Business Fuels Doomsday Prophecies In Mexico

Every other billboard seemed to mention 2012 as I drove along that famously flat stretch of road from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. I was on my way to spend a couple of days relaxing at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, but the easiest way to reach Riviera Maya is via Carretera Federal 307 and 307 is ornamented with billboards, as anyone would expect. Riviera Maya is a popular vacation destination, and popularity and advertising are two peas in the Business Success pod. It wasn’t the billboards themselves that caught my attention, though. What flashed before me memorably every few minutes was a billboard referencing 2012, or the apocalypse, or Doomsday prophecies, or the Maya calendar – and this consistency is what I noticed. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched the ads approach and then disappear; marketers, when they’re good, are usually really good.

%Gallery-173831%The billboards along 307 were just bigger, bolder versions of what I’d already been seeing all over Cancun and Merida in the days prior. In Cancun, an employee at the car rental company tried to convince me to go to a tourist trap complete with Maya this and End Of The World that. He was moonlighting as a promotions guy for the place while I signed the forms for my rental car. In Merida, it seemed as though most businesses and individuals who had thought of a way to capitalize off of the December 21 hype had acted on those thoughts. The enterprising women and men behind these ventures, many of them holding shops at the weekly Merida market, sold Doomsday books and guides, Maya calendars, Maya calendars made out of chocolate, apocalypse T-shirts and key-chains. I ate at a restaurant in Merida called 2012 Mayan Spaces and Something Else. The food was very good, as were the drinks, especially for being one of the few vegetarian options in Merida. Nonetheless, the restaurant carried this name and thus, so did the menu. The back wall of the outdoor patio displayed Maya-based art. The hotel I stayed at in Merida offered an impressive selection of Maya-themed tours to guests and “2012″ was scribbled in large numerals on their office chalkboard. The crowds at Chichen Itza were insufferable; the long lines buzzed with End Times speculations.

Of course no one else was talking about the world ending on December 21. The only people who seemed to engage in any of these theories in the Yucatan were the people who were in a position to profit from the surprisingly widespread belief. The first man I spoke to in Merida, a man of Maya descent, was quick to discuss the modern Maya and history of the Maya in Merida with me, but he didn’t comment on the 2012 prophecies until 15 minutes into our conversation and he only spoke of the prophecies as a response to my questioning. When I mentioned the lore, his eyes glazed over as if he were remembering something he’d only taken note of in the most distant, peripheral sense. Like asking a non-Christian for their thoughts on the rapture mentioned in the Book of Revelation, locals were aware that others had attached themselves to this prophecy, but they were not believers.

When Pastor John Hinkle made his D-Day declaration for June 9, 1994, my parents nervously anticipated the date. I cuddled with my elementary school friend that night, waiting for fiery claws to rip the skies wide open, and of course it never happened. But it isn’t the truth behind the prediction that matters. What matters is how much publicity the prediction can collect leading up to the date. Hinkle’s ratings for his TBN show were probably skyrocketing from the hoopla before June 9 that year. All of this is to say, the “end of the world” appears to be relevant to the people of the Yucatan in only one way for certain: business.

It’s a good thing December 21 falls on a Friday. All of the opportunistic entrepreneurs out there can take their hype-checks to the bank and have them deposited before Christmas morning.

Read more from my series, “Life At The End Of The World: Destination Yucatan,” here.

[Photo Credit: Ben Britz]

Photo Of The Day: Cancun Landscape

photo of the day - Cancun landscape
There are certain images we see in our social network feeds over and over, especially at certain times of year: the Thanksgiving turkey, the decorated Christmas tree, and the vacation favorite: the bare feet on a beach chair (recently called “the loneliest pic in the world” on TV’s “Up All Night”), alcoholic beverage in hand. Today’s Photo of the Day is thankfully foot-free, though the image is still plenty jealousy-inducing. Flickr user Nan Palmero framed the shot beautifully under a thatched umbrella, giving the landscape sky an almost surreal quality, and the distance of the water and few people make Cancun seem practically serene. I’d definitely “like” this picture.

We’d love to see your travel images in the Gadling Flickr pool to choose for a future Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Nan Palmero]

Hotel News We Noted: November 10, 2012

secrets the vine cancunIt’s official, and hopefully you’re not too blue about it. We’re in for four more years of President Obama, but that doesn’t mean Washington (hotels) are any less excited about inauguration. We’ve been tracking what our favorite properties are doing to prepare, but also what’s going on in the hotel world at large for this week’s “Hotel News We Noted.”

As always, send us questions and comments via email, and don’t forget that our annual Black Friday / Cyber Monday roundup is fast approaching. If you know of a great deal, sent it out way.

