ETC AMBASSADORS TO MEXICO CITY

TESTIMONIALS

In July 2011 the Executive Advisory Council (EAC) of the Educational Travel Consortium held its annual meeting in Mexico, where its members were the guests of the Secretary of Tourism and the Mexico Tourism Board. Mexico City proved to be an ideal location for the EAC meeting. As the capital of the United States’ closest neighbor to the south, the Educational Travel Consortium felt an obligation to experience Mexico City first hand and to share collective feedback for the benefit of the larger educational travel community. It is important to note that despite their extensive travels throughout the world, none of the ETC attendees had ever visited Mexico City–with the exception of one member’s visit there as a child. Here, in their own words, are their comments about this memorable experience.

To go directly to a particular individual beyond this first page, click on his/her name below:

Cary Allyn, Director, Vanderbilt Travel Program, Vanderbilt University:

I have always thought of Mexico City as a very large, cosmopolitan city and, of course, “somewhat dangerous.” Tours rarely have Mexico City built into the itinerary so the opportunity to visit has been limited. What I found was a large cosmopolitan city, proud of its deep history and a Mecca for spirited art and culture.

Mexico City was very clean, not smoggy, and full of generally friendly people. During our walking tour, I was particularly struck by the fact there were very few tourists on the streets from any country, which is so different than other capital cities. The variety of street activities were very interesting from dancing to young people just hanging out and enjoying the day. The museums and architecture were a particular highlight and beautifully preserved.

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

• Archeological Museum and Teotihuacan site

• Meeting with Mexico Minister of Tourism Guevara

• Hospitality/friendly people and the wonderful food

Stacy Fiorentinos, President, Classic Escapes:

I was incredibly impressed with Mexico City. I have traveled the world, and yet I have never been to Mexico, our neighbor to the south. This was an eye-opening experience. Not only did I not see the “drug lords” I was told are bountiful, but I found a city rich in culture, clean, with beautiful monuments and friendly people. Mexico City is modern with lots of green, beautiful downtown area and lots of shopping opportunities. The archaeological sites located so near the city are impressive, and the museum was fantastic. I wish we had an opportunity to stay and explore some more.

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

• Seeing the site at Teotihuacan was definitely a high. I did not climb to the top of the Sun Pyramid because of my physical limitations, but walking at the site and bartering with the vendors was delightful.

• Experiencing the hospitality, vibrancy, youth, and safety of Mexico City.

• Visiting the archaeological Museum and the historic center.

• Meeting Mexico Minister of Tourism Guevara, hearing of the Mexico Tourism Board’s objectives, and seeing its new campaign that will unfold shortly.

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James Friedlander, President and CEO, Academic Arrangements Abroad:

I was delighted by my visit to Mexico City. This was my first trip there and I was not sure what to expect. While there, I had an opportunity to inspect several hotels including the Nikko, the J.W. Marriott, the St. Regis, and the Intercontinental. All were up to international standards, and I also understand that there is a delightful Four Seasons hotel as well.

Transportation to/from the airport was quick and traffic (it was mostly over weekend days) was not as bad as I feared—certainly no worse than New York City, where I work. The city itself had a refreshing lack of high-rise towers. The generally lower buildings gave a more open feel than I expected, and the integration of commercial and residential also enhanced the sense of neighborhood as opposed to strictly defined business/residential districts.

The weather was much milder than I anticipated. One imagines extreme heat at this time of year but it was actually cooler in Mexico City than in the Northeast due to the 7,000-foot altitude—a refreshing surprise. Archeologically, the city is a layer cake of history from the pre-Columbian, through the Aztecs, the Spanish and the modern era…. A most enjoyable visit….

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

• Mild Climate

• Extensive and well structured Archeological museum

• Interesting colonial and art deco architecture

• Variety of excellent restaurants

• Proximity to Aztec temples

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Scott Gerloff, President and CEO, Heritage Travel, LLC
National Trust for Historic Preservation

I appreciated the wealth of architecture from ancient times to modern architecture. The walk through the Historic Center was being able to see centuries of architectural styles. The cosmopolitan aspects of the restaurants, green spaces, and public sculpture made for great pedestrian experiences.

