Down Mexico way

Mexico is a corporate enigma.

Mexico is a corporate enigma. The country is well known, yet unknown. It has a history going back about 3,000 years, yet it was necessary for the country’s president to make it clear a few months ago, during a visit to France, that the democratisation of his country was now irreversible. In Mexico City recently, thousands of students marched in the downtown district, demanding a full government account of the 1968 massacre of hundreds of peaceful demonstrators in Tlatelolco Square when soldiers opened fire on students killing, it is alleged, up to 300. Like many other nations seeking to forget an unhappy past, Mexico, as well as being misunderstood and awaiting worldwide recognition, is suffering from the consequences of an intrinsic insecurity. In the words of its well-known writer, Sergio Sarmeneto, “we are still searching for our own identity”. Perhaps he was thinking of a survey once published in The Economist which showcased a cover photograph of a raven-haired beauty in a fiery red gown poised to launch herself into a passionate dance. There was just one problem. The attire and the pose were Spanish, not Mexican. It is a mistake frequently made. At the Seoul Olympics, for example, it was Spanish music that was played as the Mexican athletes entered the arena during the opening ceremony. But the Mexican authorities are beginning to understand that achieving increased international awareness of what it has to offer lies in forging a stronger presence in the corporate market, where until now all her firepower has been © directed to corporations and associations in the US. Many believe that too many eggs have been placed in a single basket. All that may soon change. British Airways now has three direct flights a week from Gatwick to Mexico City. This could soon be increased to four. In addition, discussions have taken place which may lead to direct flights, in addition to current charters, to Cancun, Mexico’s number one destination for incentives, as well as an increasing number of conventions and trade exhibitions. Cancun, rather than Mexico City, could be the key. At a time when scores of British companies are seeking new destinations for future incentives, this town could provide the answer. Currently, the Mexican Tourist Office in London, in co-operation with both BA and Mexico’s largest hotel chain, Fiesta Americana, is arranging educational visits for incentive planners from the UK. What is its verdict? Samantha Bowen of Purchasepoint Travel came home determined to encourage clients to put Mexico high on their list of possible destinations. She explained: “The country has many advantages that have long been recognised by the Americans. However, the problem for the British is that Mexico is, inevitably, regarded as a long-haul destination which often loses out when it is compared with Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore or even Florida, which are so much better known.” This view was confirmed by Karen Boldy, manager at Imari Travel of Bradford and Harrogate, whose enthusiasm was only tempered by the thought that Mexico City, where everyone flies, is likely to please older top achievers rather than the thrusting 25 to 40-year-olds who have begun climbing the ladder to the top. She added: “But take them to Cancun, and it is their turn to start jumping and enjoying the excitement of a second Miami.” There is much of Mexico’s history to be found within short drives of both Mexico City and Cancun. From the capital, it is easy to reach the Aztec temples at Tenochtitlan with its temple pyramids to the Sun and the Moon, while the Anthropological Musem, both indoors and out, has to rank among the finest in the world. Close to Cancun are scores of relics of a still older Mayan civilization. Although the town’s history goes back more than 2,000 years, Cancun – which is proving such a magnet for incentive and other groups from the US – is just 27-years-old. Before then it was nothing more than a sand-bar of clear waters clinging to Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Now the town welcomes about 2 million visitors each year and is fast catching up in popularity with Miami, an hour’s flight away. Luxury hotels are spread out for several miles and include more than 80 properties, varying from budget-conscious three-star residences to three which have qualified for memberships of Leading Hotels of the World. In this deluxe category are the Ritz Carlton; the Caesar Park Beach & Golf Resort, which has meeting facilities for up to 1,000; and the Fiesta Americana Condesa with meeting salons for up to 1,800. Later this year, these Leading Hotels will be joined by the Condesa’s sister property, the Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Hotel. The Coral Beach lies opposite Cancun’s convention centre, whose largest room can squeeze in up to 4,000 delegates. Other areas in the complex can handle meetings of more than 1,000, or host exhibitions banquets, seminars and receptions. It claims to be the largest centre of its kind in South America. For those who find time to get away from business, there are US-style shopping malls, golf and tennis, as well as Mayan excavations – some more than 3,000-years-old, including Chichen Itza, a two-hour drive from Cancun, and probably the most impressive of all Mexico’s archaeological sites. Another series of excavations, and much nearer to Cancun, are found at Tulum, but for incentive groups the number one target has to be at Xcaret, where you are brought face to face with the ancient Mayan civilization. Temples and paved streets are now part of an eco-archaeological site that also includes a breeding aviary for jungle birds, an enclosure for some of the few surviving jaguars, as well as opportunities to swim through an under- ground river, or enjoy a dive with a family of dolphins. There is much in Mexico waiting to be discovered by British and European corporate groups. It offers 6,000 miles of beaches and coastline as well as cities such as Acapulco, the island of Cozumel increasingly popular with American cruise ships, Cuernavaca, now a weekend retreat for both wealthy Mexicans and Americans, as well as Guadalajara, the country’s second largest city. This is a country starting to flex its muscles and present its new democratic face to the world, and not solely to North America. The country is determined that Europe should begin to know of its existence and what it has to offer for corporate events of every kind. It will, however, be an uphill struggle. Although few return disappointed after visiting this land of the Aztecs and Mayans, it is difficult to fault it for putting so many of its eggs into one basket which, after all, has attracted millions of Americans. However, those in authority would do well to remember that eggs can get broken.

In the New Media/Internet Special Report on November 27 1997, we stated that Universal McCann had taken over Foresight Europe. In fact, Universal McCann uses Foresight Europe for all its new media work, but there is no equity involved in the relationship.

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