There are a lot of key misconceptions surrounding Mexico.
Don’t believe the hype. Here’s the truth.
How far is Mexico?
“That’s fiction”, says Marisa Steta, sales and marketing director for Best Day Travel, a Cancun-based DMC and travel firm.
Mexico shares the border with the U.S. and its closeness is one of its biggest selling points, planners agree. “Flight times to Mexico are frequent, easy and direct three hours or less from most major U.S. cities,” says Gary Van Hoose, vice president of sales and marketing for Parks Productions, Ltd. in Michigan, who uses Mexico for client meetings and incentives.
Do I need to speak spanish?
“Language is no barrier. In the major destinations, everyone you’ll be dealing with will speak English,” says Andrea Young, CMP, president/event director for California-based Innovative Events. However, “it’s important to use good judgment,” adds AnnaCeleste Brenner, incentive and meeting specialist for Ceiba Del Mar Beach & Spa Resort on the Riviera Maya. “Don’t ask a maid for restaurant recommendations, just as you wouldn’t ask a waiter to upgrade the projector.”
For urgent situations, such as last-minute flight changes, planners all agree you get the fastest results by having a DMC, who can do it in Spanish.
Do I need to pay in US/Canadian dollars?
“No”, says Brenner. “It’s easy. Delegates can exchange money at the international airports, at the hotels and resorts and at the reputable casas de cambios (money exchangers) that are everywhere in the major resorts and cities”. With regard to program contracts, negotiations with the hotels and/or convention facilities are in U.S. dollars, “which gives you great comfort,” says Kate Christensen, CMP, owner of KCA, Inc., an Arizona-based meeting and event planner.
Can I drink the water?
“Every year this worry diminishes as people realize it’s not a problem in the major tourist areas,” says Brice O’Keefe, director of marketing for Rosewood Mayakoba resort on the Riviera Maya. “Cancun and the Riviera Maya have the best public water system in Mexico; all the major cities and destinations have water-treatment plants. Plus, “all Mexico’s first-class hotels double-filter their water,” he says. Guests can look for agua purificada (purified water) signs near the taps in their hotel rooms. In-room bottled water is usually provided. If you’re in a rural area, drink bottled water, advises Marisa Steta, marketing director of Best Day Travel.
Is it safe?
“Everyone felt 100 percent safe,” says Michele Simes, director of events for PRO Group, Inc. in Colorado, who arranged a 150-person meeting in the Ceiba Del Mar Beach & Spa Resort on the Riviera Maya. “I never felt unsafe,” agrees Christensen, who worked the ICANN 2009 International meeting in Mexico City. “We sent out advance safety tips—but they were the same as for New York City or any large metropolitan area. We walked between the Meliá Mexico Reforma and the Hilton Mexico City Reforma for meetings and delegates taxied throughout the city. Everyone used common sense and had a great time.”
Using common sense here means the same as anywhere else: avoid rough areas at night and don’t go out with people you don’t know well. In Mexico City and other large metropolitan areas, use taxis from the hotel and arrange for the same cab company to pick you up. Many hotels provide shuttle service for shopping, dining or night-clubbing.
Also keep in mind that several major destinations have special “tourist police” who speak English and are helpful and watchful. In addition, “the first-class hotels have their own security,” points out Brenner.
Twenty-four hour medical, dental and pharmaceutical services are available at most first-class properties. However, it’s wise to have someone on hand like a DMC who can translate if necessary both the malady and the doctor’s instructions, as well as quickly arrange whatever is necessary, be it a hospital visit or air ambulance service. For detailed medical information, Mexico: Health and Safety Travel Guide (available through medtogo.com) is an up-to-date directory of the best hospitals and the board-certified, English-speaking physicians throughout Mexico.
What about shipping?
When you use an experienced DMC or a full-service Mexico shipping specialist, meeting materials, gifts, wine, food and new roll-out products ranging from motorcycles to laptops arrive on time and at your site. “It’s very important to be familiar with the laws to ensure that planners receive their goods when and where they need them,” says Sandy Rivera, co-owner of Global Caribbean, Inc., a Mexico import-export specialist, with offices in Miami, Cancun, Mexico City and Los Cabos.
Like all countries, Mexico’s import laws are detailed, and pitfalls can occur when clients do it themselves. Rivera’s company saved the day (actually the night) for one U.S. firm that had arranged to import all the wine for its 500-person gala from the U.S. “It was the day of the gala…and no wine,” she recalls. “They called us, and we made it happen. We paid all the liquor taxes, got all the required stamps and brought in a team of eight people to put the special labels on every bottle as Mexico law requires.”
How modern is Mexico’s meetings infrastructure?
On the contrary, “Mexico has a fabulous infrastructure—it’s absolutely modern and high-tech in all the major destinations,” observes Young.
Three new centers opened within the last two years: CancunMesse, with 272,000 sqft of space; the 105,000 sqft Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center; and the Mazatlan International Center, with 154,000 sf of indoor/outdoor spaces.
Mexico City alone offers 5 world-class facilities, including the 441,320 sf Centro Banamex and the 413,333 sf Expo Bancomer Santa Fe. Across Mexico, there are more than 40 top-of-the-line convention centers in 25 cities (such as Poliforum Leon, with 485,000 sf), as well as 495,000 hotel rooms and 3,100 luxury hotels that are available for meetingso
What kind of events has Mexico hosted?
Mexico is a world capital of major meetings and product roll-outs. The last year, the 2011 7th World Chambers of Commerce Congress will bring 12,000 chambers of commerce from 100 countries to Mexico City. In Cancun, the 2011 22nd World Allergy Congress will host several thousand attendees, and the 2010 MPI Meet Different Cancun Mexico Convention attracted 2,000 delegates, including 900 meeting planners.
This year, Puebla welcomed thousands of buyers and sellers at Mexico´s annual Tianguis Turistico travel trade exposition.
In addition, numerous manufacturers including Sony and Arctic Cat choose Mexico as the site for their new product rollouts.
In addition, Mexico has hosted important world wide events, for example:
G20 (Group of Twenty Finance Ministers) Summit, 2012
13th World Congress of Endoscopic Surgery, 2012
World Economic Forum on Latin America, 2012
World Council of Civil Engineers, 2012
Which are the requirements to host a meeting in Mexico?
In the event a client thinks it’s difficult to visit Mexico—it’s not. All you need is a valid passport. Here are the key points to know.
To get into Mexico, your attendees must have a valid U.S. passport. They also must fill out a tourist migratory form (FM-T), which is handed out on the plane (or onboard the ship or at the land point of entry). Once this form is stamped at the airport (or other point of) immigration station, it’s valid for a stay of up to 180 days.
Every visitor must keep the migratory form with them as long as they are in Mexico, and must turn it in when they leave the country. Business travelers must complete a different form (Form FM-N) when they enter Mexico, which authorizes the conduct of business, but not employment, for a 30-day period.
There is an entry fee (usually about $20) and a departure fee (approximately $20). Both fees are usually included in the price of the airline ticket.
Visitors entering Mexico also must fill out one Customs Declaration Form per family. This form is handed out on the plane, onboard the ship or at the land point of entry.
In addition to personal luggage, visitors arriving by plane have the right to bring in tax-free up to $300 worth of articles, with the exception of beer, alcoholic drinks and processed tobacco.
After passing through Immigration, visitors proceed to the custom authority’s fiscal traffic light. If the light flashes green, they hand in the customs declaration and exit the airport. If the light flashes red, their luggage is opened and inspected by a customs officer who compares the contents with the customs declaration form before the visitor exits the airport.