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

• Architecture Historic Center

• Meeting with the Minister

• Rodrigo, Adrianna, and Fernando

• Restaurants

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Susan Goodale, Director of Development, Student Affairs
UC Santa Barbara Alumni Association:

Mexico City is a colorful, lively, and welcoming city, proud of its architecture, heritage and artistic expression. It is a city rich in culture and history resulting from the ancient cultures that first inhabited the area.

Despite Mexico City’s size and historical age, it is a young city; youth seem to prevail as the dominant work force in security at the airports, in the heritage and cultural sites and in the tourism industry.

While Mexico City is among the top three largest cities in the world, the focus on trees and parks, the mix of higher and lower-rise buildings, and dedication to open space made it feel much otherwise, say in comparison to New York. I was also impressed with how devoid of litter the streets and sidewalks were in areas we visited, despite the size and bustle of the city.

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

• Meeting with Minister Gloria Guevara and the information relayed to our group during that meeting.

• While lengthy in nature, the visit to the museum. Not only a fabulous complex—but the exhibit itself and the use of space to display the exhibit.

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Linda Ho, Marketing Manager, Eastern USA, Hong Kong Tourism Board:

I came away with a renewed sense of Mexico after the four days in Mexico City. The mild weather and the greenery citywide are refreshing. The impressive architecture in the Historic Center and the visit to the Teotihuacan are only the tip of the iceberg, which demonstrates the depth of history and culture this country has to offer.

It is a global city with a range of cuisines, international hotel chains, and top-notch services and events. It helped a lot to walk the streets with Rodrigo, our favorite host, as he pointed out the landmarks with their stories and reassured me that it is safe to venture the city with police and CCTV in place to safe-guard visitors.

Minor inconveniences include the high altitude (the city is almost 7,400 feet above sea level) so come prepared and the lack of bi-lingual collateral at attractions.

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

• Meeting with the Minister and her team to hear and watch first hand Mexico’s cultural tourism campaign

• Experiencing a taste of Mexico: tour to Teotihuacan and Templo Mayor, breakfast at a local restaurant, and the hospitality of our hosts

• Having my perception changed and realizing that Mexico is more than “Sun & Fun,” as well as that Mexico City is a relatively safe destination.

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Martin Ludwig, Senior Director, Alumni Travel, Georgia Tech Alumni Association:

This was my first visit to Mexico City, and I was pleasantly surprised at all the city had to offer in terms of cultural and historical attractions. In the areas of the city that our group visited, my impression was that the city was very clean and there were many things going on. It was full of life, which was nice to see. I also was surprised at the moderate temperatures, since many Americans believe Mexico to be much warmer in the summer. I enjoyed our visit to the Anthropology Museum. I think this is something that our travelers would be interested in seeing. We did not get to see much of the National Palace, as it was closed when we arrived. Teotihuacan was a highlight and our guide did a great job showing us around. Mexico won a soccer game on our last evening, and a small group of us went out to a local bar to hear some music and be with the people. I was impressed with the spirit of the local people and watching them enjoy themselves.

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

– Anthropology Museum

– Teotihuacan Pyramids

– Dinner at the St. Regis

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Aleksandra Matic, Associate Director of Member Travel, Art Institute of Chicago:

I returned to Chicago with a very positive view of Mexico City, and am already trying to find a time to return.

I feel that there is much to experience within the city, and nearby—museums, musical and dance performances, theater, fine dining, shopping, etc. These are all the basic activities that a tourist would do in any major, cosmopolitan city that your average cultural tourist might not look to Mexico City for. I feel that Mexico City is on par with many major European cities in terms of cultural offerings and hopefully this can be effectively communicated to the cultural travel market.

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

• Walking tour of the Historic Center. It is important to me as a travel planner to feel the energy of the local people and tourists on major city streets/centers.

• Meeting at the Ministry of Tourism—interaction and access like this is rare for me, as an educational travel planner. It is always interesting to hear the internal perspective. I enjoyed hearing the Minister’s plans for the expansion of Mexico’s cultural tourism industry.

• Tour of the Teotihuacan archeological site. It was a good sign to see that the site was crowed, with what appeared to be a mix of locals and tourists.

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Lynn Meehan, Market Development: USA
New Brunswick Tourism, Heritage and Culture:

Previous to arrival I did not do any research on Mexico City, due to my busy work schedule. I always do some level of research before my personal or business trips if I am unfamiliar with the city/region. I like to know of the “non-tourist” places and the key tourist places that are must-sees—as I generally plan some free time to explore when on business trips.

