Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Veracruz: What's the big draw?

When traveling, one pleasure I enjoy that also really helps hone one's minimalist language skills is reading the local newspaper with a dictionary. On Sunday the Diario de Xalapa ran a front-page article announcing the Veracruz Ministry of Tourism's new program to promote the state as a travel destination. Basing their approach largely, I think, on cliche, the government officials seem to think their beaches should be promoted as the state's biggest attraction. From a marketing perspective, I pretty strongly feel they're taking the wrong approach, so I wrote a letter to the editor and yesterday spent a delightful hour translating it as best I could into Spanish before shooting it to them via email. I offer here the original English version, pre-translation:

To the editors of El Diario:

As an American tourist visiting Veracruz for the second time, I think your tourism ministry has failed to identify the best way to market your wonderful state.

Veracruz beaches are NOT the best draw for foreign tourists. I love beaches, but there are simply better ones on the Pacific and in the Yucatan -- the Veracruz coast is too industrial and will never compete. Instead, you should market history and culture first, not beaches that would disappoint anyone who has been to Tulum or Acapulco. As the oldest indigenous society, the Olmec heritage here gives you a truly unique pitch -- birthplace of Mexican history and culture, in essence, with El Tajin and the Totonacs providing a modern connection to pre-Columbian Mexico. Veracruz's food and music are unique -- the seafood on the coast is among the best I've had in the world. Your coffee is the best in Mexico. The colonial architecture in the highlands offers Americans a taste of Europe without crossing an ocean.

These are the reasons I came back, and I promise that if they were marketed, they'd draw a lot more people to visit. If you market the beaches, those who come will return home with stories of disappointment. Market the things that make Veracruz special, different from the rest of Mexico, and every visitor will leave with dozens of reasons why all their friends should come here too.

Scott Henson
Austin, TX, USA

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