It’s the aftermath of the US Presidential elections and Donald Trump, the man who promised to build a wall between the United States of America and Mexico has just emerged as the winner and 45th President-elect of the United States of America. What does this mean for Mexico City and its advancement? Executive Traveller Magazine Editor-in-Chief met up with Mexico City Tourism Trust Director of Events Maria Magdalena Sanchez Lopez to find out what this new political development means to Mexico City and the world with which it does business.
Armed with a comprehensive meeting planner guide, a style map and a Mexico City museums guide, a very confident Magda Sanchez Lopez (as she prefers to called) says that Mexico City is ready for business.
Tell me a little bit about the Mexico City Tourism Trust and what makes you the right person to take on this challenge of promoting Mexico City on their behalf? The Mexico City Tourism Trust is not new; it was created in the 90s and between 1997 and 2003 it vigorously began to promote Mexico City as a stand-alone destination. As a public organization, it is in charge of the promotion of Mexico City through its brand CDMX. It is also the only entity of the Government of the City responsible for the care and promotion of the meetings segment. Funding for the development of the City is levied via a room tax which is used solely to promote the destination. The Trust itself is financed by the Government, controlled by a Board made up of public and private bodies alongside a Conventions Bureau. For my part, I have over 10 years’ experience in the public sector and my focus now is the promotion of Mexico City in general but with interest in promoting the city as a business tourist destination. I work with a very dynamic team aged between 24-60 years all of whom are very keen to make Mexico City a thriving business destination.
One of our earlier challenges was to convince travellers passing through Mexico City to other destinations to stay overnight in the City to have a taste of Mexico City.
I delighted to learn that Mexico City Mexico City is not troubled with Donald Trump and his wall and the City is ready to present itself as a business destination. However, you will agree that history does not place the city on the right side of the business mirror. The destination has been called many derogatory names such as “worst crime city”, “drug barons’ haven”, “polluted with street crime” among many others. What would you say to today’s business traveller to convince them that it is safe to choose Mexico City as a business destination? What has changed now?
All those horror stories that you mention was the wall that was created in the past. Today, Mexico City has a powerful story to share as a model for other megacities around the globe using creativity to tackle the challenges of urbanization and ensure that it is a more enjoyable city. The City is a thriving metropolis and the heart of Mexico’s business, arts, culture and culinary industries, offering rich experiences for visitors of varying interests. It is Mexico’s business and touristic premier destination. And with The New York Times naming Mexico City as the Number one destination on their annual list of “52 Places to go”; the only way is up. These are exciting times for Mexico City.
A business destination requires first class amenities and facilities to make it successful. What has Mexico City got to offer that will make it attractive to businesses and especially the meetings, incentives, conferences and events trade?
We have the best-selling pointers for business events with world-class ranking business centres, first class hotel and a wide range of events venues. In Mexico City, events can be hosted in hotels as well as within historic centres. We have a commitment to greenness and even have venues solely dedicated to charitable events.
As the saying goes, food and drink makes a business go down well. How are F&B businesses in Mexico City positioning themselves for this challenge?
We have created the Stylemap CDMX Mexico City. This is the Connoisseur’s guide to the best culture, food, shopping and nightlife by Travesias. The guide which is bilingual English-Spanish walks you through the various neighbourhoods of Mexico sharing information about where to shop and eat as well as what to do in each area.
Above all, we want people to enjoy our local culinary delights. Mexican food has met with UNESCO cultural heritage approval and this is important. French and Mexican cuisine are the only two who have met these standards. We have a wide range of choices of street food serving our traditional Taco al Pastor which is an historic dish of one of the most popular varieties of tacos. The Tacos al Pastor dates to the 1920s and 30s and the arrival of Lebanese and Syrian immigrants in Mexico. There is always something for every palate in Mexico City and they mostly taste good.
The practicality of travel to and from Mexico City from the rest of the world. This would certainly have an enormous impact on how successful you can attract international trade. Are there any new developments with regards to air travel between Mexico City and the rest of the world?
