the August issue of the magazine, on newsstands July 22.

SOURCE Mexico Tourism Board