Air connectivity and visa changes revive British Columbia – Mexico business travel
As published on Business Vancouver, Aeromexico’s red-eye flights to Mexico City from Vancouver were booked solid during the first few weeks since their December 9 launch, and airline executives are confident that strong demand from business and leisure customers will make the route profitable year-round.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s November commitment to lift visa restrictions on Mexicans entering Canada, which former Prime Minister Stephen Harper imposed in 2009, will add fuel to already hot demand, explained Anko van der Werff, Aeromexico’s chief revenue officer.
“It is fantastic news for business people from all over Mexico who will be able to take flights and not need a visa,” van der Werff told Business in Vancouver December 10, during his first visit to Vancouver.
“The network of connections that we’re bringing to the table is also one that Air Canada does not have – no one else has it within Mexico and South America.”
Aeromexico (MX:AEROMEX) flies to 45 destinations within Mexico, and not just to what van der Werff called a “few beach resorts and Mexico City.”
Air Canada (TSX:AC) flies to seven points in Mexico and has code-share agreements with United Airlines (Nasdaq:UAL) for 23 more routes but regardless, Mexican business people in Vancouver are excited about the new Aeromexico connections.
Manuel Otero, president of the Mexican Business Association of Canada, was in Mexico last summer doing consulting.
He had to travel to San Luis Potosi, but flying direct to that central Mexican region from Vancouver was impossible.
He took the Air Canada flight to Mexico City, which lands late at night, and was forced to stay at least one night in the Mexican capital before taking an Aeromexico flight to San Luis Potosi.
“Now you’ll get a good deal [to mid-sized Mexican cities] because it will all be on the same airline,” Otero said.
Baggage can also be checked all the way through.
Otero, who founded the Vancouver International Tequila Expo, said he expects next May’s fifth annual festival to have more Mexican attendees, in part because the new Aeromexico flights make it easier to travel from across Mexico to Vancouver.
In addition to business travellers, demand for the flights comes from the approximately 5,000 seasonal agricultural workers who annually travel between Mexico and Vancouver.
More than 4,000 Mexican students also come to B.C. each year and many of them bring families, said Mexico’s consul general in B.C., Claudia Franco Hijuelos.
She said approximately 18,000 Mexican-Canadians live in B.C.
“New, potential customers, myself included, will be expecting competitive prices,” she said. “And we are counting on the excellent service and punctuality that distinguishes Mexico’s global airline.”
As for the tourist traffic, approximately two million Canadians travel to Mexico each year with about half coming from Western Canada and a healthy proportion from B.C., according to Hijuelos.
Tourism from Mexico, conversely, had been lagging because of the visa restrictions, said Stephen Pearce, Tourism Vancouver’s vice-president of marketing.
“We were in double-digit growth and Mexico was a rising star,” he said. “Then Canada introduced the visa and our market fell by 50%. That drop happened within two years, and we bottomed out at about 43,000 visitors to Vancouver from Mexico in 2010. The good news is that since then, we’ve doubled our numbers.” •
By Glen Korstom for Business Vancouver