Mr. Insider’s Insights Into Mexico City

Welcome back to another edition of Backroom Banter.  In recent posts, I have written about my visit to Mexico City to attend F.I.T.A., the International Tourism Fair of the Americas.  It was my privilege on that trip to meet Carlos Mackinlay (aka Mr. Insider), the Minister of Tourism for Mexico City.  He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

English: Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of th...

English: Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of the Fine Arts), downtown Mexico City. Español: Palacio de Bellas Artes, downtown Mexico City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Q.  What are some of the greatest challenges your tourism department faces in increasing traffic to Mexico City from the United States?

A. The challenges can be summarized in one word:  promotion, promotion and more promotion. Long ago Mexico City stepped away from promotion and public relations campaigns to major destinations sending tourists to this great nation and, specifically, Mexico City.

A destination that is not promoted properly  is susceptible to disappear in the minds of travelers. Therefore we have taken on the task of launching a major public relations campaign which fortunately is proving to be very successful.

Q.  What are three or four things most Americans don’t know about Mexico City but would find intriguing if they did know?

A.  First it is important for American tourists to renew their confidence in Mexico City and to consider it again as a premier destination. Our neighbors to the north should know that our city is safe and that they can be confident that their visit to Mexico City provides all the conditions for a pleasant stay.

Paseo de la Reforma Mexico City

Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City

Perhaps the second thing that must be considered is that the last Government Administration of the city has completely remodeled traditional tourist areas, the historic center, the Paseo de la Reforma, the southern area of the city and many other important sites.

Many people might be surprised to learn that Mexico City is the only city with four world heritage sites, six archaeological sites, 1400 colonial buildings, 7000 classified monuments and the incredible number of 174 museums. Some have called it the “cultural capitol of the world”.

Finally, we are about to launch a most ambitious program of tourism aimed especially to the American public, that is, the upcoming platform of medical tourism. The city will provide American visitors the possibility to have highly specialized surgeries performed in the best private hospitals in our city at a cost substantially lower than they might find in their own country.

Q.  What impact do you expect the new AeroMexico flights from Dallas / Fort Worth to Mexico City will have on traffic?

A.  It is obvious that the new flights from Dallas to Mexico City will offer greater access to Mexico for American tourists.  Dallas / Fort Worth is a huge hub as well as a region that is home to many Mexican Americans.   Also, iy is a very convenient gateway for those living in cities without direct flights to Mexico.

Aeromexico  Aeromexico

Q.  Recently you held a series of road shows with travel agents in several key US markets.  Does this indicate a new initiative on the part of your department?

A.  It does.  We are absolutely convinced that the traditional ways of promoting tourism such as road shows have a big impact on our strategic partners, the U.S. travel agent community. These travel agents have a fundamental responsibility towards their customers: to provide vibrant, interesting and safe travel destinations as well as excellent levels of service. We know that they are committed to their customers.  We trust them as our ambassadors in the U.S. and, in turn, we want them to grow to trust us to deliver a quality destination.

Q.  Finally, what would you like to see travel agents do to better promote Mexico City as a destination?

A.  Travel agents in the United States and the Ministry of Tourism of Mexico City must mutually strengthen our relationships. We have made available to them our web site www.mexicocityexperience.com as a way to keep updated about the city and its events.  As strategic partners, we encourage travel agents to be very proactive in offering Mexico City as a viable destination and we are quite happy to give them the tools to do so.

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Carlos, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your unique insights on Mexico City.  My own recent visit only reinforced Mexico City’s status as a world class destination.

Let me know, dear reader, if you would like to know more.

GrupoHabita: Chic, Unique, Boutique (2)

Last post, you may recall, we began a little trek across Mexico City by private car with our first two stops along the way the Downtown Mexico hotel and the Habita hotel.  I pointed out that the Downtown is in the epicenter of the action (perfect for those who crave excitement) and Habita is in the heart of the haut monde (ideal for inveterate people watchers.)

Today we complete our tour with two more sparkling gems in the GrupoHabita collection. I realize nearly a week has elapsed but hey, I did warn you, Mexico City traffic can be brutal.  I don’t know about you but I thought we would never get around that turnip truck!  The consolation, if you need one, is that these last two hotels are well worth the wait.

Condesa df Mexico City

The two-fold attraction of the Condesa df hotel is its quiet, tree lined setting and its classic charm.  As to the setting, it is situated across from Parque España in what might be described as a hip, Bohemian section of Mexico City.  It is relatively close the airport and very near to the Bellas Artes Palace, the Anthropology Museum and Chapultepec Castle.   A piece of quick trivia.  My avatar, which I use for this blog, was taken from the ramparts of Chapultepec Castle with Mexico City in the background.

