Yucatan tourist ministry presses for direct flights from the UK

Free trips for travel agents who might steer customers to spots beyond Chichen Itza

People pass a branch of Thomas Cook holiday shop in Keynsham, England. Photo: Matt Cardy / Getty Images
People browse the window of Thomas Cook holiday shop in Keynsham, England. Photo: Matt Cardy / Getty Images

Yucatan state tourism officials will operate two familiarization trips for UK travel agents this year to increase awareness of a region it believes is under the radar.

Fam trips, as they are known, are free excursions meant to promote a destination — a great perk for travel agents. And an investment that could pay for Yucatan if the trips impress the guests from across the pond.

Currently the United Kingdom represents just 2 percent of annual visitors to the state, despite the wealth of cultural and natural attraction it has to offer. The UK represents England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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The state also is targeting more cruise visitors with plans to expand its port at Progreso and more travelers looking for culture, luxury, sustainability and somewhere off the beaten track.

Yucatan currently has no direct flights from the UK and is hoping to persuade a major operator like Tui to begin services into its capital, Merida.

Speaking at the ITB Berlin travel conference last week, Enrique Monroy Abunader, head of tourism promotion at Yucatan tourism ministry, said many vacationers in Cancun will take a day trip to Chichen Itza, but are unaware of what’s beyond the popular archaeological site.

“Right now people are traveling to Yucatan but they do not know it. It’s all about unique experiences. It’s a very cultural state. We have a gastronomy you can’t find anywhere else in Mexico. The Mayan culture from hundreds of years ago is still alive, you can see it, you can experience it and you can taste it,” he said.

Yucatan is also a place for nature lovers, with its nature reserves including Celestun’s national preserve where visitors can see pink flamingos, and adventure-seekers with its coastal areas good for kitesurfing and other water sports.

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The state enjoys an average of 300 days of sun a year, tourist officials remind travel professionals in the United Kingdom.

Abunader said Yucatan is working with tour operators and destination management companies to put what it sees as “Mexico’s best-kept secret” on the map, as well as collaborating with its neighbouring state on the peninsula to cross-promote the region as a multi-centre destination.

“Right now we are looking for some big wins and we also want to launch an advertising campaign in the UK,” he said.

Yucatan hopes to work with the tourist board to host two groups of up to 20 UK agents on professional junkets this year, Abunader said. “We want to ensure that the UK trade can distinguish the Yucatan. It is the heart of the Mayan culture, it is where you can really taste it and see it and even speak with real Mayan people.”

Source: Travel Weekly UK

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