The head of Mexico’s tourism industry pushes back on safety concerns—and the media—while extending a personal invite to all Americans: “The weather’s great; the food is marvelous.”
Mexico’s image has taken a beating lately, after the February bombing of a ferry in Playa del Carmen and a series of detailed “security alerts” from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. (Harsh rhetoric from the White House hasn’t helped Mexico’s perception in the U.S. either: “If we don’t have a wall system, we’re not going to have a country,” President Donald Trump recently tweeted.) Nevertheless, Americans keep vacationing in Mexico, says Enrique de la Madrid, the country’s Secretary of Tourism who was appointed to his cabinet position in 2015 by President Enrique Peña Nieto. In fact, the number of U.S. visitors to Mexico has increased by double-digit percentages every year for the last five years, de la Madrid said during a one-on-one conversation in New York City on Tuesday.
Americans should keep visiting Mexico, de la Madrid said, despite what he called “bad press.” And he explained why—no matter what President Trump tweets—Americans will never stop visiting Cancun, Los Cabos, and Mexico City, “which is now one of the most vibrant international cities in the world.” On that last point, we’re most definitely in agreement.
We’re not going to sugar coat it: Are Americans staying away from Mexico because they’re worried about their safety?
Americans flying into Mexico grew last year something like 11 percent. And it’s been growing more or less at the same rate during the last five years. It is steady.
We have security issues like anywhere else in the world. Like here in New York City. Unfortunately, and that I should stress, unfortunately, I have the perception that security issues are over-exaggerated with respect to Mexico. In the case of New York, we had this incident of tourists that were run over by a truck, there are several announcements of bombs in the subway, you have incidents of bombs in Texas. But we in Mexico do not pay that much attention to that—and we do not create travel alerts because of that. If we were creating alerts because of incidents in the U.S., probably we would be running more with respect to the U.S. than the ones that are running with respect to Mexico. We have security issues, like everywhere else in the world, but the level of risk that an international tourist is facing in Mexico is as low or even lower than the one they would face at home. Unfortunately, the media picks up the events, and people tend to generalize.
Media coverage aside, it has gotten easier to visit Mexico, right?
We’ve seen a significant increase in flights. Just in the California area—California and some bordering states—28 new routes were opened during 2017. I was recently in Houston; they have up to 68 flights a day to Mexico. So that type of connectivity is what explains this increase. We see a lot of investment, a lot of new hotels, a lot of new airlines. We have to accompany those investments with additional investment. The way I see it is, if an airline is opening a flight, it is our business to help them have that flight full. What’s relevant to us is more airlines betting on Mexico.
You’ve launched a new marketing campaign targeting Mexican-American travelers. What’s the thought process behind it?
This program, Viajemos Todos por México (Let’s All Travel Across Mexico), was launched in Mexico, for Mexicans, two years ago, and the idea is to promote travel of Mexicans during low season precisely to try to eliminate the slow-downs. This is something we believe has worked: Domestic tourism has been growing at a five percent annual growth rate, which is higher than the growth in previous years. But since the very beginning we thought this was also a very good initiative to launch to the Mexican-American market in the U.S. There are 35 million Mexicans or people of Mexican origin in the U.S.—first, second, and third generation—and basically the invitation is exactly the same: Come to Mexico, come and visit the country of your parents or grandparents, come and know more about you, about your culture and your origins.
Everybody knows about the beaches and the resorts—but are people coming for other sides of the country?
Mexico is not only these marvelous sun-and-beach resorts. We have cuisine, we have natural parks, we have modern cities to visit. We’re conscious that unfortunately we face sometimes a lot of bad press. We have also become, I will say, more active, more proactive—and we still have to be more proactive—but we’re not doing these marketing campaigns because we’ve seen decreases. That has not happened. We’ve done this because we do not want to see those decreases.
Mexico is a country of 120 million people. It is mega-diverse. It’s well connected, it’s very near, it’s friendly. We’re working on travel facilitation—as you have, when you come into the States, those kiosks—we’re working on that, everything that could make the experience seamless. For most U.S. cities, it’s a two- or three-hour flight; it’s much closer than Europe. And the experience is great. What you get for the value of your money, it’s amazing. It is convenient, it is near, it is nice, it is friendly, it is welcoming, the weather is great, the food is marvelous—it is a great experience! We’re already the eighth-most visited country in the world, and it’s likely that we’re going to be number seven. We have to continue showing what Mexico is all about.
Does President Trump’s rhetoric about Mexico worry you?
My comment is, more than 18 million Mexicans come to the U.S. every year. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, we spent close to $20 billion in the U.S. in 2016. I know that, after Canada, Mexico is the most important country for the U.S. I would be paying attention to making sure that tension doesn’t diminish the number of travelers coming to the U.S. Our weather will continue to be the same, the food is going to be great, we’re still going to be a very welcoming country. People tend to travel to those places that they like and they respect and where they feel well treated.
Source: Condé Nast Traveler published 3/21/2018. Link to article