As you see from this picture to the right, the exterior has a unique triangular shape reminiscent of theCondesa df Mexico City exterior Flatiron building at 23rd and Broadway in New York City.   (Ask me about the origin of the expression “23 Skidoo” in a comment on this post, and I will share another interesting bit of trivia in my answer.  Consider it a free bonus!)  The building is done in 20th century French neoclassical style and exudes warmth and hospitality.

Interior courtyard at Condesa df in Mexico CityThe most striking feature of the hotel is the interior courtyard hosting a restaurant and bar where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Were I to book a stay there, I picture myself relaxing often on The Terrace which overlooks the tranquil neighborhood while sampling their specialty of succulent sushi.

You might want to take a moment and peruse Trip Advisor where you will find mostly positive comments and a few I would even call glowing.  After viewing the property, I am not at all surprised that so many reviewers were on their sixth or seventh stay.  If I were going on vacation in Mexico City, this might well be my selection.

Distrito Capital Mexico CityOur final stop will be at the truly unique Distrito Capital, my own humble abode during the F.I.T.A. event I wrote about previously.  The hotel shares a high-rise building with office tenants on most floors and, on the ground floor, various retail businesses. This hotel is located in the Santa Fe area of Mexico City which is where many international and domestic corporations are based.  It is very much a business hub for the city.

The lobby is on the fifth floor and the rooms are on 25-28.  The lobby, bar, pool area and small meeting room are all on the fifth floor.  Here is a series of pictures to give you a sense of how contemporary and funky (in the best sense of that term) their public space really is.

Distrito Capital Mexico City Bar      Distrito Capital Mexico City meeting roomDistrito Capital Mexico City pool area

Distrito Capital Mexico City lobby decor      Distrito Capital Mexico City wall decor     Distrito Capital Mexico City lobby

I could not have been more pleased with my stay.  I found the accommodations quite comfortable and the food very well prepared.  The staff could not have been more accommodating.  A special shout out to Nicolle Lekare and Rafael Micha Smeke who both went out of their way to see that my requests were promptly fulfilled.

If you have marked Mexico City off your list of must see destinations, for whatever reason, I strongly encourage you to add it back.  This is simple too magnificent a world class city not to experience at least once.  Whatever your purpose in coming and regardless of your tastes and inclinations, I am certain that one of the four GrupoHabita properties I have shared with you will fit the bill.

Take a moment and let me know in the poll below which hotel strikes your fancy.

GrupoHabita Hotels – Chic, Unique, Boutique

I recently returned from five days in Mexico City attending F.I.T.A., the International Travel Fair of the Americas.  Since I was there on business and could not fully indulge my tourist yearnings, just driving around the city reminded me what a wonderful destination Mexico City really is.

I know, I know.  The mere mention of the city in some quarters prompts an immediate outbreak of hives.  Since this post, and the one following, are devoted to presenting a very unique chain of boutique hotels, I can’t spare the space here to disabuse you of any exaggerated concerns you may harbor.  I refer you instead to a previous post called Mexico Maligned that addresses my views on the important subject of security.

During my visit I was assigned (as a hosted guest) to a hotel in the Santa Fe sector of Mexico City near the Bancomer Convention Center where the event was held.   Only after talking to other participants spread among several perfectly acceptable hotels did I come to realize how fortunate I was to have landed at the Distrito Capital.   As the title of this post indicates, Distrito Capital belongs to a chain called GrupoHabita with twelve hotels spread across Mexico and even one more in New York City.  I understand there are a couple more hotels on the near horizon.

On my one free afternoon, I booked a private car and visited all four of their hotels situated in Mexico City.  In this post and the next, I will share a brief, general impression of each of them.   The old saw in real estate is that the three most important things are location, location and location.  In terms of deciding which of these hotels might suit your proclivities, location in a city the size of Mexico City is surely a critical element yet not the only consideration.  With four hotels so distinct, at least some weight should be given to style.

Let’s take a brief jaunt, sans the infamous Mexico City traffic, and find out which hotel is perfect for your next visit to Mexico City.

Are you the type of person that loves to be in the geometric center of things?  Would you like to take two steps out your front door and be engulfed by the glory that is Mexico City?  Downtown Hotel Mexico CityIf that describes you, you need look no further.  This is one hotel whose name says it all.

