The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is giving travel agents the chance to experience Merida, Yucatan, Mexico and learn how to sell this captivating city during the ASTA Destination Expo (ADE) 2014.
ADE is an immersive, onsite learning experience that provides agents with all the knowledge and skills they need to become a Yucatan Destination Specialist. While onsite, they will discover the engaging local traditions and distinct cultural and political identity of Merida, with education sessions focusing on the geography, gastronomy, and the culture and history of Merida.
In Merida, you’ll find one of the largest historic centers in Mexico, with buildings dating to the colonial period from the 18th and 19th centuries. For example, the oldest cathedral on the continent and one of Merida’s top attractions, the Cathedral de San Ildefonoso, is located here. In a chapel next to the cathedral is another important religious artifact, the Christ of the Blisters. This is a replica of the original Christ figure from the 16th century that was hit by lightning but didn’t char, later blistering when it was in a church in Ichmul that caught fire.
Another part of Merida to explore is the tree-lined Paseo de Montejo, the main boulevard and most fashionable district. This one-time residential area has transformed 19th century mansions into restaurants, nightclubs, boutique hotels, shops and museums. This area is prime for exploring on foot or touring via calesa, which is a horse-drawn carriage.
While at the Expo, agents can choose from a selection of complimentary half-day sightseeing tours or purchase a full-day sightseeing tour. The complimentary tours, which take place March 29, 2014, include the following:
• Hacienda Tour at Sotuta de Peon: Located 45 minutes from Merida, travelers will experience this henequen/sisal fiber hacienda that continues to work as it did 100 years ago. The 2.5-hour walking tour showcases the process and includes a stop at a Mayan home, a ride through the henequen fields, and a regional lunch at the end.
• Izamal: One of Mexico’s 35 “magical” towns, located just 45 minutes from Merida, agents will have the chance to experience Izamal, a town that’s painted yellow and features Mayan pyramids, colonial-style buildings and a huge convent.
• Maya Astronomy at Dzibilchaltun and Lunch at Progreso Beach: On this tour, travelers visit Dzibilchaltun’s Temple of the Seven Dolls, an open cenote and the port of Progreso, where they have a regional lunch with botanas and drinks at the malecon—the beachside promenade.
• Merida City Tour: Travelers will explore Merida’s streets and architecture on this tour, which includes a visit to the anthropology museum, the cathedral and famous restored buildings in the city tour. They’ll also have the opportunity to browse at local artisans’ shops and enjoy a regional lunch at a local restaurant.
For those wishing to explore longer, full-day tour excursions ($50 pp) are available on March 30, 2014. Options include a visit to the Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve; a trip to Chichen Itza, one of the new “seven world wonders”; a visit to Hacienda Sotuta de Peopl followed by a trip to a Mayan home and swimming in a cenote; and a trip to Uxmal, a World Heritage site known for its elaborate Puuc-style architecture.
ASTA’s Destination Expo 2014 will take place March 27-30, 2014. Rates start at $409, however, the Yucatan Tourism Board is sponsoring a $50 discount for the first 300 agents who register using promo code YUCATAN, so reserve your spot now. To register for this exciting event, and for more information on air, tours, transfers, and accommodations, agents should visit asta.org/ade or cvent.com/d/94qkk5. We hope you’ll join ASTA in Merida as they continue to discover the world, one destination at a time.