Insiders at the FITUR International trade show told Travel Market Report what’s new for their destination in 2016, and how travel agents can help them grow.
Uruguay: Banking on Ecotourism
Uruguay is making a name for itself in ecotourism. The natural reserves in the coastal region of Rocha, a popular spot for ecotourism, are part of the National System of Protected Areas and Biosphere Reserves recognized by UNESCO. In the northeast part of the country, along the Uruguay River, tourists can visit geothermal salt water and fresh water springs. There are six geothermal centers, which range from camping areas to spas, five-star hotels to water parks.
“We’re a little country, but we have a lot of variety,” said Doris Rodriguez of the Ministry of Tourism.
Another growing segment is gastronomy. Tourists can enjoy food and wine tastings as well as guided tours in vineyards; Uruguay has received worldwide recognition for its flagship wine, Tannat.
Rodriguez said it’s a new destination for the North American market, but a unique product agents can offer their clients.
She also noted that the best way for travelers to get a complete understanding of what Uruguay has to offer is through travel agents. “Agents can provide experience and knowledge about the kind of product we have to offer, better than an OTA.”
The country’s convention center is currently under construction. Once the $32-million project is completed, the space will be able to host up to 5,000 people.
Mexico: Continued Growth
Fourteen hotels will be opening in Los Cabos in the next three years, adding 3,000 new rooms, a majority of them high-end. And over $1 million has been invested in new resorts and infrastructure since Hurricane Odile pummeled the area in 2014.
“We’re being called the comeback kid,” said Luis Palaicos of the Los Cabos Tourism Board.
Starwood’s Solaz, Nobu Hotel Los Cabos, Hard Rock Hotel, and Ritz Carlton are just some of the properties; “with an average room rate of $300 a night, we like to tell agents they can sell less, but make more.”
San Miguel Allende
The quaint town of San Miguel Allende is a niche destination, popular among retirees and students.
Guillermo González Engelbrecht, general manager of the San Miguel de Allende Tourist Board, describes it as sophisticated. “We’re the best of both worlds – culture and luxury.”
College kids can take classes and immerse themselves in the high-end art scene, while retirees often stay for upwards of a month.
Moving forward, the city wants to expand into the MICE market. “We’re looking to become a destination for small meetings, which will bring in business during the week,” Engelbrecht said. The city’s La Casona convention center has a capacity of 1,500 people.
“We are expecting both more flights and new hotels to the area,” said Sandra Munoz Arias of the Puerto Vallarta OCV, thanks to a record year in 2015; hotel occupancy soared over 90% just last month.
Three new convention and meeting spaces have opened in Puerto Vallarta. The Grand Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta All Inclusive Adults Only is now home to the city’s largest convention center; Hotel Mousai debuted a venue that can be used as a conference center or pressroom; and Costa Sur Resort & Spa added a meeting room that can hold up to 80 people.
Acapulco completed a multi-million dollar expansion of its airport last year, adding a new passenger terminal designed to serve over a million passengers a year.
Now the city is looking to change its imagine in the mind of tourists. Safety concerns have deterred spring breakers, a one-time staple for the destination and cruise ships have declined from 140 in 2010 to just 31 this year, said Abraham Garay, general director of the Acapulco Destination Marketing Office. But thanks to added security and new ad campaigns, tourism numbers are slowly headed back up.
New international flights to Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles through Delta and United have also been added.
Colombia: A Rising Star
“Colombia is the the rising star of Latin America," with steady growth since launching its tourism campaign in 2006, said Enrique Stellabatti Torres, vice president of tourism. Now the country hopes to further this progress by specializing in niche markets like nature, culture, and MICE.
Colombia will host the World Economic Forum on Latin America in June, bringing in industry leaders, academics, and millennials to explore how Latin America can build on its strengths and resources.
Torres told TMR the North American market focuses on luxury and nature—two areas in which Colombia is well versed. With a complex climate and terrain, the country is home to 83 different bird species, making it a popular destination for bird watching,and also is launching fishing and horseback- riding programs.
“Agents are the key to putting Colombia on the map,” Torres said, as it’s important for travelers to have a face-to-face conversation about this “complicated and complex” destination.