Why Secrets Resorts Aren’t Such A Big Secret Anymore

If you need to get the word out quickly regarding some important matter throughout a club, organization or business, I know one foolproof method.  Just take two or three people aside individually and relay the information to them in whispered tones.  Then tell them to be sure and keep it under wraps because you are not ready to make the announcement public just yet.  At least one, and more likely all three of those people, will tell a handful of others and long before the sun sets it will be common knowledge.  Let’s face it, most of us suffer from the verbal version of a common urinary tract problem I like to call “lack of blather control”. Secrets Puerto Los CabosI suspect most folks returning from a stay at one of the Secrets Resorts have every intention of smugly keeping their little discovery all to themselves.  Notwithstanding their best efforts, they find themselves effusing all over the people sitting on either side of them . . . it is not quite as disgusting as it sounds . . . before their flight home even leaves the runway. I myself have written posts about several of the Secrets Resorts. Should you cast your eyes to the right rail, you will see I even have a category by that name where you can see all my Secrets postings.  I just recently returned from one of the brand’s newest offerings so, fair warning, grab a towel.  I am about to effuse all over you!

SECRETS PUERTO LOS CABOS

Puerto Los Cabos is an exciting new development in the eastern area of Los Cabos, Mexico.  You can get all those juicy details by clicking on this link to a post I wrote a few weeks back, Puerto Los Cabos And The Quest For the Best.  Situated in the heart of that new development on a very choice bit of real estate is Secrets Puerto Los Cabos.

Secrets Puerto Los CabosYou can have a beautiful setting and attractive facilities (which this property has in spades) but from vast experience I can tell you that unless they are blessed with outstanding personnel, it is all in vain.  The entire staff, from reception to restaurant, exude the kind of warmth and helpfulness that is the envy of many of their competitors.  A special shout out to Salvador Gutierrez who, as the resident manager, deserves a great deal of credit for selecting and training such a marvelous staff and Karla Ponce, the front desk manager, who oversees those employees who represent the all-important first impression to the guests.  Karla’s infectious smile seems to have spread to the entire reception staff.  It must be a case of staff infection!

When stopping by Rendezvous for a little pre-dinner libation, it is never a bad thing to Martini Cart at Secrets Puerto Los Cabosencounter a well-stocked martini cart as you walk in. Before you can say “¡Si Señor, por favor!” you might well find one of these sitting before you.  Rendezvous Secrets Resorts

 

Dining in general, I have always believed, is one part cuisine, one part ambiance and one part great companions.   Picture yourself with a small circle of friends dining out under the stars at El Patio Restaurant savoring your favorite ceviche, sipping a fine glass of Cabernet and conversing late into the night.

El Patio Secrets Puerto Los Cabos

At some point in the evening, no matter how convivial the company or smooth the after-dinner port, you are going to want to stumble back to your home away from home for a sound night’s sleep.  When that happens, if you are staying at Secrets Puerto Los Cabos, this welcoming sight is waiting to greet you when you enter the room.

Room at Secrets Puerto Los CabosThere is never enough time in one of these posts to tell you one-tenth of the wonderful features of such a stunning resort.  I haven’t even mentioned all the gourmet restaurants, the 24-hour room service, the 12,000 sq. ft. world-class Secrets spa by Pevonia,  the 18-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman, access to three miles of pristine beach and so much more.

Not to worry!  That is what great travel agents are for.  Our folks would be more than glad to drill down to the most minute detail to guarantee that your stay will exceed your expectations.

This concludes five posts under the category “Puerto Los Cabos”.  Let me know if you enjoyed this little glimpse into Los Cabos’ exciting new development.

