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This entrepreneur invites you to get to know the B-side of Mexico

June 1, 2020

Read for 7 min

The opinions of the employees of s You are personal.


This entrepreneur invites you to get to know the B-side of MexicoThis entrepreneur invites you to get to know the B-side of Mexico

On the Yucatan Peninsula, south of Quintana Roo, there is a community called Chunhuhub. There you can sleep in a Mayan hut and take a tour of the jungle the next day while staying with a local family who explains how to extract the resin from the Chicozapote trees that are used to make natural chewing gum Product that is consumed worldwide.

The experience is possible thanks to the travel agency TotallyNahuatl word that means “our sun, our energy, our destiny”. The company was founded in 2012 by Marisol Herrera. The head office is in Carmen beach, Quintana Roo, an internationally sought-after travel destination that also offers many municipal, rural and cultural tourism initiatives. The first market in Totonal is France (55%), where Marisol lived for several years. It is followed by North America (25%), other European countries (15%) and Latin America (5%), which also includes the national tourist. The sales channels are digital platforms in the USA, France, Spain, Germany and England.

Marisol studied international relations at the Tecnológico de Monterrey. When he came back from France, he had a job at Secretariat for Economic Development (Sedeco) in the area of ​​foreign investment in his hometown Veracruz. It was 2004. At that time there was no tourism secretariat in this state, so everything related to the subject depended on Sedeco.

In parallel, he began to learn about local tourism initiatives himself and found that over the years, government support for this type of project had been provided. Her curiosity about cultural travel also led her to visit the communities of Totonac and Popoluc in the north and south of Veracruz. She says this was something that shed a lot of light on the feeling of enriching yourself in little-known places and with valuable people.

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Find your vocation
At that time Marisol belonged to a dance group of the Mexica tradition and also learned Nahuatl. Through the language he started to fall in love with the Mexican peoples. At the same time, because of the bureaucracy there, she was not happy to work in the government, and she began to wonder what she really wanted to do for a living.

Marisol decided to quit her government job and was awarded a scholarship to return to France to study a diploma in cultural tourism management at Sorbonne University in Paris.

There he began to shape today’s totonal. “It was clear to me that I wanted to gain experience that would allow others to get to know our wonderful Mexico,” he says.

After returning to Veracruz from France, she continued her education in various online courses and founded Totonal in 2012. Alone, she started promoting her travels. “I would grab my car and look for customers. The first was Veracruz University“Later, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (which had already been set up in the facility) learned that Marisol was promoting travel to rural communities and called them to participate in journalists.

A crucial moment was when he received a group of international travel agencies that participated in the first edition of Adventure trip Mexico (Atmex) that took place in Veracruz. Among these agencies, a Spaniard told him: “Hey, what you’re doing is sustainable tourism,” he recalls. “This meeting opened up a perspective and I knew how to name everything I did. So my project started to grow. “

The challenge for this entrepreneur is that Veracruz is not a region known worldwide. So he started traveling across the country to learn more about local, rural, or cultural tourism initiatives. In this way, he was able to build routes through central and southern Mexico.

In the beginning, Marisol did everything: she was the leader, the promoter and the administrator. It now has 17 employees. In 2019, Totonal generated 17.5 million pesos from its entire supply chain, including hotels, restaurants, travel guides, rental cars, and tourist activities. 11% of this sale goes directly to rural communities, he says.

A step forward

This entrepreneur did three things to grow her project: the same year her company was founded, she registered it with the Ministry of Tourism to meet all the requirements. In 2016 he received an economic resource from the defunct National Institute of s (Inadem), which helped him take part in tourist fairs in France, and in 2017 he certified Totonal international as a sustainable tour operator at Travelife. Mexico has practically no other certified travel agency for sustainability issues.

In January last year, Marisol was the only Mexican to be recognized in the EU International tourism fair (Fitur). Of more than 250 global projects, Totonal was among the 10 finalists working on the socio-economic development of local communities.

In 2014 the World tourism organization (OMT) viewed Totonal as a success case for the implementation of sustainability and social awareness. In fact, the story of this Mexican travel agency was published in the official UNWTO magazine. “It is a great challenge to see which instruments make sustainable tourism tangible. This philosophy obliges both the provider and the traveler to treat each other consciously and fairly.”

Two years ago, Marisol started to replicate its business model as a tour operator in Spain under the brand GenuineSpain. “It is a joint venture model with a local partner who is the expert in the field and we have the know-how, the operation and the marketing of this experience. We will do the same in Chile, Argentina and Colombia. We are already looking for investors, “says the entrepreneur.

Totonal brings 987 international travelers to Mexico annually. The average duration of their customers’ travel across the country is 15 days, with an average price per person of $ 1,600. “We have a 20% profit margin. The rest is spread across the supply chain to cover our operating and other costs,” he explains.

Before Totonal, Marisol had two ventures: a factory for the industrialization of raw materials for fish and shellfish and a clothing store. They were both a great school. The first time he learned that he had to be humble and listen to advice. The second was a good deal, but he didn’t like it at all. Now he chose something that really excited him.

Last year Totonal was a semi finalist in the Mexico Award from Facebookthanks to his great work in sustainable tourism.

What appeals most to this entrepreneur is the encounter with people, that the customer-leader relationship always ends in friends and laughter.

Marisol recalls with a smile: “There were French people who don’t speak Spanish and you can see how they interact with Maya people through signs. I don’t always try to intervene to make the magic of each target happen to the visitor. “