Keith Johnston is a Chicago based event and meeting professional with 15 years in the meetings industry, planning meetings, conferences, incentives and tradeshows. Keith is currently the editor and publisher of Meetings Blog PlannerWire.net and Famit.net which cover issues facing the meetings and events industry, as well as looking at destinations where meetings and event planners should be taking their programs.
Keith has organized several meetings and incentive trips to Mexico over the years, and he recently attended the Chicago Chapter of Site International’s annual retreat in Guadalajara, Jalisco. In this Mexico Meetings Network interview, Keith talks more about his experience planning meetings in Mexico.
Mexico Meetings Network (MMN): You recently visited Mexico, what was the occasion?
Keith Johnston (KJ): I am a board member of the Chicago Chapter of Site International and we held our annual retreat and educational event for incentive planners in Guadalajara and the surrounding areas of Jalisco.
We were a group of 15 meeting and incentive professionals from Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami.
MMN: What was your experience and perception of Mexico?
KJ: I have been bringing meetings and incentives to Mexico for years and I love it. I think that there are very few international destinations for US Planners that offer the value and experience that Mexico brings to the table.
MMN: Do you think Mexico is a destination ready for meeting tourism?
KJ: I think that Mexico has always been “ready” for meetings tourism and seems to get better every year. The first program that I brought to Cancun in 1998 was a success and every program I have brought since only gets better.
MMN: Did you feel unsafe?
KJ: Unsafe? No. There was never a safety issue. Everywhere we have taken groups has been safe, welcoming and fun. Cities and towns in Mexico are just like every other on the globe, there are good areas and bad areas. By making use of our local experts, we are able to ensure that our attendees have the best experience while staying safe.
MMN: How do you think Mexico could attract more meetings tourism from abroad?
KJ: By being proactive and addressing the sensationalist American media that uses violence to sell advertising and papers. Meeting and event planners need to know the reality of the situation and Mexico should be straight. Show planners where the violence is occurring and explain that it is, for the most part, hundreds of miles from the places where they will be holding their meetings and incentives.
I love to give the analogy that not holding a meeting in Cancun because of violence on the border is like not holding a meeting in Chicago because someone was shot in New York. The two are unrelated.
MMN: What kind of meetings have you organized in Mexico?
KJ: I have organized many meetings and events in Mexico, including a 1400 person incentive in Cancun for a Fortune 100 Technology Company as well as many smaller meetings and incentives for associations and other companies.
All have been a success and have scored some of the highest attendee satisfaction scores in my career.
MMN: Would you recommend holding a meeting in Mexico?
KJ: Of course I would recommend meetings in Mexico. Mexico is one of the most welcoming destinations in the world with a well trained, get it done workforce that is ready for any event. Once on the ground in Mexico, meeting and incentive planners will find destinations that are amazing, properties to fit every budget with amazing culture, food and activities. Although this sounds like a cliché, there are simply no words to describe how I feel about Mexico and her people.
MMN: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
KJ: I would love the opportunity to talk to every meeting and event professional and personally and tell them that Mexico is safe, a great value, with all of the amenities you will find in the US. High-end properties… Check. Widespread adoption of internet…. Check. Great restaurants and food……Check. Beautiful beaches… Check. Cosmopolitan cities…. Check. Good infrastructure…. Check.
Mexico is the perfect destination for American companies. Just foreign enough to be exotic to first time visitors while offering brands they are familiar with to put them at ease.
There is nothing like wandering through pyramids in the morning and sitting at Starbucks in the afternoon to talk about it.