El Ganzo Lays More Golden Eggs

In some contexts, the American idiom “to lay an egg” has a quite negative connotation.  One example would be your humble scribe’s occasionally lame attempts at levity.  They have been known, albeit rarely, to fall a smidgen short of the mark. (Hey, they can’t all be winners!)  But if the layer in question is a goose and the layee is a egg made of solid gold, then that is a fowl of an entirely different sort. (See Aesop’s FablesThe Goose With The Golden Eggs)  As I hope you are discovering, Hotel El Ganzo has an entire roost full of golden eggs lying about to be gathered.

In case you are just catching up on this subject, I recently made a trip to Los Cabos, Mexico, a destination that never disappoints.  Since returning home, I have published a couple of posts about my experience which you can find either by simply scrolling down or . . . should scrolling sound way too grueling . . . by clicking here.  We pick up the thread by plucking a few more golden eggs from the El Ganzo nest (to soft scramble a few metaphors).

El Ganzo Studio doorWithout a doubt one of the most unique features of this hotel is the Artist in Residence program mentioned in the previous post.  One key aspect of that program is the musicalEl Ganzo Hotel - Door to Recording Studio  arts component.  When you walk in the main bar/restaurant area adjacent to the lobby, you might overlook this nondescript door built into the floor assuming it leads to some dank storage facility.  In actuality, it leads to a state of the art recording facility that is overseen by Mark Rudin who carries the twin titles of Music Director / Studio Manager.  Mark shoulders the weighty responsibility of vetting potential artists to ensure that the quality of their musicianship meets El Ganzo’s exacting standards.  (Speaking of musicality, I am what is known in Texas as a prison singer.  “I never can find the key and I’m always behind a few bars.”  See reference to “laying an egg” above.)

El Ganzo Hotel - Underground StudioAs I understand the program, invited artists arrive at the hotel’s doorstep at their own expense, whereupon they are afforded accommodations, airport transfers (or access to the dock if they came by fishing trawler) and a generous meal allowance  They have access to the studio as well as Mark’s talented assistance as needed.  In turn, they are expected to record music which El Ganzo has the right to upload on their YouTube site.

El Ganzo Sessions In addition, they are required to perform at a live concert on the hotel’s rooftop on a Saturday evening.  People flock like geese (what else were you expecting) to experience these concerts.  The hotel offers a cover charge that includes all the music, margaritas and mojitos you care to consume.  Mark has just created a “trailer” that gives you a sampling of the stunning work created by these talented and widely diverse artists which you can access here.  I highly recommend you pour yourself a cup of java or glass of wine (as you prefer), kick back and listen to this amazing assembly of versatile artists.  I should caution that this may well lead to you wanting to hear the collection in its entirety which you can do by clicking here.

DSC01703Before we conclude this segment, I thought you might enjoy seeing some more works from the visual arts side of the program which resides in the capable hands of well-known art and fashion curator Luzma Moctezuma.  No less an authority than the sales manager, Miriam Reuter, tells me that they are working on an inventory of all the art work.  You will be able to learn more online about the piece, as well as the artist who created it.

DSC01704I promise in the next post to provide you links both to my own library of pictures taken on my recent visit as well as a whole raft of pictures professionally done.  It shouldn’t prove too difficult to tell which are which! In the meantime, here is a link to a great promotional video.

If you are wondering why I don’t just post the links to the pictures now, it is because I am being very naughty and feeling the need to create a compelling reason for you to come back here again soon.  You have yet to visit the enchanted garden or to glide across the shimmering waters toward the shade-drenched oasis or to gaze out to sea from the towering ramparts.  All in due time, dear reader, all in due time.

El Ganzo Gives Me Goose Bumps

If brevity is the soul of wit, serendipity is the soul of travel!

Hotel El Ganzo, Los Cabos The absolute best aspect of travel is the unforseen twists and unpredictable turns that lead to such satisfying intellectual stimulation and emotional fulfillment.  The following sequence of events from last week is a wonderful example of precisely what I mean.

1)  I find out my advisory board meeting will be at Secrets Puerto Los Cabos.  Great, I have been wanting to learn more about that development.

