On May 29-31st, 2023, the Music Tourism Convention will be travelling to Cape Breton Island in Canada. Although widely known for its natural sights, the region is a place where fiddles, Celtic melodies and Mi'kmaq beats harmonise, making it one of the most special music destinations on earth.
As we get ready for the event, we’re expanding our new #musictourismhub series, a place to discover stories, profiles and resources from people working at the forefront of Music Tourism from all around the world.
In this occasion, we head up to Mexico City, Mexico, to talk with Spanish expat Javier Puente, who is Founding Member of Casa Pepe Boutique Hostel and also a very active entrepreneur within the Mexican Tourism Industry whose accolades include leading the creation of Covid protocols for Hotels in CDMX and being the Vice President of the Hotel Association of Mexico City.
In this interview, Javier gives us his take on what he believes are the music tourism trends that make people attend a destination and shares a list of films and articles that will help us better understand the trends behind it.
Let's start by discussing your professional journey. How did you reach this point in your career?
Initially, my parents (who also work in the tourism industry) oriented me to study in a business school in Barcelona. When that happened I would never have thought that I would indeed end up back in the hotel industry, but 10,000 kms far away from my tiny village in the north of Spain, which is Cangas de Onis.
After the degree in Barcelona, I kept studying in several parts of the world and eventually arrived in Mexico to open a restaurant with some colleagues from College. At first, I didn’t think much about Mexico, but it grew on me and became part of my own culture to the point where a key part of who I am is to always welcome people from all over the world in a very Mexican way, with lots of warmth and a deep sense of hospitality. Which in a way feels like coming back to my roots, because the warmth of the Mexican hospitality has a lot of similarities to what you would experience in my hometown, the tiny town of Cangas de Onis back in Spain.
What is Casa Pepe and how did the idea of creating it come about?
Casa Pepe is a hotel with hostel vocation that promotes gathering and meeting people in a humanist environment, it is a boutique hostel that helps you understand Mexico and Latin America. The vision that guides the hotel is to see travel and hospitality as an educational vocation, this is something that caught up with me during the time I studied at the Faculty of Philosophy back in University. We could say that the Mexican identity is in a permanent state of construction, where traditions are continuously being created. So, from Casa Pepe’s point of view, if we host someone who is looking to understand Mexico during a short stay in the city, then we need to offer experiences that go beyond your average tourist cliches and provoke a deeper reflection about current Mexican culture to the visitors.
Which would you say are the main tendencies for music tourism right now? Which one excites you the most? Do you think there are different types of music tourism?
For me, music within the tourism industry is at a transitional stage where it’s changing from being a commodity into becoming a powerful fountain of information for tourists, evolving in an experience by itself for visitors. Years ago, when tourism was mostly measured by the level of comfort that you would experience at a destination, music was just a companion with almost no artistic proposal related to it. Now, every music performance that a tourist experiences seems to be regarded with a stronger artistic value, and to be valued in relation to the role it plays to help visitors understand the culture of the destination.
Related to this, I would have to say that one of the trends that excites me the most is how music can help redefine the traditions of “Bohemian travellers”.
This is a trend that we’ve seen in the past couple of decades (i.e. since the boom of platforms such as Tripadvisor) where more travellers seem to be using their trips for something else beyond relaxation or entertainment. On many occasions, this type of tourists travel to explore their own identity and discover new traditions in the places that they visit. In this process, music can be the key element to help them redefine those personal “traditions”.
In Mexico you can find several examples of touristic experiences with a heavy musical element that constantly redefine the “traditions” of travellers. One of them are Son Jarocho Fandango’s (the traditional community parties associated with Son Jarocho music), like the one you would experience during the festivities of “La Candelaria” in the town of Tlacotalpan. It is well known that many people get hooked into a new lifestyle after attending one of these parties.
Another example would be some of the boutique tourism experiences that mezcal producers are offering to tourists. On some of them, the mezcal tasting experience is combined with singing circles that are based on pre-hispanic Huichol music and culture. In these cases, music helps tourists connect with the huichol cosmology, and it’s common to hear visitors share stories on how their mindset towards their own culture has changed due to this experience.
Beyond the “Bohemian travellers” trend, I would have to say that the other trend of music tourism that is catching my attention is how music can be the key driver for a person to attend a destination. This can happen when people travel to another city to experience the concert of their favourite artists or when they’ve developed a relationship with the music coming from that destination in such a way that they are led to making a trip to its birthplace. Regarding this, one of the trends that excites me the most is exploring how music documentaries and films can be strong drivers of tourists to certain destinations. This is what I want to focus my recommendations on.
Tell us a bit about these movies and articles that you're sharing with us
Rompan Todo is Gustavo Santolaya’s documentary of how Rock arrives in Hispanic countries and showcases all of the ingredients on how music can transform a country or a culture. After watching this documentary I was very inclined to travel to Argentina to discover more about its culture and music beyond rock.
“Ya No Estoy Aquí” is a Mexican film that shows the role cumbia plays in the hard lives of migrants. This is an interesting film because it doesn’t showcase Mexico ‘s Monterrey City in a touristic way. However, when you start to understand the connection of cumbia with the city it makes it more human and interesting. It changed the meaning of the city for me. Because of that, I’m starting to learn more about the place and its culture and it has given me lots of new reasons to visit the destination.
Searching for Sugar Man works in this same line. It’s a documentary that reflects a moment in history in which music helps redefine the way a part of society understands its world. For me, this movie was a gateway into the culture of South Africa. For the type of traveller that I am, a “cultural traveller” in many ways, watching the movie gives me an itch to visit South Africa and learn more about their sociopolitical processes.
I think the latest movie about Elvis Presley is another example of this. For me, the movie gives Las Vegas a new cultural and historic dimension that goes beyond the cliches associated with the Casinos of the city, and that can get cultural tourists hooked on a city that is normally known for the more traditional comfort tourism.
This is an interesting article to understand the impact of Tripadvisor on tourism. The new role that music is having in tourism is greatly associated with the appearance of Tripadvisor and how the new flow of information it provides through its reviews allowed the “Bohemian Travellers” scene to blow up as a very important tourism force of our time. A couple of takeaways from this article are how Tripadvisors helps travellers take better trips and also how it takes away the control of their itineraries from big hotel chains and puts it in the hands of smaller ones.
We hope you enjoyed all of the insights that Javier shared for this entry of the Music Tourism Hub. If you're looking for ideas and tools to turn your city into a music destination or have a tourism porject that you'd like to bring to a new music destination, then join us on May 29-31st, 2023, at the Cape Breton Island Music Tourism Convention.
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