Mexico Uses Publicity Surrounding Mayan 2012 Prophecies to Boost Tourism in Southeastern States
Navarro, Carlos, SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico
The Mexican government is hoping that the publicity surrounding the Mayan solar calendar will contribute to a banner year for the country's tourism industry. According to the calendar, the current year--ending on Dec. 21, 2012--will be the last year in a cycle of 5,125 years that began in 3114 B.C. Some archeologists point to scientific evidence found in Maya stelae, codices, and other sources that the current year presages "a change of epoch" for humanity.
Mexican officials see this milestone year as an opportunity to promote tourism in the southeastern states where Maya culture prevails--Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo. The Secretarfa de Turismo (SECTUR), the Consejo de Promocion Turfstica de Mexico (CPTM), and the tourism offices of Quintana Roo and Yucatan states estimate that 52 million tourists will visit the five states corresponding to the Mundo Maya during the next 12 months for the start of a new cosmic cycle in the Maya calendar. The domestic and foreign visitors are expected to spend about 270 million pesos (US$19.7 million) in the five states.
The publicity surrounding the Maya prophecies is also expected to help tourism in Guatemala and Belize.
"The Maya cosmology has sparked the interest of tourists and students of the matter worldwide, something that will be an important element of tourism promotion," said SECTUR.
Other observers agreed. "They're expecting to do some serious business," Gerardo Aldana, an expert in Maya history and hieroglyphics at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), told the Los Angeles Times.
While SECTUR and the CPTM are expected to put special emphasis on the Mundo Maya campaign, the promotion efforts are part of a larger campaign to diversify tourism outreach overseas. A major emphasis will be on attracting tourists from the US, Canada, and Europe to Mexico, including to some areas that have in the past been plagued by drug-related violence (SourceMex, March 2, 2011, and Sept. 28, 2011). The southeastern region could be attractive to foreign visitors because the tourist areas in the five-state region have generally escaped the drug-related violence.
Mexican tourism authorities will work closely with travel agencies and cruise lines on the promotion effort. The Profecfas Mayas 2012 campaign is expected to double the number of cruise ships traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula this year. "We could see about 160 ships in Puerto Progreso this year," said the tourism publication Pulso Turfstico. "And, considering that each ship has the capacity to transport 500 passengers, this could mean an important economic windfall for the region."
Tourism authorities are developing other promotions besides the 2012 prophecies to bring tourists to the Maya region. For example, Cancun and other nearby resorts are planning a campaign to attract gay and lesbian couples from the US, Canada, and Europe by promoting the region as a place where they can legalize their unions. Mexico City is the only jurisdiction in Mexico to fully allow gay marriage (SourceMex, Feb. 17, 2010, and Aug. 25, 2010). Quintana Roo state has not made changes to its laws to specifically allow gay unions, but a loophole in the state legal code allows such unions.
Patricia Novelo, a spokesperson for Colectivo Diversidad, said the state civil code only makes mention of "people interested in getting married," without specifying their gender, which facilitates the same-gender unions.
Authorities are working with airlines and hotel chains all along Mexico's Caribbean coast to facilitate marriage ceremonies. "This market niche ... is very attractive for European, Canadian, and American [homosexual] couples," said Novelo, who noted that eight Mexican gay and lesbian couples were scheduled to marry in January."
Some skeptics dismiss the 2012 prophecies as a misinterpretation of Mayan lore. …