When you enter off the street, you pass through a bustling restaurant and ascend this striking staircase pictured to the right.  Downtown is located in a magnificent 17th century building and is one of the oldest extant former residences in the city.  Because the hotel shares space in the edifice with several other bars and restaurants, you may be a little confused as to where this 17 room hotel ends and other venues begin.

The hotel sports a charming rooftop terrace and bar which offer a sweeping view of the busy street below.  There is even a small swimming pool on the roof.  This hotel just opened in August under the capable leadership of the fresh-faced general manager, Adalberto Reiter.   He may look like an urchin just pulled in off the street, dusted off and dressed up in a suit and tie but he actually has a few years of experience under his belt in satisfying demanding clients.

Rooftop Terrace at Downtown Hotel, Mexico City

Hotel Habita Mexico CityIf the previous hotel was suited for those who want to be in the center of vibrant activity, the Habita Hotel is perfect for those who want to be in the heart of fashionable elegance.  This hotel is situated in Polanco district, known for trendy restaurants and chic shopping.  If your definition of a great vacation is to “shop ’til you drop” and “dine ’til you pop”, this is the perfect home away from home when visiting Mexico City.

Fifth Floor Terrace at Habita Hotel, Mexico City

One of the most unique features of the hotel is a split level terrace.  The pool and deck pictured here are on the 5th floor and if you climb the short spiral staircase to the left of this picture, you will find yourself on the 6th floor open air terrace and bar.  The 12 foot long fireplace will take the edge off the cool night air as you sample their wide selection of tapas and libations.

This hotel is one of Mexico City’s most popular showcases for various social events and it would be an unusual stay if you did not get a chance to rub shoulders with some of Mexico City’s glitterati.  As an added bonus, with just 36 rooms, you are unlikely to get lost stumbling back to your room after an evening of rooftop revelry with the haut monde!

Check back next time and I will take you on an armchair site inspection of Condesa df and Distrito Capital.

A Few Flights of Fancy at F.I.T.A.

Here is a quick sampling of a few things that tickled my fancy at F.I.T.A.   See previous post to learn all about this annual event in Mexico City.

Your humble servant receiving his golden (that’s garland, with an upgrade) wreath.

Service with a special flair!

Mexican Cook Off

Standing in the reserved press corp section for the ribbon cutting like a real journalist!

I haven’t forgotten that I promised to tell you not only about Distrito Capital, the hotel that hosted me so admirably during the conference, but the three other hotels GroupoHabita operates in Mexico City.   Coming very soon!

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The F.I.T.A.

Apologies to Stephen Sondheim for  my shameless ripoff of the title of his famous musical, “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum”.  Stephen, I want you to feel totally justified in naming your next musical after of one of my blog posts.  Turn about is fair play, after all.  I am thinking “A Round-About Way To A Nervous Breakdown”, for example, should make a great little farce.

F.I.T.A. is the International Tourism Fair of the Americas.  This event is only three years old and is held in the Santa Fe region of Mexico City at the Expo Bancomer.  I know, you are waiting breathlessly for the “funny thing happened” part.  Well, I was sitting in my office a few weeks back, molesting no one and only irritating a small handful, when I received an email invitation to this event as a “prominent travel company”.  While still basking in my apparent prominence, I get a second invitation within minutes to attend the same event as an esteemed member of the Fourth Estate.  Wow, prominent and esteemed all within ten minutes.

I confess that I was a bit taken aback since I thought the Fourth Estate was the smallest of DonaldMeet the Press Fedora Trump’s several summer homes.   When it was explained that they wanted me to come as part of the press corp, I immediately rushed out and bought the appropriate hat although, judging from the looks I got, this particular accoutrement has not yet caught on in Mexico City.

As I mentioned above, this is only the third year for this event and the purpose over time is to create a major international travel show like those held in Berlin and New York.  In addition to the expected exhibitors from Mexico, there were also booths representing Russia, Japan, India and several other countries.  The Expo Bancomer is a very nice, quite modern facility.  The main improvement they could make, at least in the opinion of this “prominent entrepreneur / eminent journalist'”, would be to enhance the signal strength of the wi-fi.  The exhibit hall where we spent most of our time was downstairs and to say the signal was spotty is more than a little generous. I spent several hours looking for that mystical spot.

