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Analysis

Diversity of Destinations, Better Infrastructure Needed

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 13:00

Mexico is one of the top 10 tourist destinations in the world and rising, but to maintain this momentum it needs to strengthen and diversify its tourism offer to build a sustainable industry. This means better infrastructure, skilled talent and a diversity of destinations.

Building a sustainable tourism industry in Mexico requires infrastructure, talent and the development of new destinations. The investment provides dividends in the form of employment creation and the betterment of communities and quality of life. In 2017, the UN’s International Year of Sustainable Tourism Development, the country solidified its ranking on the global tourism charts (see infographic next page), but to continue its upward swing, areas away from traditional beach hotspots should also feature in Mexico’s tourism offer.

“The country has done an impressive job promoting its beach destinations, but we have to do a better job in promoting urban destinations and the Pueblos Mágicos,” says José Adames, Director General of Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City.

Tourism is having a palpable impact on the economy, notching nine consecutive quarters of gains above the national GDP as of October 2017. The industry represents 8.7 percent of GDP and in 2016 about 35 million people visited the country.

Diversifying Mexico’s tourism offer, which is highly dominated by sun and beach locations, is a priority for creating a sustainable industry. Seventy percent of international tourists arriving to Mexico visit the Riviera Maya and Los Cabos. According to the Tourism Sectorial Plan 2013-2018 this has led to a centralization of the tourism industry and high-impact urban development projects.

The reality is that Mexico has historic and cultural destinations in states such as Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, Queretaro, Chihuahua, Veracruz and Yucatan, which are not well-known and, therefore, do not attract the attention of private and public investors. But the federal and state governments are moving to tap into the potential of these areas. There are new tourism offers in the Baja California wine region, in the tequila area of Jalisco and around the Yucatan haciendas henequeneras. But success may depend on how well these regions adapt to the needs of a new generation of tourists. “Today, travelers are more interested in having in-depth knowledge about their destinations and not just spending time inside a hotel,” says Enrique de la Madrid, Minister of Tourism, adding that the country has everything necessary to take advantage of this trend.

Highlighting cultural areas of interest can also boost areas that lack beach attractions. Guanajuato, which is attracting tourists to its cultural offer, has become the sixth-most visited state in Mexico and the first among those that do not have sun and beach destinations. “We do not have beach landscapes or forests, but we can offer culture. The state has two cities on the list of World Heritage Sites, Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, and five Pueblos Magicos,” says Miguel Márquez, Governor of Guanajuato.

DEVELOPING COMMUNITIES

Maintaining Mexico’s attractiveness means acknowledging the quality of tourism services, which calls for an investment in talent and infrastructure that impacts destinations and their communities. According to the Ministry of Tourism, the STC’s investment in infrastructure is mostly geared toward increasing connectivity and reducing travel times and cost, which is where the New Mexico City International Airport (NAICM) will have a major role to play when it comes online, and even before.

The biggest infrastructure project in Mexico, NAICM requires an investment of MX$186 billion and will have capacity to receive 70 million travelers by 2020, twice the current number. It will also generate 450,000 jobs.

The private sector also is investing in infrastructure through projects such as marinas, cruise liner piers, convention centers, sports venues and malls. However, it is not all about the money, says De la Madrid. “To drive investment, it is necessary to establish an attractive institutional framework on issues such as regulation, security, environment and fiscal policy.”

In terms of talent, the sector must train better professionals to remain competitive in the face of a changing tourist profile as the country seeks to attract travelers from beyond longtime mainstays the US and Canada. “Due to Mexico´s strategic location, the US market is one of the most important, but there are many other markets that could contribute demand. However, to make the offer more attractive we need better-trained professionals to deliver great service,” says Gerardo Murray, Vice President of Brands and Marketing for Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean of The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG).