We had the pleasure of having a conversation with Andrea Mier y Terán Abbott, director of the iconic “traveler’s companion,” Yucatan Today, which is at a significant crossroads as the entire Peninsula struggles to bring back tourism. While YT is the rare magazine with its own printing press, the shutdown of the economy forced the tourist guide to make some big decisions.
While the June issue was still underway, we started out our chat by learning about YT’s background:
First, please tell us about the history of Yucatan Today, and your role in it.
My Yucatecan father, Juan Manuel Mier y Terán (RIP), was a commercial artist who studied in New York and Florida and my American mother, Judy Abbott, was a nurse with a passion for writing. My mother came to Merida in her sophomore year of college for a three-month study-abroad program from Central College in Pella, Iowa, and met my father after being here only seven days.
Fast forward: they dated for three years, got married in 1974, had me in June 1976 and founded their first guide, “Mayan Holiday,” in November 1976. This was a guide to Merida, Valladolid and the first guide to ever circulate in Cancun. They sold it in 1988 after not liking the way business was conducted in Cancun (lots of checks with no funds, post-dated checks, businesses disappearing overnight.) Even way back then, business in Merida was conducted and honored with a handshake. Not so in that “new” Cancun.
Being passionate about Yucatan and Yucatecan things, having the know-how of how to do a magazine and owning the printing company, they had a dream of being “los reyes en nuestro patio en guias turisticas,” “being the kings of tourist guides in our own backyard,” so they created Yucatan Today in 1988, which deals exclusively with the state of Yucatan. Their goal was to keep the traveler and the economic benefits here in our state.
I started working in the family business in 1999 when my parents took off sailing for six months and left me in charge of things. At this point in my life, I was in my senior year studying graphic design at Universidad del Mayab (Anahuac) and then continued on doing a Masters in Administration.
When my father passed away in 2015, I’d been with the company for 16 years and this is when I stepped up to be the director.
This is a historic time for you, being the first time in 32 years that you skipped a print run. It’s all digital. How does that feel to you?
This is a bitter-sweet time for me … bitter because we’ve lost the comfort of doing everything that we know how to do for the print edition as well as the income to support our team which is made up of 15 people.
And sweet because we are discovering so many great things we would have not seen or done without this situation. We are free of the restriction of print cost and we are enjoying designing with color. We are finding new ways of distribution and meeting new business that we would have never thought of, and therefore getting more and new readers. We are hearing new voices in our editorials.
Even though we are behind in the digital part of business, and that makes it all very scary, if it weren’t for this pandemic we probably would not be building a new business model that supports the digital side of Yucatan Today.
So every day is a challenge, going into the unknown side of the business, but the content side of the brand is just so amazing and has such a good response from the team and readers that I can’t help feeling very positive.
The coronavirus pandemic hit Yucatan Today because you are supported by advertisers who depend on tourism revenue. Will there be ads in your next issue?
We are publishing the May and June editions with all our advertisers free of charge. We are doing this for two main reasons: primarily, we have to support every business that is operating under these circumstances. In the magazine, we are supporting our advertisers and on social media, we are going a bit farther out with non-advertisers. And second, we want our advertisers, even if they are not in operation, to have an additional platform to salute their clients. We need our clients to get back on their feet, which is why we were cost-free for May and June.
In the meantime, we are preparing our strategies for digital advertising at incredibly accessible rates so that businesses can promote themselves in Yucatan Today.
I assume Yucatan Today will be here when the pandemic is over and tourism returns. But how will it be different, both in content and format?
We are adjusting month by month and each edition is different. In April we had a little bit of everything. For the May edition, we focused on staying at home and being an armchair traveler. The June 15 edition will be about preparing to travel for when travel can begin.
In the meantime, we have removed the Events and You’re Going Places sections as there are no events and people aren’t going anywhere! We will bring these sections back when it is time with all their protocols. We will have a special “Protocol” section for both companies and travelers.
It is interesting to hear that our readership of Yucatecans, the expat community and the Mex-pats are realizing that their travels are going to be here in the state, they won’t be taking off to the U.S., Canada and Europe with such ease and they are looking forward to traveling within the state.
I do believe that our print edition will continue and I also believe that the digital edition will play a major role in our new business model.
We aim to come out of this with content that is more relevant than ever for each of our readers by segmentation, and that the way they receive this information is the one they choose, be it print or digital (or both!)
Will printed magazines return and be economically viable again?
Yes and yes! People are not ready to let go of paper and there is nothing like having the magazine right there in your hand and not having to wonder where you saw something online or what part of the app was it in. It is also very nice to be able to flip from one page to the next and to be able to pass the edition on to someone else.
We hope the economy will get back on track and since all our supplies are all in dollars, well, we’ll have to see where that goes. We do own the printing company, so that helps.
Some other things we’re loving … For the June 15 edition, for the first time ever, we have 10 writers. Look for new voices in our editorials, plus, our Seven Day Stay and Yucatan Top Ten This Month are all about staying home and not being out and about. Imagine trying to write that two months in a row! Well, they did! And, the third month is on the drawing board!
We have a strong readership and they have been very active following us on social media and letting us know how happy they are to be able to get their good read digitally. While they can’t get their hands on a print copy, they are reading online.
For future travels, we feel very lucky that the majority of great things to see and do in Yucatán are outdoors — archeological sites, cenotes, haciendas, beaches, and mangroves which are perfect for social distancing.
Yucatan Today has preserved its look by publishing an electronic version of its magazine. See the current issue and past editions.