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Special report from Mexico's Tianguis travel trade fair

Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto opened the three-day Tianguis conference.
Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto opened the three-day Tianguis conference.Bob Schulman

Next time you're planning a vacation south of the border, chances are the bargain rates you'll see in the travel ads – one might say: “7 nites in Los Cabos for $750 PPDO incl. air” – came from a deal cut at Mexico's annual “Tianguis” travel trade fair. The name comes from an ancient Aztec word meaning marketplace, where traders gathered to dicker over things like feathers, corn and chocolate; today, tianguistas haggle over hotel rooms, airline seats and things to see and do on the ground.

This year's 39th Tianguis, recently held in the state of Quintana Roo on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, was attended by a record 8,000 delegates. Most were “suppliers” (representing Mexican resort areas, individual hotels, airlines, ground operators and the like) who came to meet close to 850 “buyers” (mainly wholesalers or tour operators who put air and ground packages together for sale to the public through travel agencies) from the U.S., Canada and 59 other countries across the globe.

In his keynote speech, Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto stressed the importance of tourism to his country. “Tourism is the powerhouse that fuels our economy,” he said. Pena Nieto noted his administration is pursuing tourism strategies aimed at placing Mexico “in the top tier of global destinations.”

The three-day conference was held principally at Lakam Center, a new, 215,000-square-foot facility in the Cancun/Riviera Maya area. Sellers and buyers sat down to negotiate travel deals at a record 38,182 business appointments during the conference.

More than 150 pavilions offered colorful looks at Mexico’s travel products, from beach resorts to inland colonial towns. Exhibitors included all 32 federal entities and 120 companies from the country’s tourism sector.

In the conference’s closing ceremony, Mexico Secretary of Tourism Claudia Ruiz Massieu and Quintana Roo Governor Roberto Borge Angulo confirmed that this year’s Tianguis “greatly exceeded” the targets set for the number of buyers, countries represented, commercial spaces, pre-scheduled appointments and attendees.

The 2015 Tianguis will be held back in western Mexico’s port of Acapulco, which hosted the event for its first 36 years. Last year it was held in the inland city of Puebla, having been hosted by the western areas of Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit (known as Vallarta Nayarit) in 2012.