I had been to Mexico twice before (Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Merida) so I had very positive impressions of Mexico in general, however, in my mind I had the impression to be careful in Mexico City; crime, the enormity of size, etc.

As soon as Mexico City came in view from the airplane window, I was awestruck by the beauty and enormity—and instantly any concerns vanished. My drive to hotel only encourage these feelings—seeing monuments, lush streets, cleanliness, cosmopolitan atmosphere, etc.

My stay in Mexico City was a truly memorable experience. I was so impressed by the friendliness and loveliness of all people, not just in the hotel. I felt safe at all times, even when I strayed from the group—no problem. Mexico City appeared to me to be a tourist-friendly destination. I will come back as a tourist, as I just got a “taste” of this special place.

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

• Aeromexico (JFK-Mex): very impressed with actual airplane, flight, service. Offered free hot lunch /dinner and free beverages—this no longer happens with Air Canada. It was an overall pleasant experience even with a full flight.

• Presidente Intercontinental: all aspects of the hotel, food, and service were exceptional—not one issue from a participant’s perspective.

• Historic Center (UNESCO Site) walk-about: magnificent experience to just be amongst the people, the market, etc.

• Mexico winning the soccer tourney on Sunday and knowing about all the people gathering at the monument outside St. Regis Hotel—very exciting!

• Teotihuacan Archeological Zone & Pyramids: to have this opportunity to visit such a significant place and with such a fantastic guide to tell the story. I climbed the pyramid, though at first I stopped mid-way and wondered if I could due to the breathing, but knew I would regret if I did not, so onward I went—a special memory for me, as I am a history/cultural buff.

• Being able to “be present in this place” reminded me how fortunate I am to be in a position to have this incredible opportunity. I am a Canadian and we live in a very “comfortable” country. On several occasions I felt very spiritual during my experiences and I was reminded how, unfortunately, I and most Canadians take our daily lives for granted. Driving out of the city I was wide-eyed to see the homes on the hills and I imaged how challenging life is for many residents and at the same time how good the people of Mexico are to visitors.

• There were so many highs for me on a personal level. I was tuned into it all, i.e. I hardly spoke during the daily transportation, as I had to take in all that I saw outside the window. It is hard to explain, but I have been deeply moved by this visit. Thank you.

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Roberta Moore, Principal, Roberta M. Moore Consulting:

Mexico was, in many ways, the ideal meeting location for the ETC Advisory Council. As a country dealing with negative media attention, I felt an obligation to experience and learn about our closest neighbor.

Our first afternoon tour of the Anthropology Museum took us to an impressive complex in the heart of the city. It was readily apparent that there is great pride in the cultural heritage of Mexico, but for the educational affinity traveler too much time was spent in the tour on the pre-history section where the evolution of homo-sapiens and the migration out of Africa was presented in detail. I completely understand the importance of these sections as a learning tool for Mexican children and citizens, but the educated visitor already understands how the region was populated. I would have preferred to start with the earliest found representations of humans in Mexico and progress from that point forward. [Side note: very few museum placards describing the artifact/scene were printed in English.]

Our guide did not seem comfortable with his English and reverted to pointing out displays as description rather than telling Mexico’s story; why and how religious practices developed? What was the greater impact of the Christian ministries and Spanish explorers? What brought about the end of the Maya and is there a revival by Mexicans to recapture their cultural history? This seems to be a fascinating story that, if told well, will bring travelers back time and again.

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

• Meeting with the Minister

• Experiencing the variety of attractions in Mexico City

• Teotihuacan

• Saturday night in Mexico City observing everyday life

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Clark Oldroyd, Retired Senior Program Manager, Alumni Travel
University of Colorado at Boulder:

This was my first visit to Mexico City and in many ways I had no specific expectations or pre-conceived impressions. Certainly I had heard of the security issues facing both Mexicans and visitors to Mexico, but I didn’t necessarily associate these concerns with Mexico City. The security issues that have a higher profile are the crimes that occur at or near the border and in the popular tourist cities along the coasts. Working at a university where students and local families often choose to spend vacation time in Mexico, any instance of crime or behaviors that affect one’s feeling of security are highly publicized.

