Mexico by Distinction

2016 Dana Parkinson January 2016 Living in Mexico

By Dana Parkinson from the January 2016 Edition

Over the last few decades, Mexico has developed a series of programs designed to ensure that businesses meet and uphold quality standards. These programs of distinction, or distintivos, are intended to show the general public and business patrons that the business community is serious about quality and societal interests. In Manzanillo, and in the state of Colima, you will find the certificates displayed in businesses participating voluntarily to show that the businesses you are patronizing meet or exceed set standards of quality (Ministry of Tourism – SECTUR).

The first of its kind was known as Distintivo “H”, for hygiene. This program was introduced in 1990 and was rolled out for any establishment serving food and would include restaurants, industrial kitchens, day care facilities, hospital cafeterias and stores serving prepared food.

Criteria that are evaluated by inspectors include the following:

– Food preparation

– Handling chemical substances

– Storage

– Receiving and storing food

– Kitchen and prep area

– Water and ice handling and quality

– Pest control

– Staff hygiene

– Bar hygiene

– Handling waste

– Restroom facilities for staff

– Refrigeration and freezing of foods


One local example of a proprietor having received the certification is that of the Barceló Karmina Palace, with 10 of its food preparation and serving areas (restaurants, bars, employees’ cafeteria and others) bearing the symbol of the Distintivo “H”. You will find the emblem displayed at many other places around Manzanillo and beyond. Be sure to commend management when you see an establishment proudly displaying a current symbol and let the proprietors know that it matters to you, as a patron of their services.

Another initiative that the Tourism Ministry is promoting is the Distintivo “D” or “Discapacidad”, for establishments that are wheelchair accessible as well as providing other adaptations or accommodations, such as the use of Braille in menus or on signage. While not considered particularly politically correct in English, the affected parties are referred to as being disabled in Mexico. Many of the organizations involved are working to eliminate a negative bias or association with the term and also to finding alternative descriptive words to use. As currently defined, a person with a permanent or temporary disability is considered to have their physical, mental or sensorial functions altered in such a way that it impedes them from carrying out regular activities.

Statewide in Colima there have been a number of certification recipients that have included a branch of the Banamex bank in Colima city, the bus station in Colima city and the Manzanillo International Airport. I believe that the local markets in Santiago, Valle de las Garzas and others in the area are in the process of qualifying.

In support of the Distintivo – D certifications, state and municipal governments have also pledged to create more ramps at intersections as well as audible traffic lights and other such infrastructure improvements. Colima wishes to distinguish itself as an inclusive state and destination, known for its focus on well-being and public safety.

In a recent article on the Angel Guardian news site, the director of Colima’s Institute for the Disabled (INCODIS), Francisco Pérez Modina, said that there are more than 22,000 people in the state of Colima that have mobility challenges and roughly 5,000 of them have an official wheelchair-access parking permit or license plates that bear the access symbol. The Institute’s efforts are largely geared toward education and awareness campaigns and the Distintivo “D” was meant to recognize those businesses that ensure they are accessible.

While no sample of this symbol could be found at the time of publication, I will keep an eye out for a business proudly bearing the certification to see what I can find and hopefully you can do the same.

A more recent newsmaker is the Distintivo “S” for sustainability which has aligned with EarthCheck and Rainforest Alliance to approve qualifying organizations. The goals of this program are to maximize the guest experience, improve organizational efficiency while minimizing the operation’s footprint on the environment as well as to encourage businesses to seek new technologies that will help them meet those goals.

Several types of businesses are eligible to participate. Among them are restaurants, airports, hotels and golf courses (long known to be rough on the environment).

The evaluation involves various distinct areas of consideration. Agriculture, forestry, tourism and carbonmeasure projects are included. Other projects considered for evaluation include sustainable design, resource management, risk mitigation, master planning and workforce development.

Like the other certification programs, a large part of what goes into the Distintivo “S” program involves education and awareness. Extensive training programs are available for the organizations that seek the accreditation.

Mexico’s Distintivo “M” for model, or leader in service, has kept the Tourism Minister, Héctor Sandoval Fierros, busy with certification ceremonies. More than 30 businesses (hotels, tour operators, restaurants and more) have received this distinction in recent years.

Tesoro Manzanillo hotel is one local example of a certification holder. Another is the Dolphin Cove Inn and several local restaurants are now or have been on the list as well. Some say the “M” also stands for modernization in terms of educating staff in how customers expect to be treated.

To qualify for the Distintivo “M”, five areas are evaluated and include: treatment of people (staff and clientele), client satisfaction, management of routines and maintenance, improvement and successful results.

An establishment bearing this symbol is known to put service at the top of its priority list.

I think we can certainly agree that these and the many other certifications that Mexico has put into place are a very large step in the right direction, both in terms of the education and awareness opportunities they bring as well as to ensure Mexico remains competitive as a tourism destination, giving locals and tourists alike an assurance that the establishments they are patronizing have an eye on quality.

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