2)  In the airport departure lounge, I decide spontaneously to reach out to a good friend and business contact Juan Carlos Del Rio, Managing Director of Epic Group Los Cabos and suggest to him we get together for a drink and chat.

3)  We meet one afternoon on the Secrets patio and Juan Carlos brings along Rafael Sanchez Navarro of Grupo Questro whose company owns and is developing Puerto Los Cabos.  He mentions offhandedly a boutique hotel they own located nearby at the marina.

4)  Later that evening, on a whim I email Rafael to see if I could do a site inspection the next morning before I catch my afternoon flight.  He readily agrees and sets it up.

Sitting in the airport at DFW, I was focused on my upcoming advisory board meeting agenda.  Stumbling upon one of the most interesting hotels I have every visited was the absolute farthest thing from my mind.  How could I possibly have known that El Ganzo was about to give me goose bumps!

El Ganzo logo

As you can tell from their logo, El Ganzo means “goose” in Spanish although the conventional spelling is el ganso with an “s”.  After I concluded my tour, I asked my intrepid guide Miriam Reuter about the spelling deviation.  She had the perfect explanation.  “As you have discovered for yourself, El Ganzo does things differently than other hotels.  As such, even the name demands its own flair.”   At the end of the next few posts, you can judge for yourself if indeed El Ganzo does not offer a unique travel experience.

El Ganzo Hotel in Los CabosNow, where to start?  For a boutique hotel with just 72 rooms, there is a lot to explain.  I know, let’s begin just as I did.  I arrived a little early so while I waited to meet Miriam, I walked out on the verandah, ordered a  cappuccino and sat gazing out at the marina.  Puerto Los Cabos marinaSome of you may know that just off the coast of Los Cabos are some of the world’s best sport fishing grounds and many boats harbor here.   Rather than trying to explain such niceties as the marina being a “4 S” with 400 slips and a drystock with a 150 ton lift . . . why parade my gross ignorance for all the world to see . . .just click here and read away.  Fortunately, one needn’t be a Fleet Admiral to sit and drink in the aesthetic beauty of the place.  Anyway, Miriam’s here to start our tour.

As we walked to the front entrance to the hotel, I asked Miriam to explain the basic concept of their signature Artist In Residence program.  Here is a brief synopsis with a fuller explanation and more examples to come later.  Artists and musicians from around the world are invited to come and experience the hotel while they create, interpret and record works of art.  No money changes hands.  This is all based on trade.  The artists are responsible for their own airfare but once they arrive they are provided airport transfers, accommodations and a generous meal allowance (since the property is not all-inclusive).  They in turn are expected to exercise their creative gifts leaving behind a permanent record of their visit.

As you can perhaps tell from the picture at the top of this page, the entrance to the hotel is on one end, giving the impression there couldn’t be more than a half-dozen rooms.  The wider shot above gives a very different perspective.  Now take a look at the pictures below.  The one on the left again shows the entrance.  The one on the right is a closer view of a magnificent piece of art by the Mexican graffiti artist SanerEntrance to Hotel El Ganzo   Art

I have barely scratched the surface and already it is time to wind down this post.  But I have oh so much more to tell you about El Ganzo.  In a later post I will give you links to some incredible pictures of this property.   When we next reconvene, I will take you by the hand and lead you down steep steps to secret chambers, on mysterious boat rides to a shady oasis and on a two-wheel journey through enchanted gardens.  Harry Potter, eat your heart out!

Puerto Los Cabos And The Quest For The Best

Being a consummate travel professional (no giggles, please), I admittedly approach my personal travel a little differently than the average vacationer.  Because a large percentage of the travel I do could be considered a combination of business and pleasure, I always travel with an eye out for the unique, the fascinating, the “New Next” to steal a phrase from Texas Monthly magazine.  It is my own relentless “quest for the best” to share with you.  Think of me as a sort of Indiana Jones searching for the Ark of the Covenant only without the chest hair and female entourage.

