Mexico’s tourist board decided to make 2015 the official Year of Mexico in the UK, with a series of exhibitions, festivals, fairs, seminars, shows and programmes scheduled to take place in different locations across the UK over the course of the coming months in order to raise awareness among British holidaymakers about Mexico as a highly desirable top holiday destination
On 11th March, yours truly and colleague Parul Jadav, were The Holiday Place’s flagship holders attending the very last evening of Mexico’s London exhibition in Potters Field Park, which took place over two weeks overlooking one of the city’s most photographed landmarks – London Bridge.
The setting couldn’t have been more fitting to the vibrant, all-colourful nature of the fair, which looked right at home against London Bridge’s spectacular skyline, the beautiful waterside location and imposing Tower Bridge backdrop, especially at dusk when it was all lit up in green and red hues, even the leafless trees surrounding it were tickled in red-green shades - making for a truly spectacular sight to behold.
Taking centre-stage, the one element that drew attention to passers-by was the big sign spelling out MEXICO in big, bold and bright colours which also came to life as the sun began to set and all the lights outshone the background. As it lit up it beckoned guests to venture further inside and enter the pop-up dome (also lit up in a moving sequence of red and green shades as nighttime approached).
This was precisely the time we arrived to see it and toast its goodbye as the exhibition shone brightly for one last evening. Parul and I took the time to stroll around the stalls before entering the interactive pop-up dome and then heading to meet some of our Mexican suppliers and travel partners to celebrate the fair’s immense success. With a selection of wine, tequila, guava juice and fiery hot tacos served, we toasted to the culmination and triumph of the very first of a long list of events that will promote Mexico in the UK over the next seven to eight months, looking to inspire, excite and inform British travellers about the many fascinating aspects of Mexican culture and the nation’s incredible wealth of tourist attractions.
We chatted about the even'ts success with some of our most important partners in Mexico present at the final toast; Lupita Ayala, Regional Sales Manager at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya - Riviera Nayarit, Manuel Diaz Cebrian, Country Manager at Los Cabos Tourism Board in the UK and Milko Rivera Hope from the Mexico Tourism Board - all of whom we proudly stand next to in one of the photographs above.
The exhibition’s main aim was to make it as much of an interactive experience as possible for visitors, so that everyone could individually choose how deep they wanted to immerse into Mexican culture, or learn only about those aspects of Mexico in particular that caught their attention and interested them the most. This was the whole purpose of the pop-up dome pavilion, fitted inside with the latest state-of-the-art technology that allowed visitors to embark on an incredible virtual journey through all of Mexico’s highlights; culturally, ideologically, historically and geographically.
Large, full-size screens took over some of the walls inside the dome while the ceiling was like an open sky with orange butterflies flying by against a pastel-coloured background. It all came to life as part of the many virtual presentations staged. There were also fun elements adding to the personalisation level and the wow factor of the experience; such as the ability to virtually try on Mexican traditional garments via a special screen and taking photos against Mexican landscapes and landmarks that visitors could then share on social media.
But the real ‘piece de resistance’ in the dome pavilion was the heavily decorated Voschol – a Volkswagen Beetle ornately embellished with over two million differently coloured beads in true Mexican style!
Highlights of the interactive side of the exhibition included:
- Striking full-size visual displays and audio storytelling, individually controlled via touch-screens that enabled users to personally explore a variety of Mexico’s tourism offerings – from sun and beach to culture, adventure, nature, luxury and business travel.
- Virtual dressing room where visitors could try on the latest Mexican trends or opt for traditional costumes.
- Opportunity for visitors to interact and share via social media after taking their own picture against a choice of three iconic Mexican landmarks: the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins, the City of Campeche and Paseo de la Reforma.
- Visual introduction to Mexico with a selection of 11 videos touching on different topics of interest: sustainability, creativity, gastronomy and more.
- Holographic display of over 15 of Mexico’s famous pre-Hispanic artefacts.
Other stalls outside displayed traditional Mexican arts and crafts available for purchase, from decorative items to embroidered hand-sewn bags and colourful handmade rugs, while a large hippy-style caravan in stainless steel parked outside looked like it naturally belonged there as part of the whole set-up.
I personally browsed and took photos of all the wares and crafts on display, many of which (I assume because it was the last day of the exhibition) were heavily discounted up to 30 % off their original price. I didn’t take any home because I figured it would have a lot more sentimental value if I get my hands on some of these as souvenirs of my own holiday in Mexico (which I’m planning soon by the way).
Of particular attention-grabbing power was also the massive sculpture of a Mexican skeleton-bride, a personal favourite of mine that stood next to the big and colourful MEXICO sign. After dark, against the backdrop of softly lit green and red leafless trees, as you approached it you felt as though you had stepped inside a Tim Burton film. Truly magical – I loved it.
All that was missing for me perhaps was a Frida Kahlo-inspired decorative piece, monument, sculpture or some other type of big-style evocative decoration. For me, this artist perfectly represents Mexico, especially as most of her paintings show an underlying and undying love for her birthplace. In my humble, highly subjective opinion, Mexico is Frida and Frida is Mexico.
Over its fourteen-day lifespan around 40,000 people visited this colourful, insightful event. That number of visitors is no mean feat, so we had a lot to celebrate with our partners. The best bit? It was all only starting. Stay tuned for more Mexican events to come soon, which I will happily broadcast and keep you updated on.