Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
TORONTO — Most of us shop while on vacation. How much do you think the average international traveller to Mexico spends at the local stores? $200? $500?
Try $1,200. So when a tour operator like Sunwing partners with a tax refund service like Mexico’s MoneyBack, it’s not chump change. Especially these days with the weak Canadian dollar, when every penny counts.
Just like Europe, Mexico has a Value-Added Tax (VAT) and it’s 8.9%. “It’s invisible,” says MoneyBack’s General Director Danielle van der Kwartel. “It’s included in the price.” Many travellers have no idea they’re paying it, she added.
MoneyBack (moneyback.mx) has more than 50 service location throughout Mexico, covering 98% of all points of departure including airports and cruise terminals. The company also has locations in 25 shopping malls. To file a refund, travellers must request a VAT itemized invoice at any of the 6,000 participating Mexican stores when making a purchase and submit it at a MoneyBack office along with the shopping incentive refund form, credit card vouchers, copy of their passport, cruise ID or immigration form and boarding pass before leaving Mexico. Travellers get their money back (as a refund on their credit card) after 45 days.
Sunwing is promoting MoneyBack’s service with ads in its inflight magazine Wings and a 30-second inflight video coming in March. MoneyBack will also be integrated into travellers’ e-ticket documentation. Using MoneyBack “is easy, it’s fast and getting money back is always great,” said Sunwing Travel Group’s Karina Chuffart, in charge of Promotional and Program Development.
Some 100,000 travellers now use the MoneyBack service, she added. The company launched in 2009. For now Sunwing has an exclusive with the company. “Sunwing does a lot for Mexico. They bring half a million passengers to Mexico,” said van der Kwartel.
The $1,200 spend seems high until you hear van der Kwartel’s stories. “One Canadian businessman brings back Hermes bags for his clients. It’s all about the brand names. People are buying Kate Spade bags, Louis Vuitton bags. The cruise ship business brings the average way up. The cruise passenger average is $1,800. The non-cruise passenger average is $800 to $900. The averages come from 120 countries but North America is 70% of that.”
On sales calls this week with the Mexico Tourism Board, van der Kwartel said she had good feedback about MoneyBack from travel agents. “It’s a way to differentiate yourself, and a way to look out for your clients and their pockets.” A new MoneyBack app coming soon should make the service even more convenient, she added.
The Mexico Tourism Board’s Regional Director of North America, Rodrigo Esponda, said a service like MoneyBack “is a big incentive for travellers to choose Mexico. It also shows that Mexico is a different type of holiday, where you can feel comfortable leaving the resort and go out to the stores. We have fantastic malls and galleries.”
The Mexican peso has been depreciating against the US dollar at about the same rate as has the Canadian dollar, he adds. “The prices Canadian travellers find at the stores are very competitive with the Canadian dollar.”
Travel to Mexico out of Canada was up 4.5% in 2015, added Esponda. While the final figures aren’t in yet, he estimates close to 1.8 million Canadians travelled to Mexico last year.