Marina at Puerto Los CabosThis past week was a perfect example.  I serve on the advisory board for the travel behemoth, Travel Leaders.  We had our quarterly meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, not exactly a shabby site for a business meeting. One thing I will say about the travel industry, we do meetings right!  I was especially pleased to discover that we were staying at the Secrets Puerto Los Cabos.  As the title above suggests, this post (and the next several) will introduce you to the newest, nicest and neatest development in one of my favorite destinations in all the world.

Google Map of Los CabosFirst a quick geography lesson. Did you ever stop to think about the fact that the destination is called Los Cabos and not El Cabo (cabo meaning cape or tip in Spanish)?  The reason is that at the very tip of the Baja Peninsula there are actually three capes: on the western side is the Cape of San Lucas where you find the town of Cabo San Lucas; the Cape of San Jose where the town of San Jose del Cabo is situated; and finally, there is an Eastern Cape.  Just east of San Jose del Cabo is Puerto Los Cabos sitting right on the border between these latter two capes.  In between the first two capes is the stretch of land known as The Corridor.  Are you starting to remember why you hated geography class so much!

Not to worry, for our purposes we are going to focus all our attention on Puerto Los Cabos.  This amazing development is the brain child of the Sanchez Navarro family comprised of a father, at least two or three sons involved in the business and a nephew.  To date I have only had the pleasure of meeting Rafael who directs the sales and marketing, a deficiency I hope to remedy soon.  I did Google the rest of the family and they all look like stars of a Mexican telenovela. I would love to meet the rest of the “cast” even though in their midst I would no doubt look like one of those character actors brought in for comic relief!  Their company is aptly enough named Grupo Questro and, as you will read below, the entire family obviously shares my passionate quest for the best.

Golf Course at Puerto Los CabosPuerto Los Cabos is a planned development nestled in the hills of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains with its own spectacular marina and 18-hole golf course.   The existing course is the only course I have every played where the front nine was designed by one world-class architect, Jack Nicklaus and the back nine by an equally famous luminary, Greg Norman.  This marriage made in heaven, alas, is temporary seeing that the Greg Norman half will become the front nine of his own eighteen hole signature course and the Jack Nicklaus half will become the back nine of his own 18-hole course.  Nothing like picking out your next spouse while still married!  And you thought geography was complicated.

With the time I have remaining, I am going to tell you about two incredible resorts currently in progress (J. W. Marriott and Ritz Carlton Reserve) and then invite you to come back soon and read about two magnificent resort properties you can book right now (Secrets Puerto Los Cabos and El Ganzo).  Over an ice-cold Negra Modelo (the best beer in Mexico, by the way), Rafael explained to me that the construction I could see next door from where we were sitting on the terrace was a J. W. Marriott that is slated to open late this year. The best I can offer you at the moment are the various artist renderings below. To read a news release about the property, click here.

JW Marriott Puerto Los CabosIn case you are not aware, apparently Ritz Carlton was just not quite ritzy enough for some folks so a few years back they launched the Ritz Carlton Reserve brand.  This new property is described in their news release which you can read here.  “Nestled along 800 feet of oceanfront along Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, 124 private, single-story, oceanfront villas will each have breathtaking panoramic views across the Sea of Cortez in an area of outstanding natural beauty.”  Again, here is an artist rendering.

Ritz Carlton Reserve Puerto Los CabosLest you assume the only option today for visiting Puerto Los Cabos is bringing along a pup tent from home along with a can of pork and beans and a few matches, in the next several posts I will tell you about two remarkable places you can book now.  By way of a tease, while both are magnificent, one of these two is perhaps the most unusual and intriguing hotel concept I have ever seen!  It may take a couple of blog posts to do it justice.

I’ll be back soon.  Why don’t you invite a few friends to join us next time as we continue our “quest for the best”?  This will be one time I can promise you won’t be disappointed.  In fact, why not sign up to follow this blog and you will never have to be disappointed again?  Cheers!

OK, I’m Here . . . So Now What? Cancun and the Mayan Riviera

Some travelers get so caught up in their destination (where do I want to go?) and their domicile (where do I want to stay?), they forget to ask themselves “What do I want to do when I get there?”.  In fact, that question should probably precede the previous two.  If your definition of a perfect vacation contains certain “must do” items, you might want to travel somewhere that offers those specific activities.

Wow, are you blown away by my mastery of Aristotelian logic?  Don’t try this kind of insightful thinking at home without an open copy of The Organon next to you or you might bruise your little gray cells!

This post starts a new category on this blog called “OK, I’m Here . . . So Now What?” in which I will inform you about things to see and do in various destinations.  Let’s take Cancun and the Mayan Riviera as our first example . . . especially since that is the only thing I am prepared to write about at the moment.  On September 7th I published a

Picture of a Mayan Calendar

This is either a Mayan calendar or an Oreo cookie, not sure which.

post called Cancun:  A Bundle (or Unbundle) Of Fun in which I promised  to provide you more information about this precise subject very soon.  OK, very soon is a relative term. Compared with say the Mayan calendar’s “baktun” which divides history into periods of 394.26 years, the past few months have been a mere heartbeat.  Speaking of the Mayans, the world didn’t end last Friday while I was out Christmas shopping, did it?  I would be extremely upset to find out that while I was being jostled in line at Bath And Body Works by a tattooed teenager with a nose ring , I missed the entire apocalypse!

There are way too many tour options and activities (over a hundred) to list them all here so I will just mention a few and then point you to this awesome site where you can research, dream and even book to your little heart’s content.

Camel Safari   (No, this is not a misprint from a tour of North Africa.)

Be honest, haven’t you always wanted to ride a camel?  I’m not saying you dream about it at night because frankly, that would be a little weird.  But wouldn’t it be nice, when there is a lull in the conversation at your next cocktail party, to be able to throw out a totally random comment Camel Safari in Riviera Mayaabout camel riding in Cancun?  This is a unique experience specially designed for travelers with a taste for the exotic.  If vacations are all about experiences outside your normal routine,  unless you recently traded in your Dodge Ram pickup for a dromedary, this should certainly fit the bill.

XPLOR Tour

This is described as “A totally wild adventure where you will drive an amphibious vehicle, go over the exotic vegetation on a zip line, and swim in an ancestral cenote.”  Personally, I think it would be even wilder if you swam in the exotic vegetation and zipped over a cenote in an amphibious vehicle but that’s just me.  Actually, I have done this activity.   One small Extreme Canopy Adventurecautionary note.  When the guide tells you that should you come in a little “hot” on your zip line run, don’t worry, he will be on the platform on the other end to catch you before you wrench your knee careening into an unforgiving tree . . . well . . . let me translate for you.  What he really means is if you are young, cute, petite and female, he is there for you.  If you old, male, scruffy and a little above your fighting weight, you should count on a loud “¡Olé!” coupled with a dexterous sideways jump that would make a Spanish bullfighter proud.  If you have to ask what the heck is going on in the picture to the left, you don’t have any business signing up for this adventure.

Delphinus Trek

Interacting safely with dolphins, under water as if you were a diver, is simply unmatched.
You will appreciate them from a unique and different point of view thanks to secure underwater breathing equipment that can be used by anyone.  By anyone, I am excluding people like me who are claustrophobic in small, confined places such as Cowboy Stadium, Notre Dame and Yellowstone National Park.

Delphinus Trek, Riviera Maya

Are you are ready to peruse a list of over one hundred tour and activity choices as well as nifty transfer options to and from the airport?   Just follow this link and explore to your heart’s content: Travel Leaders Cancun ActivitiesWhen you are ready for some help selecting the perfect resort for you, just visit Travel Leaders / Main Street Travel.  And finally, when you are desperately bored and find yourself craving even more mindless drivel, just come back here.  As you have probably discovered by now, we can deliver drivel by the dump truck load around here.

