Michelle Fridman Hirsch believes that spending time in a Maya community or archeological site provides a distinctly more Mexican experience than spending time in an all-inclusive resort.
And Fridman Hirsch, tourism minister for the state of Yucatan, says her jurisdiction is ideally suited for those interested in gaining insights into Mexico’s long past, noting it has 19 Maya archeological sites open to the public, including hugely popular Chichen Itza and lesser-known but also spectacular Uxmal.
“Everybody knows about all-inclusive vacations, which are fun but not Mexican,” Fridman Hirsch said during Mexican tourism show Tianguis, which this year was held from Nov. 16-19 in the Yucatan city of Merida.
“This (Yucatan) is where the authentic experiences are. Everywhere you turn in Yucatan you find heritage, you connect with history.”
Merida — known for an old quarter that has colonial structures housing many bars, restaurants, stores and tour operators — is a focal point of Yucatan’s tourist trade. But Fridman Hirsch noted that tourists can also visit Maya communities where Mayan dialects continue to be spoken. “We’re trying to encourage a more sustainable tourism.”
The Caribbean-fronting state of Quintana Roo — home to Cancun and the Mayan Riviera — gets the lion’s share of those vacationing in the Yucatan Peninsula. But Fridman Hirsch — quick to praise Quintana Roo beaches — suggested tourists spend part of their vacation on Quintana Roo’s coast and part in the State of Yucatan, adding Chichen Itza sees many day visitors from Quintana Roo. A more exciting way of experiencing the World Heritage Site is to wake up close to it in a nearby hotel, she suggested.
Fridman Hirsch added that Yucatan — which has 15,000 hotel rooms, some of them long-standing haciendas converted into upscale lodging, and saw 3.2 million tourists in 2019 — is a “paradise” for birdwatchers, being home to hundreds of different species. Those birds include flamingos, which can be spotted along Yucatan’s Gulf of Mexico coast.
She also said Yucatan is a great for weddings, with those wanting to tie the knot able to do so in such unusual venues as haciendas or in cenotes, the underground water bodies found throughout the region. Many cenotes now have stairs leading down to subterranean landings next to water.
This year’s Tianguis saw around 1,500 buyers and amounted to what Fridman Hirsch said was a “rebirth of tourism” for all of Mexico. But Yucatan tourism authorities noted it also served as a showcase for Merida in particular and many show attendees went on pre-or post-Tianguis tours of Yucatan.
Fridman Hirsch also reported that Yucatan implemented “tough restrictions” to contain coronavirus.
As well, the state is a safe part of the world, with tourists being as safe there as they would in Sweden, she stated.