Expo Bancomer Santa Fe

There were 600 exhibitors in attendance as well as over 4000 travel buyers and press.  The first two days are intended for those in the travel trade with the weekend reserved for consumers who might wish to obtain information on various destinations.  I attended several press conferences where unfortunately, at least for this uncivilized American monoglot, the translation from Spanish to English was as spotty as the wi-fi.  It is somewhat to be expected since the majority of the participants are Spanish-speakers but if they truly want to grow the event to international proportions, more deference needs to be shown to the monolingual.

In spite of these opportunities for improvement, it was an excellent event. Personally, I F.I.T.A.  Mexico Citymade a couple of beneficial business contacts that I think will pay dividends going forward.  At the end of the day, networking and relationship building is largely what these events are all about.  Even in, or maybe especially in, our digital age, there is a pressing need for face to face, personal interaction.  And if that happens to occur at a cocktail party over a cheeky little Cabernet, so much the better.

Come back soon or, better yet, subscribe below to receive email notifications of new posts and I will tell you not only about Distrito Capital, the hotel that hosted me so admirably during the conference, but the three other hotels GroupoHabita operates in Mexico City.  Who knows, you might even get to meet the Minister of Tourism for Mexico City.

Rosewood San Miguel: A Jewel Perfectly Set

A heartfelt confession always makes a good beginning.  Here is mine. My knowledge of gemstones and fine jewelry ranks right up there with my familiarity with the finer points of cold fusion, which is to say, it’s within a gnat’s breath of being nonexistent.    But even someone as gauche and unsophisticated as your humble blogger knows this much:  choosing the proper setting for a stone is crucial to the design of all fine jewelry.  This observation brings me to the third precious stone in the incomparable Rosewood Mexico tiara.  (If you are a new arrival to this space, it might bore you, oops, I meant to say behoove you to take a moment and read the two previous posts.  Otherwise, the poll at the end might prove a bit challenging!)

To ask which resort among the three is preeminent is a little like asking, “Which is moreRosewood San Miguel de Allend important, breathing in or breathing out?”.   A rather tough choice I think we all agree.  All three properties are magnificent and project their own matchless radiance.  Were I forced to choose among them under threat of having to spend eternity in a dingy one-star hotel with neither a spa nor room service (I suddenly feel a cold shiver running down my spine), I suppose I would have to choose the Rosewood in San Miguel de Allende.  The reason relates to my opening paragraph, i.e., the setting.

For those not familiar with San Miguel de Allende, a veritable mecca for the mentally fatigued, you have no idea what you are missing.  To fully grasp just how impoverished  your life has been . . . a life which you had hitherto naively assumed was rich and meaningful . . . ,  I am afraid you will just have to keep reading this blog.   The reason being, in the not too distant future I intend to draw upon my highly underrated and, as yet, cruelly unrewarded writing prowess to paint a Monet-esque picture of  this magical place.   I know, your heart is all a pitter.  Patience, dear reader. Coming soon.

Meanwhile,  you must content yourself with a description of the resort itself.  Naturally, you are going to want to spend a great deal of your time exploring this “enchanting artists’ village nestled in the mountains north of Mexico City”.  All the more so, I’m sure, after you read my upcoming post.

1826 Restaurant in the Rosewood Resort in San Miguel de Allende

1826 Restaurant

Yet it would be a huge mistake not to carve out significant time during your stay to absorb the atmosphere of the resort’s many charming venues.   The “fine” in fine dining begins with the ambiance when you enter a restaurant.  The 1826 Restaurant is bathed in old world elegance.  The name of both the restaurant and the bar across the hall commemorates the year the town adopted the name of San Miguel de Allende in honor of Ignacio de Allende, the hero of Mexican independence.  The restaurant features an open artisan kitchen and offers the choice of dining indoors or al fresco on the patio amid the vibrant gardens. Another incredible dining option is the Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar.   As a regular reader, you have likely noticed my palpable love of both lowbrow Rosewood San Miguel's Luna Rooftop Tapas Barhumor and tortured puns and therefore might be bracing yourself for me to make a crude play on the bar’s name.  I shall surprise both you and me by letting the opportunity pass without comment.   Goodness, I suddenly feel abnormally mature.

The climate of San Miguel is very temperate year round which lends itself to spending countless hours on the Luna Rooftop.  You will find it the ideal setting for gazing out across the sprawling village below and thinking fondly about your smug brother-in-law back home, the one who warned you against  going to Mexico, grilling bratwurst in his backyard surrounded by his little screeching, sawed-off savages while navigating nasty love notes delivered indiscriminately around the yard by the family dog.

Ah, life is good at the Rosewood!

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