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.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

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.

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.

If You Love Mexico, Read And SHARE

Devoted followers of this space . . . and may your tribe increase by the way . . . will be aware that a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called Mexico Maligned which was intended as a counter-balance to the generally one-sided treatment Mexico typically receives in the main stream press. My ultimate purpose was to challenge consumers to make their decision whether to travel to Mexico based on something other than dramatic media reports about selective areas.

Since posting that article, I have launched a campaign I am calling, “If you love Mexico, readFlag of Mexico See also: List of Mexican flags and SHARE”.  I hope to entice other travel bloggers, tweeters (#mexicomaligned), Facebook aficionados, travel agents and consumers who love Mexico to join me in waging our own little grass roots campaign.  By so doing, I hope to unleash the phenomenal power of exponential growth.

To understand how the internet can be, and often is, a force of nature, consider this.  This is the math behind “Going Viral’. There used to hang on a wall in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry a checkerboard, a grain of rice and a card below with this explanation.

checkerboard illustration“If you were to place one grain of rice on the first square of this checkerboard and double it to two on the second, double again to four on the third square and so forth, by the time you reached the sixty-fourth square you would have enough rice on that square alone to bury the sub-continent of India fifty feet deep in rice or, put another way, laid end to end to reach Alpha Centauri, the nearest star and back twice.”

So let’s suppose everyone reading these words took up this challenge and read Mexico Maligned and more importantly shared the post using the social media share buttons on the bottom of the page through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn or email.  Let’s further assume, on average, two people with whom they shared did the same thing, including both reading and sharing, and those people did the same, etc.  In three weeks over 300,000,000 people would have read Mexico Maligned, roughly the population of the US!

Now do I think that is likely to happen?  Of course not!  Such mathematical formulas always break down because people are involved, some of whom don’t continue the chain of events.  But here is the good news!  It doesn’t have to work anywhere near perfection to potentially reach tens of thousands of people.

In the past couple of weeks I have earned a measure of gratitude from many Mexico lovers (check out the comments on the blog post) and a deep sense of satisfaction for myself.   I suppose I would rather be a modern-day Don Quixote tweeting against windmills than just capitulating to a myopic media.

I heartily invite you, dear reader, to join the fray.   To savor a bit of both the appreciation and satisfaction for yourself is pretty simple really.  Just read and SHARE using the social media share buttons at the bottom of the Mexico Maligned blog post.

Mexico Maligned

THE MEDIA’S MYOPIA

If you look up myopia in thefreedictionary.com you will find it defined as ” . . .a visual defect in which distant objects appear blurred because their images are focusedMyopia in front of the retina rather than on it; nearsightedness.”   What you won’t find there, but probably should, are pictures of almost every major U.S. cable and broadcast news network.

Most of us have long since figured out that the 24-hour news cycle demands a relentless stream of drama-dripping, nerve-jangling “Breaking News” alerts every half-hour. God forbid eyeballs should be allowed to wander.  That reality is unfortunate on a number of levels but nowhere more so than here where an entire noble nation is callously maligned.

Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that the media “has it in for Mexico”.  Not at all.  This is not another rant against media bias.  What I do maintain, however, is that in their insatiable thirst for the salacious, Mexico and its 112 million proud people are in the minds of the media — assuming they bother to think about such things at all – unfortunate collateral damage.  Just like the definition above, the media’s image of Mexico is blurred precisely because their focus is on one relatively small, admittedly ugly reality and thus falls woefully short of the retina of responsible reportage.

As an unrepentant lover of Mexico, I confess it is hard not to take this personally  What if day after day you had to read gross exaggerations, half-truths and outright, and often outrageous, lies about someone you cherished?  You don’t need to respond to my rhetorical question because we both know that it would make your blood boil.  So imagine how I feel, laboring away in the vineyards of travel and being subjected to a flood of negative news reports about Mexico, a country of incredible beauty, rich history and some of the finest people God ever planted on this planet.

