Because of its location on the riverbanks of the Rio Grande, Laredo’s outdoor activities include birding, kayaking, golf or hunting. But most tourists to this Texan border town never get to any of those attractions. “Their number one activity is shopping,”, says Aileen Ramos, Marketing executive at the Laredo’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Crossing the border, Mexican tourists drive or book a motorcoach to spend a lot of money shopping during weekends or holidays in Laredo as well as other cities in Texas including San Antonio, San Marcos, and McAllen. “They are the best type of visitors”, says Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas.
Since Mexicans are top visitors of this city, the Visitor’s Bureau runs TV ads and a public relations campaign on Mexican media at border states such as Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, and Coahuila. Their new goal is to reach more visitors from interior Mexico and therefore, the city now advertises on billboards in the streets of Mexico City. At the beginning, Laredo’s ads were mere Spanish translations of the English version but recently, this city hired a Mexican advertising company to target the needs of this type of tourists, explains Ramos. The touristic campaign also includes a website, a Facebook page and a Twitter account in Spanish as well as billboards with the slogan: “Laredo lo tiene todo” (Laredo has everything you are looking for).
“Our recent ads in Mexico simply seek to ensure that we reach out to all of our priority market players, not just those that reside North, East and West of Laredo”, Mayor Salinas says.
Although the Visitor’s Bureau did not have figures of Mexican tourism economic impact, Ramos explains that hotel occupancy rates increase during Mexican holidays. “At the mall’s parking lot, all license plates are from different states in Mexico”, she says. According to the newspaper Laredo Sun, the city keeps a permanent hotel occupancy rate of nearly 75 percent.
With a 9 percent increase in Mexican visitors during the last year, Laredo’s Ports of Entry director, Sidney Aki plans to open six more lanes to a total of 18 gates at the city’s international bridges by the end of June 2012. Just on the recent Memorial Day weekend, Laredo welcomed over 12,000 visitors from Mexico, according to the Laredo Sun newspaper.
Last March, NDN/NPI released the report Realizing the Full Value of Tourism from Mexico to the United States, which highlighted strategies to increase tourism from Mexico. On May 25th, the White House unveiled their National Travel & Tourism Strategy to recognize that “Mexico represents a near-term opportunity for increasing travel to the United States because of its growing middle class and strong cultural ties”.
Here is a TV ad that shows Bust Buy and other stores as one of the top Laredo’s attractions (in Spanish)