At the most recent gathering of LGBT Confex, Mexico’s largest business convention focused on the LGBT market, the mood turned buoyant when topics of travel and tourism arose. “There is greater visibility because of the civil rights that are being won in this country,” said Ruben Sandoval, CEO and founder, LGBT Confex. “Businesses and destinations are preparing for this segment. They’re training and they’re sensitizing themselves to it. It’s not just about placing an advertisement; it’s about what you do internally and how you treat your employees.”
Indeed, the nation furthered its increasingly gay-friendly stance in 2015 when Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled the definition of marriage as a union only between a man and a woman violates Mexico’s constitution.
Tourism offices, business owners and hoteliers now turn their focus to LGBT travelers as never before in Mexico. Major sponsors at LGBT Confex, for example, included Marriott International, Jose Cuervo and tourism officials from the state of Yucatán, the location of the 2015 event (the 2016 edition will take place in October in Mexico City).
“The World Tourism Organization says that the LGBT segment is growing 10 percent every year, while the [mainstream] segment is growing 4.7 percent,” said Araceli Ramos, director of promotion and public relations, Jose Cuervo, adding the LGBT segment “is the greatest investment and target at this moment” for the tourism market. Jose Cuervo is banking on LGBT travelers to drive traffic to Mundo Cuervo, a tequila-oriented tourism attraction the company operates in the state of Jalisco, birthplace of tequila.
A look at the member listings of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association also reveals a sizeable number of LGBT-friendly businesses and organizations in Mexico — including Aeromexico and the tourism offices of Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta. When it comes to hotels, the list is much larger; properties that aim to attract LGBT vacationers and business travelers include the Hyatt Regency, Omni, Paradisus, Le Blanc Spa Resort and Sun Palace in Cancún; Sandos Finisterra and ME Cabo in Los Cabos; and Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa and Grand Hyatt in Playa del Carmen.
While Mexico City may be the heart of LGBT Mexico (as the first major Latin American city to legalize same-sex marriage), Puerto Vallarta arguably ranks as the highest-profile gay travel destination for foreign visitors, thanks in no small part to its large portfolio of LGBT hotels, restaurants and nightlife. Puerto Vallarta’s website features a section of LGBT-friendly venues in its nightlife directory. Vallarta Pride, the annual gay pride event scheduled for May 17–28, expanded into a 12-day event with a variety of entertainment options and a festive parade.
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