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Mexico expects millions of visitors for 2012 solstice

Friday 13 Jan 2012 1:57 p.m.

A man plays a shell to invoke the Mayan God 'Kukulcan' in front of the Chichen Itza pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico (AAP)

A man plays a shell to invoke the Mayan God 'Kukulcan' in front of the Chichen Itza pyramid in Chichen Itza, Mexico (AAP)

Tourism officials say that 2012 will be a special year for Mexico, even though they don't expect the world to end December 21.

The Tourism Department says it will spend $8 million promoting tourism to the "Mayan World" - the southeast Mexico region where the Mayan culture thrived. The area extends into Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Doomsday prognosticators' belief that the Maya predicted the end of the world for December 2012 has brought attention to one of Mexico's great cultures. Officials reject the prediction, but hope the attention will draw tourists.

Tourism Secretary Gloria Guevara expects 52 million tourists over the 1 1/2 years of the plan. That would be 12 million more than usual, and could bring as much as $14.6 billion in extra tourism revenue.

Authorities issued a suggested itinerary for visitors that includes Comalcalco, an archaeological site where one of the few engraved Mayan references to 2012 has been found.

The Mayan civilisation, which reached its height from AD 300 to 900, had a talent for astronomy.

Its Long Count calendar begins in 3114 BC, marking time in roughly 394-year periods known as Baktuns. Thirteen was a significant, sacred number for the Mayas, and the 13th Baktun ends on December 21, 2012.

Experts say the date was considered significant for the Maya, but doesn't imply an apocalypse. Rather it is the beginning of another calendar cycle, they say.

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