THE THREE METRICS THAT MATTER  

Let’s turn our attention to three practical metrics you can use for measuring the safety of Mexico.

Metric One:  Geography

Allow me to share a couple of realities that seldom get mentioned by the media.  The first is the fact that the vast majority of the security problems in Mexico are restricted to towns along the border and a few other scattered sites.  It is worth noting that Mexico has over 2500 municipalities and security problems have been concentrated in just 18 of them.  You probably won’t run across this embarrassing little jewel either, embarrassing to the US that is.  It almost makes you question the wisdom of staying at home!

The second fact rarely discussed is the immense size of Mexico (roughly the size of Western Europe) and the distances between historical hot spots and resort cities. Take a look at the map below. You may be surprised to discover that it is roughly 1000 miles from Juarez to Cancun and almost 800 miles from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  The white line is meant to suggest how head-scratchingly strange we here in the US would find it if a potential visitor from a foreign country shared with us that he was apprehensive about visiting San Diego because he had heard of a recent ugly incident in New Orleans.

Map of Mexico

Map showing relative distances in Mexico

Metric Two:  Statistics

Here are a few interesting facts you probably have not heard in the media:

1)     The Mexican Ministry of Tourism revealed that 2011 was a record-breaking year for tourism with. 23.4 million international travelers visiting Mexico in 2011.

2)     The Mexican Ministry of Tourism announced that 4.99 million international tourists visited Mexico between January-April 2012, representing an increase of 5.3 percent compared to the same period in 2011.

3)     Mexico is currently rated 10th in the world rankings for most international visitors and has publicly set a goal to be in the top 5 by 2018.

4)     There are currently no US travel advisories in place for popular tourist destinations like Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum, the Riviera Nayarit, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara and San Miguel de Allende, Leon or even Mexico City.

Metric Three:  Experience

If you were to ask me the number one reason I believe Mexico is safe I would say it is based on my own personal experience.  I have been traveling there for over 25 years, multiple times many years, without ever once being threatened or harassed.   My story is but one of millions as the statistics above corroborate.

If you would like to hear some real stories from real people talking about the real Mexico, just visit the Mexico Taxi Project.  These are unscripted comments from consumers just like you on their way home from the airport upon returning to the US.   OK, there may be a couple of folks in those clips still feeling the negative effects of over-indulgence but hey, hangovers don’t reach the threat threshold set for this blog post.

Teatro Juaürez in Guanajuato City, Mexico

Teatro Juaürez in Guanajuato City

SUMMARY

I hope I have demonstrated that striking Mexico off your list of vacation destinations based solely on money driven media reports is, dare I say it, illogical, irrational and well . . myopic.  The real shame is that you are depriving yourself of one of the most value centered travel experiences available anywhere in the world.  Mexico has world-class hotels, incredible dining, exciting activities and rich traditions all tendered to the world by humble masters of unparalleled service.

Unfortunately, this humble blogger doesn’t have a prayer by himself of making the least dint in the news coverage of Mexico.  Unbowed and undeterred, however, I shall keep on lending my own voice to many others crying in the wilderness.  I shall attend Mexico, I shall defend Mexico, I shall recommend Mexico!  My only hope is that your decision, fellow traveler, when it is made, will be based on a basic grasp of geography, a familiarity with a few simple statistics and a confident reliance on the consistent testimony of a legion of travelers to Mexico with irrefutable firsthand knowledge.

Whatever you eventually decide, I will fully respect your decision. But please,and again I say please, don’t let a myopic media’s thirst for mayhem rob you of experiencing one of the world’s great treasures. Take if from one who knows, you will be the poorer for it.

If you love Mexico as much as I do, would you consider sharing this post with you own circle of influence using the social media links provided below?

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