Mexico welcomes tourism boom

MEXICO is enjoying a surge in tourism, statistics released by Mexico’s Tourism Secretariat (Sectur) reveal. Sectur claimed that for the first time in history, international traffic to Mexico generated more than US$1 billion in revenues in a single month of May 2004.  Over 5.2 million international guests arrived in the first quarter of 2004 – up 14.6 percent from the same period last year. Visitors’ average spend was an unprecedented US$724 in the first quarter of 2004, topping last year’s US$690. Receipts of US$1.05 billion in March 2004 pushing first-quarter international revenues to US$2.94 billion and representing a 14 percent rise over the first quarter 2003 earnings. In January 2004 the figure was US$914 million; while in February 2004, US$972 million. 

Sectur also claimed Mexico received an additional 2.1 million tourists on cruise ships during the first quarter of 2004, up 0.2 percent from the same period last year. Guests spent US$127 million during the period, up 5.3 percent from first quarter 2003.

Tourism is the third most important economic activity in Mexico, representing 8.3 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The World Tourism Organization said Mexico currently ranks eight in the number of international visitors and tenth in international tourism revenues.  According to the WTO, Mexico has seen a shift from short trips just over the US-Mexican border to longer trips to the interior and more cruise business growing 5 percent and 32 percent respectively, as a result of tourists’ reaction to a stricter Department of Homeland Security.

Theresa Villarreal, Mexico Tourism Board’s director in Miami, said Mexico offers many tourism attractions, from beaches and colonial towns to archaeological sites and modern cities.  She said: “The industry is an extremely important source of income to Mexicans. Nearly two million people are employed by Mexico’s tourism industry.  Whether a tourism service provider is local or foreign, Mexicans benefit.”

A number one destination for national tourism, Acapulco has recently invested huge sums in hotel construction and road works particularly in the main artery, the Coastera Avenue. Nightlife and culinary adventures are very much thriving, much as the resort construction on unspoiled beaches fast-spreading towards the airport. Though some of the flights to Acapulco are seasonal, Villarreal assured authorities are working on developing or re-establishing connections through the combined air lifts by Air Mexicana, Aviasca and Air Mexico.

With a trust recently put up to promote and manage tourism investments, “These days, we see a lot of investors putting their money in Mexico, especially in Acapulco,” said Villarreal. “Fairmont has come to Acapulco; but we’re expecting the new Mandarin Oriental in Riviera Maya, on top of a few Spanish investments like the Occidental hotels.”

Further down from Encinada, one Canadian company is looking into developing new properties and new golf courses in D. Loreto.  Meanwhile, Cabo San Lucas, Los Cabos and Cancun have regained their appeal recently to consumers worldwide.

Landscaping and nature have been the unique selling features of the area.  The fact that Mexico is one of 118 nation signatories in the Agenda for the 21st Century, a United Nations program for sustainable development involving environmental restoration, preservation and social development, makes the destination a byword.

Villarreal added that Mexico’s commitment to Agenda 21 involves programs including water conservation, certification of sustainability for tourism destinations and sustainable ecotourism development to enable generations to enjoy the natural heritage.

No terror threats
Reacting to news on Texas authorities warning about terrorists residing in Mexican communities (including the Saudi-born American Shukrijumah reportedly mapping out his next move) while obtaining phony IDs and false names, changing surnames from Islamic to Hispanic to gain entry into the US, the tourism board official said: “Procedure for getting and processing identification documents in Mexico has become extremely strict, as in the United States, and information is shared closely with our northern neighbors.”

No Threat Advisory System Color coding seems to have minimized arrivals to Mexico. Frequent jumps from yellow alerts to orange in the US do little to discourage inflow to Mexico. “[The country] shows no evidence of terrorist activity and has not been the of any terrorist threats. Terrorist incidents in New York and Spain have demonstrated terrorism is a problem all countries must be prepared to face. As one of the most visited tourism destinations in the world—our country receives some 20 million international tourists annually. Mexico places a high priority on the security of visitors. Though the Mexican government has always collaborated very closely with its northern neighbors to keep security high on both sides of the border, the aftermath of 9-11 has made the sharing of intelligence and anti-terrorism strategies with the United States and Canada even more important,” said Villarreal.

Mexico City International Airport has had a special security operative in place since 2002. Features of this operative include the use of private security guards in order to increase the monitoring of airport personnel and their activities. Similarly, 24 additional hidden cameras were incorporated into the airport’s closed circuit TV network to adequately cover all areas of the airport, used by passengers and those with personnel access only.

In addition, more security locks, alarm systems and closed circuit televisions around the doors and exit gates have also been installed. Officials hired elite police forces, special investigators and private security guards comprising a special security corps called the Immediate Response Group (GRIM) to guard against terrorist acts at airports. 14,000 new identity cards, to be revalidated at the end of this year, have been issued for better control over the people going in and out of both airport gates and the restricted areas.

Also installed were metal detectors and X-ray machines, thorough passenger inspections, constant airport inspections and security aboard aircraft have been included to secure checkpoints and provide safety in-flight. These and other security measures respond to the Phase 3 Alert currently in effect in Mexico. Phase 1 reflects a low alert, 2 a medium alert, 3 a high alert. The highest alert level is 4, when intelligence points to a high probability of an imminent threat, according to the MTB, an agency that combines resources of federal and state governments, municipalities and private companies to promote Mexican tourist attractions and destinations worldwide.

eTN Florida
author: Hazel Heyer

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