A few first impressions include: it’s a much larger city than I expected it to be; it’s clean—at least in the areas that we saw; there is not a feeling or general thought that one should not go out on one’s own. As someone who generally takes walks in a new city to become better acquainted with it, I needed to remember that doing so here might not be advisable. There is much to see in the city: many museums, art, architecture, music, and, of course, food. Getting to visit Templo Mayor, the main square, and the Teotihuacan Pyramids was especially enjoyable.

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

• Walking along one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares on Saturday afternoon and having the chance to be out and among the people in the city. It also was an opportunity to see and learn about some of the city’s highlights.

• Climbing to the top of the Sun Temple.

• Dinner at a restaurant near the hotel Friday night. It was great food, but we could also hear people outside cheering as the Mexico soccer team played well against Peru (I think!).

• Visiting with the van driver as we drove to the airport on Monday. We were the only two in the van.

• A very candid and informative meeting with the Minister of Tourism.

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Pauline Ranieri, Director, UW Alumni Tours
University of Washington Alumni Association:

Not having been to Mexico City before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and found myself very pleasantly surprised and impressed by everything. The diverse architecture, the incredible museums, and the variety of restaurants—it was all very exciting!

The combination of culture, food and history, results in a city perfectly suited for a wide variety of travelers. I know that I will now help spread the word about what a fabulous destination the city is.

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

• The opportunity to personally hear the Minister of Tourism address the topic of tourism and safety, along with learning about the diverse cultural travel opportunities that abound within the country.

• Visiting the Teotihuacan Archeological Zone and Pyramids—fantastic!

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Leslie Jennings Rowley, Assistant Director, Kahneman-Treisman Center for Behavioral Science
Princeton University:

I suppose the only pre-conceived notion I had of Mexico City is that the air quality would not be very good. Other than that, and friends’ and families’ reminders to remain vigilant for my personal safety, I hadn’t formed any expectations of the city. Of course, the clear and sweetly fragrant air welcomed me to a city that I found both charming and vibrant and I am eager to return to investigate its riches more fully. When I do return, I hope to take advantage of more of the arts and crafts culture, visiting galleries and museums and exploring the varied architecture. For a city of such size and population, it seemed quite clean and orderly and likely very easy to navigate. In our brief sojourns around the city, I was struck, too, by the relative youthfulness of the population and the overwhelming efforts people were making to be hospitable. Everyone was so friendly and generous with happy smiles.

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

• Seeing the site at Teotihuacan and climbing to the top of the Sun Pyramid

• Eating the wonderful casual and nouvelle cuisine

• Experiencing, first-hand, the hospitality, vibrancy, youth and safety of Mexico City

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Joe Small, President, AHI Travel:

Mexico City is a world-class destination offering a relaxed sophistication, welcoming atmosphere, most pleasant climate and a treasure trove of artistic and architectural delights. The Chapultepec Park neighborhood where we stayed at the Presidente InterContinental Hotel offered inviting strolls through tree-lined neighborhoods lined with shops, cafes and restaurants.

The Paseo de la Reforma rivals any boulevard in the world with its grand buildings, monuments and park-like setting. The National Museum of Anthropology provides an excellent overview of the historic development of Mexico City and its ancient cultures. And, the Old City was simply amazing with architectural wonders and modern-day energy.

All in all, Mexico City is a treasure just a few hours south of the U.S. border that offers activities and opportunities for unique experiences that would appeal to the educated traveler.

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

• Chapultepec neighborhood

• Old City

• Paseo de la Reforma

• Intercontinental and Regency hotels

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Judi Wineland, CEO, Thomson Safaris:

Mexico City exceeded my expectations. When a city reaches the size of that of Mexico City one often thinks about pollution, “urban jungles,” a loss of culture, and an overwhelming sense of largeness. This is not what I felt.

Mexico City, at 7,000-feet above sea level, was easy to navigate, had a deep sense of culture and history, filled with trees and parks, and had a sense of calmness and friendliness I did not expect.

To find Aztec ruins in the middle of a city, to see Diego Rivera’s paintings, to walk the promenades inside the Anthropology museum, and climb ancient Aztec pyramids made it clear that the people of Mexico have found a way to capture their history and culture.

Highlights of my experience included the following: 

• Meeting with the Minister of Tourism

• Climbing the pyramids in Teotihuacan

• Visiting St. Regis Hotel

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