An ideal vacation in Mexico should be more than beaches, resorts, and exquisite foods—visitors to the country should experience an encounter with its mystical past. This is the premise for President Calderón’s Mundo Maya project, designed to highlight the culturally rich history of the nation, thereby boosting the tourism industry and supporting investments in the southeast region. This initiative is expecting to create more employment, improve infrastructure, and generate long-lasting prosperity for Mexico.
In 2011, the President and the Mexico Tourism Board presented the project to the Museum of Archeology, outlining a plan to feature the most important archeological treasures in Quintana Roo, Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, and Yucatán as the “Mayan World.” On July 21, the President launched the beginning of the initiative that would cover a region of more than 241,000 square kilometers in Mexico, inviting visitors, investors, and locals eager to participate and revel in the glory of an ancient civilization that can only be compared to those of China or Egypt. The Mayan World schedule includes the restoration and opening of archaeological sites, as well as dance festivals, concerts, theatrical performances, and culinary events. Total investment for the program’s campaign is expected to exceed $10 million and draw more than 52 million tourists to the country. Over the course of the 15-month project, the government estimates that approximately $20.7 billion will be injected into the Mexican economy.
According to the Secretary of Tourism (Sectur), the program’s objective is “to promote the strengthening of the Mayan World region, through strategies and actions geared towards developing new products and the consolidation of the existing supply, within the framework and scope of sustainable tourism development, with the participation of both the public and private sectors as well as including the local communities.” Through the program, the government seeks to engage members of the community at any age and visitors of any background. In addition to the cultural aspects of the program, tourists to the region can enjoy sun and beaches, ecotourism and adventure, diving, cruises, and more than 40 business events and conventions. The program is already making
an impact, driving year-on-year growth of 10.3% in visitor arrivals to the Mayan World region from September to December 2011. As one of the major destinations in Latin America, the growing popularity of the archeological site of Tulum in Quintana Roo contributed to the 77% hotel occupancy rate and the 3.2% growth of visitors to the area. According to Sectur, the program’s activities are also set to foster inter-institutional partnerships for the development of infrastructure and services, attract investments from businesses seeking the availability of affordable financing, safeguard and protect archeological sites, promote sustainable development, support tour operators that promote the regional offering, spark participation in events that promote tourist investment, and support the creation of investment portfolios in the region. The Mayan World trademark will be displayed at national and international fairs, exhibition shows, and used as a regional promotion campaign. Additionally, Sectur seeks to obtain support from international organizations for the development and strengthening of the Mayan World project.
However, the project is not solely a domestic initiative. Included in the Mayan World project are Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Belize—countries that share the history of the ancient civilization. The Mayan World concept has been present in the area for more than 20 years. Initially founded to raise awareness about the cultural wealth in all of its five countries, the Mundo Maya Organization (MMO) was founded in 1992. Seeing the need to consolidate its activities, the Mexican arm of the group is prioritizing the strengthening of its ties with Central America as part of the 2012 Mayan World initiative. Other strategies of this year’s program include the integration of regional tourism offerings, the promotion of quality and excellence in the provision of tourism services, and the coordination of marketing activities in regional multi-product tourism.
Meanwhile, the Mexican government aims to promote the program beyond the Americas to Asia and Europe. “In January 2012, we initiated a campaign in Spain and Central America. It was a big investment; we have a budget of $10 million to market the Mundo Maya program domestically and internationally, and we have high expectations for the campaign,” Rodolfo López Negrete Coppel, Director General of the Mexico Tourism Board, told TBY.
Enhancement projects under development to better showcase the Mayan legacy include the Palace of Maya Civilization, seven miles from the site of the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá, and the Museo del Mundo Maya in Merida. A variety of international firms have also thrown their support behind the project and Mexico’s tourism industry as a whole. One such company, Grupo Iberostar, announced its plan to expand their investments in Mexico and promote the development of tourism infrastructure at Litibú in the state of Nayarit. Máximo García Rocha, Director of the Fondo y Desarrollo Turístico de Benito Juárez, assured TBY that “Cancún is ready to deal with the flow of people and activities linked to Mundo Maya, especially in 2012.”
Famous for its artistic, scientific, and intellectual achievements, the Mayan civilization developed the only written language in the pre-Colombian period in the Americas. Emerging around 1800 BC, the Mayans reached their peak shortly before the arrival of the Spanish in 1511. Although the last Mayan stronghold fell in 1697, the Mayan culture continues to survive in the many generations of indigenous groups throughout the Yucatán Peninsula and Central America. A majority of these groups will actively participate in the government’s 2012 initiatives and events.
Although the region receives a hefty 250,000 tourists per month and comprises 30% of the tourism revenues of the country, the launch of this program in 2012 could not be more fitting; it is believed by many that the end of the Mayan calendar on December 21 forecasts a cataclysmic event. Mexico estimates to host thousands of “end of the world” tourists throughout the year, many of whom are expected to attend the final Mundo Maya event in Chichén Itzá. However, historians agree that Dec 21 represents the mark of a new era. In line with the government’s slogan “a new era begins with a story that will make history”—the year 2012 will incite a new wave of cultural and sustainable tourism at Mexico’s shores and pave the way to a future of growth in the sector.
© The Business Year