Mexico flies a kite to draw Chinese Expo visitors: Tourism Secretary

21:06, April 30, 2010      

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Kites flying in a public square and a distinctive spicy cuisine -- the similarities of Mexican and Chinese cultures are on open display at the Shanghai World Expo.

The Central American nation hopes familiarity -- with a Latin twist -- will entice Chinese visitors, Gloria Guevara Manzo, Mexico's Secretary of Tourism, said in an interview with Xinhua Friday.

The main feature of the Mexico Pavilion at the Expo lies with the design of the papalotes, a word that comes from the Nahuatl "papalotl," which means butterfly or kite.

The Mexican government organized a competition to select the best design and more than 500 companies submitted their entries.

"It was very difficult to choose the winner because you need to have a very special theme related to the connection between China and Mexico," Guevara said.

The winning design successfully connects Mexican culture with China.

"The kite is something that came from China and also very popular in Mexico," said Guevara, who was appointed to Mexico's Cabinet to promote the country abroad.

Visitors can also enjoy a typical mariachi performance, Mexican food, art and handicrafts. They can fly Mexican-made kites in the public square near the pavilion.

China is Mexico's second largest trade partner, but Chinese tourist numbers are relatively low. According to Mexico's embassy in China, fewer than 20,000 Chinese travel to Mexico each year.

Last year, the Mexican navy sailing ship, Cuauhtemoc, a goodwill vessel named after the last Aztec emperor, arrived at China's eastern port of Qingdao to celebrate the 60th founding anniversary of the People's Liberation Army Navy.

Only one non-stop air service operates between China, from Shanghai, and Mexico, but, aiming to attract 100,000 Chinese tourists annually, the Mexican government is coordinating talks between Mexican and Chinese carriers to promote direct flights from Beijing and Guangzhou.

Mexico suffered an economic crisis in the first quarter last year and a serious flu outbreak, which resulted in a "challenging" year for the country's tourism industry in 2009.

Guevara said signs of recovery could be seen in Mexico's 17 major tourist destinations, where hotel occupancy rose 8 percentage points from Jan. 1 to April 18 compared with the same period last year.

This year's tourist numbers were on course to exceed those of 2008, "an excellent year for tourism industry," she said.

Mexican businesses were raising investment in hotels and other tourism facilities. According to the tourism secretariat, 49 cities and towns in the 17 major destinations had increased hotel room numbers.

"Increased private sector investment in the tourism industry is vital for the government to attract more foreign visitors," she said.

Chinese visitors could experience Mexico's 29 UN-listed world heritage sites, representing ancient Maya and Aztec civilizations, and its famous beaches.

"There are some local travel agencies that specialize in Chinese tourism products and many have Chinese-speaking tour guides," she said.

The National Pavilion Day for Mexico at the Shanghai World Expo falls on Sept. 16 and this year also marks Mexico's 200 years of independence and 100 years of revolution.



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