TBY talks to Rodolfo López Negrete Coppel, Director General of the Mexico Tourism Board, on attracting a wider variety of tourists, promoting cultural tourism, and the country’s leading destinations.
TBY What is the Mexico Tourism Board’s strategy to accomplish the goal of being the ranked as the number five tourist destination by 2018?
RODOLFO LÓPEZ NEGRETE COPPEL In 2011, we received 22.7 million tourists. That number represents a 1.9% increase since 2010, surpassing the volume we received in 2008, the banner year for Mexico and the world in terms of tourism. Considering the complex global economic circumstances, we are satisfied with the number. Two years ago, we embarked on a very aggressive diversification strategy in terms of our tourism product portfolio. We saw that the US market—our primary customer base—was experiencing a downturn; US citizens were traveling less. Through the end of November 2011, the Department of Commerce released numbers that indicated that the number of travelers from the US had fallen by 4.3%. To combat this decline, we implemented a very aggressive strategy to gain market shares in the rest of the international market. In 2011, we were able to grow business from Canada by 7%, from Brazil 67%, from Argentina 18%, from Colombia 23%, from Peru 37%, from China 30%, and from Russia 55%. From a mathematical point of view, air arrivals from the US decreased by 3% at the end of 2011 as compared to 2010, but we were able to offset that drop and exceed it in terms of a net increase. This growth corresponds with the vision we had two years ago. We are continuing to use this strategy in 2012, but there is a difference now—the US market is recovering. Over the last four months of 2011, air arrivals from the US have registered double-digit growth. As a result, we are able to simultaneously develop our international markets and enjoy the recuperation of business from the US, and we are on the right path to see exponential growth over the next five years. This growth correlates with our objective to become one of the top five countries in the world in terms of tourism. Furthermore, we have launched a new products and services initiative. Mexico has always been a favored beach destination, but we decided to start promoting the country as an attractive cultural location. We aim to enhance the exposure of our many archeological sites, gastronomy, folklore, art, music, history, and traditions. The multi-faceted qualities of the tourism business are what will propel exponential growth. We boast amazing beach resorts that continue to improve, coupled with our cultural wealth and held together by Mexican hospitality. Few countries in the world have this advantage.
Within this diversification model, where does business travel fit in?
Business travel is an important component of our model. Foreign investment in Mexico continues to grow, and investors see the country as an easy place to do business. More importantly, the profitability of the major corporations that conduct business in Mexico is above average, compared to the rest of the world. This confidence that corporations have in Mexico stimulates business travel. We work very closely with the major cities in the country, such as the local tourism departments of Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey. In addition, meetings, incentives, conferences, and events (MICE) travel is a critical segment of business tourism. We have an organization that is specialized in MICE tourism, operating from Washington, D.C. Our focus on MICE tourism is beneficial, because the level of spending that the business segment injects into the market is high. In 2011, we decided to conduct a study in collaboration with PricewaterhouseCoopers to gauge the impact of MICE on the overall economy. It was determined that the MICE industry in Mexico represents approximately $80 billion—an important contribution to spending. In response, we announced at the end of 2011 that we are opening a Mexican Tourism Board office in Brussels, boosting our efforts in the world congress sector. We are very eager to promote MICE travel.
How does the Mundo Maya 2012 (Mayan World 2012) campaign fit your strategy to promote cultural tourism?
We presented our plan last year at the Museum of Anthropology with President Calderón, initiating a program that links the five states to form a center of cultural wealth. Those are Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco, Quintana Roo, and Yucatán. We have selected two of the most important archeological sites in each state. Furthermore, we have invited our sister countries Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala to join in the presentation of Mayan culture. In January 2012, we initiated a campaign in Spain and Central America. It was a big investment; we have a budget of $10 million to market the Mundo Maya program domestically and internationally, and we have high expectations for the campaign.
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