Hotel Openings: The James Miami, Four Seasons Beijing, Kukui’ula Club Cottages, Andaz Amsterdam
It’s a big week in the world of hotel openings! Here are the highlights:

  • The James has expanded their brand to the hot, hot, hot Miami with the opening this week of The James Royal Palm. The renovated property (formerly The Royal Palm) will join The James’ brand of boutique hotels in New York and Chicago.
  • Prefer something a bit more exotic? Four Seasons has opened their first hotel in China’s capital this week. The 313-room property is close enough to be useful to downtown business travelers and leisure guests seeking access to China’s many cultural attractions too.
  • We’ve had our eye on Hawaii for some time now, as airfare from the East Coast has been unusually affordable. On our next visit, we’re excited to check out the new Kukui’ula Club Cottages on Kaua’i, 15-single family cottages right next to the main Plantation House. Hello, if the President rents a private home while in Hawaii, why shouldn’t we?
  • Hyatt’s most hip brand just got a bit cooler, thanks to the opening of the new Andaz Amsterdam. What makes it a haute hotel opening? Awesome art (think in-room video art installations), a bicycle repair shop on-site (the city’s first) and a new step forward for the brand, as it’s the first Andaz in mainland Europe.

Hotel of the Week: Secrets The Vine Cancun

It takes a lot for us to express a desire to visit Cancun, a city better known for spring break than relaxing resort vacations. We’re intrigued by the new Secrets The Vine Cancun, an upscale take on the all-inclusive option. The adults-only resort is inspired (as The Vine name suggests) by wine, and includes a bar with 3,000 wine varietals, sommelier-led classes and tastings, wine-inspired spa menus and private chefs dinners. It’s not a trip to France, but it’s still pretty cool.

Happening Hotel Package: Bond, James Bond at Trump Toronto
In celebration of Toronto’s special “Designing 007: Fifth Years of Bond Style” exhibit and the newest Bond film, “Skyfall,” Trump Toronto has launched a totally over-the-top package we’re dying to try. The $17,007 “Shaken Not Stirred: Bond on Bay” package includes a two-night stay in an Executive Suite on the hotel’s 30th floor, offering fantastic downtown views, access to a Continental Bentley GT for duration of stay, all meals, including dinner with champagne at STOCK™ Restaurant Bar & Lounge for two for the duration of the stay, admission for two to the exhibition and two movie passes to a Bond film at TIFF Bell Lightbox, as well return limousine service, designer cocktail dress and Hugo Boss tuxedo with private fitting at The Room, courtesy of The Hudson’s Bay Company, a spa experience at Quartz Crystal Spa™ that includes a couples massage, hair and makeup for her and manicure for him, a martini “Shaken not Stirred” lesson at Suits Lobby Lounge and an in-room bespoke chocolate from the Chocolate Lab at STOCK Restaurant Bar & Lounge, as well as complimentary fruit and cigar box. Stays are available through January 20 using code PKG007.

[Image Credit: Secrets The Vine Cancun]

Gratis Hotel Rooms To Celebrate The End Of The Mayan Calendar

cancunIt’s the end of the world as we know it … or at least the end of the Mayan Calendar. On December 21, 2012, the day the Mayan Calendar resets the date to “zero,” Expedia has partnered with 11 Mayan area hotels to offer special $0 rates.

From the Grand Melia to the Intercontinental Presidente and Hyatt Regency in Cancun, some of these names are on the luxe side. The deals even extend to a few all-inclusives. We’re sure the rates will go fast, so we’d suggest booking asap.

“The Mayan region has always been a fascinating destination, but interest is up this year for reasons that might be obvious. In fact, travel to this part of the world is up over 10% this year over last,” said Joe Megibow, Vice President and General Manager, Expedia.com in a release.

Can’t make it then? More than 100 hotels throughout Cancun, Cozumel, Riviera Maya, Merida, Guatemala, Belize and El Salvador are going to be around 40% off from today through March 2013 in celebration.

[Flickr via Mike_Fleming]

Texas authorities urge students to avoid Mexico


As spring break draws near, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has issued a warning that advises college students to stay away from Mexico. The warning cites ongoing drug cartel violence as the main reason to avoid going south of the border, but also mentions criminal activity including homicides, gun battles, kidnappings, carjackings, rapes and more.

Popular resort destinations such as Cancun, Acapulco, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas and Tijuana are not exempt from the warning, which states these areas “can be havens for drug dealers and petty criminals.” Although the DPS acknowledges that many travel to Mexico without incident and that the Mexican government has made strides battling the cartels, it encourages travelers to carefully research any planned trips and always check the U.S. Department of State website for up-to-date information on security issues in Mexico.

Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of State issued a new Mexico travel warning that advised against nonessential travel to areas within 16 Mexican states. According to U.S. Department of State numbers, 120 U.S. citizens were murdered in Mexico during 2011, a number that has increased dramatically since the tally was at 35 in 2007. All U.S. citizens living or traveling in Mexico are advised to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.