Talking Cuba, Cirque at Tianguis 2016

As I entered the Guadalajara Convention Center for the 2016 Tianguis Turistico Mexican travel trade show, I was greeted by someone costumed as the iconic character from Monopoly, with a huge plastic head, white moustache, black top hat and dressed in a tuxedo.

He stood atop a giant Mexican edition Monopoly board, promoting the launch of the product, which takes place next week. It’s a perfect fit for Tianguis as the properties on this particular Monopoly board included famous Mexican beaches and the railroads are the Tequila Express.

A game about building hotels in Mexico is the perfect representation of what turned out to be standout motifs of this year’s convention: playfulness, and boosting Mexico’s tourism dollar—or peso.

PAX was in Guadalajara, Mexico, last week from April 25-28 to explore the sights and sounds of the annual expo that has everything to do with Mexican tourism all under one roof.

The feeling of playfulness was immediately evident on the Tianguis convention floor. I gawked at huge, robot dinosaurs promoting the northern province of Coahuila, which is rich in dinosaur bones, and when I rounded the corner of a faux Mayan temple I was greeted by colourful costumed performers for the Grand Oasis Cancun.

There were two giant dragons prancing about on stilts, a caveman, acrobats and a guy dressed as the fourth Amigo shouting gregariously.

In speaking with Edith Sanchezllanes, manager for the Oasis Hotels and Resorts South American market, I learned they pride themselves on taking their entertainment to a higher level. During March break they welcomed and catered to students, and at their kid-oriented Grand Oasis Palm in Cancun they had a Pirate ship, with twice-weekly pirate battles.

They’re not the only ones upping the ante. A few booths over I found out that the five-star, kid-friendly Nickelodeon Hotel in Punta Cana (owned by Karisma Hotels) features suites that open right onto a pool, and the lower floor balconies are pools themselves.

They’ve also broken ground on a Nickelodeon Hotel in the Riviera Maya. For those looking for an adults-only experience, Karisma is excited to showcase their new over-the water bungalows opening in September at the El Dorado Maroma, also in the Riviera Maya. Tahiti beware.

Rodrigo Esponda C., regional director for North America at the Mexico Tourism Board, said he’s seeing this kind of creativity from a lot of brands.

“There’s a high demand for new products and all-inclusives are getting more sophisticated,” he explained during a sit-down with Canadian journalists.

When PAX asked how warming relations between the U.S. and Cuba might negatively impact Mexico’s tourism industry he immediately saw it as “positive news.”

Rodrigo Esponda C., regional director for North America, Mexico Tourism Board“In Canada, Cuba has been a competitor for many years and it’s an opportunity for us to improve our product,” Esponda C. said, noting that Sunwing and WestJet are expanding their flights to Mexico.

He also said changes in Cuban relations is a chance to create vacation packages that include both Cuba and Mexico, since they are so close to each other.

“You can go to Cuba then go to the Yucatan,” Esponda C. said.

But perhaps the most exciting joint project that was highlighted at Tianguis this year was the sneak peak of what the first and thus far only Cirque du Soleil theme park will look like.

“There is something between French Canadians and Mexicans. We’re people of passion,” Cirque CEO Daniel Lamarre said.

Ground has already broken in Nuevo Vallarta, and the theme park is supposed to open in 2018. Lamarre said it’s being situated so that it will benefit tourism to all the resorts in the area and become a magnet to bring five million visitors per year.

Enrique de La Madrid Cordero, Secretary of Tourism, Mexico; Cirque du Soleil CEO Daniel Lamarre

With that in mind Lamarre said he now feels like an “ambassador” to Mexico and that he has “to promote Mexico to the rest of the world.”

That starts in Canada with the opening of the new Cirque show Luzia, inspired by Mexico’s history, cultural diversity, and natural beauty. That opens in Montreal, followed by Toronto, and will stay in North America for 18 months.

“The culture of Mexico is so rich and so unique,” said Lamarre. “All the creators I know wanted to work on it.”

Now he’s confident that the show’s “waking dream” of Mexico will inspire people to come see the real thing.

(written for paxnews.com)

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