TBY talks to Claudia Ruiz Massieu Salinas, Secretary of Tourism, on promoting the country as a tourism hub, emphasizing improved security, and establishing more facilities that are tourist specific.
THE BUSINESS YEAR The government has initiated plans to renew tourism promotion efforts in Mexico. What will be the initial strategy in order to support this?
CLAUDIA RUIZ MASSIEU SALINAS The main objective of this administration is to make Mexico the leading country in tourism through the recognition that tourism is the lever and key factor in the economic development of the country. We will do this by diversifying our tourism products with the end target of developing new markets. We will pick up the momentum in those areas, take advantage of touristic resources, and offer our support to those that are more competitive at the national and international levels. In Mexico, it should be noted that tourism is respected. By preserving our natural, cultural, and social environment, we are making attempts to avoid the negative impacts tourism can cause.
Tourism represents about 13% of the country’s GDP. What are the important points of Mexico as a center of regional tourism?
Tourism in Mexico is one of the most powerful engines of development. We have a great variety of attractions such as beaches, colonial cities, natural scenery, cultural diversity, and ancient history that make Mexico unique. We also have high-quality infrastructure and touristic services, and, above all else, our extraordinarily warm human resources. Travelers will see Mexico as a warm country that always receives tourists with open arms. It is a place that, thanks to its diversity, variety, and offerings, satisfies the demands and necessities of its visitors with high-quality touristic products.
Would you say that there is still an existing misconception about the security situation in Mexico?
As part of the competitive agenda, we know that public security is an essential component for tourism to flourish. President Peña Nieto has instructed us to present an integrated security program for tourists. We are working with the Secretariat of the Interior (SEGOB) to generate schemes for public security in touristic destinations, which have their own dynamics, because there is a constant flow of people that some spaces cannot necessarily accommodate. Thus, we need to devise specific and preventive strategies. We are working closely with the Sub-Secretary of Prevention at SEGOB so that the Program of National Social Prevention of Violence and Delinquency aligns with the development and incorporation of our strategies once implemented in tourism places. Ideally, we want to achieve preventative schemes that will work in touristic destinations so that we will not have security problems. One example is the campaign that we conducted alongside several agencies during the Easter break in 2013, which produced magnificent results. We are also generating security protocols for specific touristic destinations and working closely with the states and municipalities to collaborate on specific protocols that respond to public safety issues. Through this teamwork, we are working to ensure that all tourist destinations have similar protocols of action and that the police are working together to enforce our decisions. Furthermore, we are seeking ways to implement a better public information scheme that is also appropriate for tourists, in addition to public security. We have to establish public traffic rules in all of Mexico’s most popular destinations, and ensure that our public servants can speak the languages of the tourists. We are also working with emergency responders on how to pay specific attention to tourists and ensuring the proximity of police, hospitals, and any other services that tourists might need. This component of security is integral to what we are developing in the Secretariat with the help of states and municipalities, but also with international specialists and the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), which is working extensively with the integrated security concept. Security perceptions differ among tourists at different destinations, and we tailor our programs according to the feedback we receive in various locations rather than the general security concerns in Mexico. As a country, we are seeking to communicate and be perceived as an effective responder when there are incidents, thereby approaching international standards.
In what ways would you like to see the tourism offering become more diversified in Mexico?
The diversification of our offering is an opportunity that Mexico has to attract market niches that have not yet been seen in our country. It is about going beyond the specialization of some touristic destinations and creating synergies among the distinct sectors. In this way, we can meet expectations and supply the demands of distinct segments of “sun and beach” tourists. However, in the last couple of years, there has been a new wave of new activities in the areas of cultural tourism, MICE, eco-tourism, and adventure tourism, to name a few. As we continue to finalize our diversification of tourism offerings, we are bringing variety and attracting visitors from emerging markets such as South America, Europe, and Asia, which represent great potential for Mexico, without neglecting the fixed markets of Canada and the US.
What are the principal challenges that need to be addressed so that Mexico can optimize its potential as a tourism center?
One of the principal challenges is changing the image of Mexico in the eyes of the world. We need to create a more positive image. Another challenge for the current administration is the innovation and diversification of tourism products in order to compete internationally. We need to provide more tools, carry out more programs and policies, and support organizations and companies as they become more competitive. We are also aiming to boost new tourist destinations without neglecting the already-consolidated ones, amplify what they offer, and increase the country’s infrastructure in order to convert it into a world-class destination. In addition, we are working to design tourism offerings that are adequate for our visitors through strategic planning combined with public and private management. To attract investments into the sector, we are creating confidence among companies and making tourism a source of welfare for the community.
What is your prediction for 2013?
Tourism is one of the principal engines of economic, regional, communal, and national development. It is a sector that represents opportunities for the Mexican youth and women and represents prosperity for the country. The sector can also function as a powerful instrument that generates opportunities and fights poverty, which is something the current administration is working on intensely. We seek to make our destinations more competitive and transform our offering to meet the parameters of sustainability and high quality. This will be our new objective in 2013. We will also work on a crosscutting agenda in the government, aiming to build the conditions for competitiveness and serve as facilitators for the private sector. It is necessary to modernize and move the tourism industry toward breaking inertia. With that, we will succeed in making our tourism industry the most competitive in the world.
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