Mayan doomsday predictions boosting Mexico tourism
Mexico is hoping to cash in on the famed 'doomsday' prediction supposedly made by the ancient Mayan civilisation.
The Mayan calendar, known as the Long Count calendar, begins in 3114 BC and marks time in roughly 394-year periods known as Baktuns.
On December 21st this year, the 13th Baktun will come to an end. With 13 being a significant number in Mayan culture, this has led some to speculate that the calendar predicts the apocalypse as taking place on this date.
While evidence to back up this theory is scarce, the famed doomsday prediction appears to be spiking interest in this fascinating civilisation and could prompt more people to head off on Central America tours to find out more about the Maya.
In fact, interest in the Maya as a result of the 2012 apocalypse theory is so strong that Mexico, one of several Central American countries that the Mayan empire spanned, is predicting a bumper year for tourism.
The country's tourism board is expecting some 52 million people to visit Mexico this year, around 12 million more than usual.
"We envisage that 2012 will be a record-breaking year for Mexico in terms of tourism numbers," said Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board.
A new $8 million (£5.1 million) 'Mundo Maya' campaign is also being launched, which will promote travel to the five states that comprise the Mayan World in Mexico - Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas and the Yucatan.
"We have no intention of simply being seen as a 'sun and beach destination'. Mundo Maya is a prime example of this strategy as we are converting the south-east into a coveted tourist destination, internationally," said Mr Lopez-Negrete.
Perhaps the most famous Mayan sites are the ancient ruins of a Mayan city at Chichen Itza in the Yucatan state. However, a wealth of fascinating archaeological sites can be found throughout much of Mexico, as well as the neighbouring countries of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.