A great deal of work has gone into making Mexico City International airport an excellent hub. It is the largest and biggest airport in Latin America. The airport is owned by Mexico City’s Grupo Aeroportuario and is the main hub of Mexico’s largest airline, Aeromexico. There are several daily flights to and from all over the world and across Mexico. British Airways flies six times a week between London and Mexico City, Alitalia flies thrice a week from Rome, Air France daily from Paris. Aeromexico flies to all these destinations in addition for Tokyo, Shanghai, and the Netherlands. Mexico City is busy welcoming and seeing off travellers.
Road travel, smog alerts, traffic restrictions, car bans are some of the very few things that make Mexico City a challenging place to visit. What would you advise meeting organisers or delegates to do or incorporate in their planning?
We advise organisers to seek assistance from local professionals especially as they are on the ground and will always know what is happening in the City. Above all, we have also produced a comprehensive Meeting Planner Guide which is a useful tool that will let you know the key elements so that a congress, convention or exhibition turns into a unique experience in Mexico City.
The first part of the guide provides information regarding air and ground connections of our capital city. It also gives you information about the main geographic or clusters zones, where meetings take place. On each cluster, you will find hotels and restaurants around a Conference Center (airport and south not included. The guide also shows you cultural sites, catering enterprises and touristic products, as well as professional organizers, specialized travel agencies, among others.
There are also bicycle sharing schemes available for those who may be interested.
Business alone without a dip in culture and lifestyle will not make it a welcoming destination to complement MICE experience for delegates? Care to share any tips that would lure the virgin business traveller and at the same time convince the otherwise biased travellers that it is not all about business in Mexico City today.
Mexico City is a thriving metropolis and the heart of Mexico’s business, arts, culture and culinary industries. The city offers rich experiences for visitors of varying interests. Mexico City is packed with Museums; it is arguably the city with the most museums in the world totaling 141. We have also recently published a brand-new guide to Mexico City Museums which gives detailed information about all the Museums including the strangest and the less interesting ones. In addition to Museums, there are great nightlife activities, cool bars, festivals, parades and shows. Mexico City is a City that it surprises its visitors with amazing and original experiences: a new flavour, an unexpected adventure or the magic of its history, the options are endless in this city.
There are always different alternatives for every visitor because it is a vibrant and contemporary destination that combines modern, colonial and pre-Hispanic influences dating back to 1325. The City alone has 7 hidden pyramids.
Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world, offering something for everyone, for every budget and if events’ organizers collaborate with local guides, delegates will surely have a great time in Mexico City.
A destination is only as delightful to visit as its people are welcoming to receive visitors. Are the people of Mexico City ready for this business travel explosion and are they looking forward to embrace visitors?
Mexicans are naturally warm and friendly people. While others are keen on building fences and walls, Mexico City is ready to receive visitors. The Mexico City Tourism Trust regularly shares information with the communities and we know that as true Mexicans they are ready to welcome visitors with open arms
Will this enthusiastic welcome be geared mainly to your Latin American and North American neighbours or would you endeavour to make visitors from Europe especially the United Kingdom feel welcome as well?
Our open invitation is to the whole world especially the United Kingdom and Europe. There has never been a more exciting time to visit and do business in Mexico City than now. For our Latin and Northern American neighbours we already know they appreciate our hospitality especially as The New York Times named Mexico City the Number one destination on their annual list “52 Places to go”.
Finally, is there any message that may have been omitted in our conversation here today that you would like to share with the world?
We want the world to know that Mexico City is open for business. It is one of the most important gastronomic destinations in the world, where you can enjoy, besides traditional Mexican food (listed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity), dishes from all over the world, and has 3 of the world’s most renowned international restaurants. It has rich history and culture, museums and the people are welcoming, warm and friendly. Mexico City is now very exciting to visit; a study conducted by Canada-based independent research firm YouthfulCities, positioned Mexico City in the top 10 as one of the most youthful cities in the world and number1 in Latin America.
Before joining the Mexico City Tourism Trust, Magda worked for the World Bank and was in charge the coordination of diplomatic missions of the governments of Bangladesh and Andhra Pradesh, India in Mexico. She also worked at the representation office of the Mexican Navy at the Mexican Embassy in the USA where she oversaw this entity’s events in the USA and Canada.