NO END IN SIGHT

Mexico 2016 | TOURISM | REVIEW

While it may seem that a country so popular for tourists would have to reach a threshold, that could not be more from false for Mexico, which in recent years has seen its number of visitors skyrocket.

Tourism opportunities in Mexico are seemingly boundless. While it has everything expected of a neighboring Central American country—pristine beaches on two oceans, artifacts from magnificent ancient civilizations, and pioneering adventure and ecological tourism activities—the Mexican tourism industry is filled with so much more that distinguishes it from its regional competitors. The country has something to offer everybody and has long been known as a both attractive and affordable vacation destination, especially in North America.

According to tourism research center the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the tourism industry directly contributed some MXN1.26 trillion, or close to $69 billion, to the country's GDP in 2015, representing 7% of GDP. The WTTC estimates that in 2016 this figure will increase by 4% to MXN1.3 trillion, or nearly $71 billion. The tourism industry's direct contribution to GDP is expected to steadily increase through to 2026 according to the WTTC's projections, with a slightly increased growth of 4.2% per annum, reaching almost MXN2 trillion, or close to $109 billion, and representing 7.6% of GDP. The industry overall has a much more significant impact on the Mexican economy and GDP; in 2015, the total tourism contributions to the GDP, which includes direct, indirect, and induced contributions through investment, income impacts, and the supply chain, reached MXN2.7 trillion, or some $147 billion, accounting for just over 15% of GDP. The council estimates growth in 2016 to reach MXN2.9 trillion, or over $152 billion, making up 15.3% of the country's GDP. Expectedly, this contribution to GDP is projected to increase over the coming decade, reaching MXN4.3 trillion, or $234 billion, and making up 16.5%—almost one-fifth—of Mexican GDP.

A significant aspect of the industry's contribution to GDP is the money spent by visitors. In 2015, visitors spent MXN292 billion, or just under $16 billion, in the country, WTTC data show. In 2016, that figure is expected to increase to just over MXN300 billion, or $16.3 billion, and rise to MXN515.8 billion, or $28 billion, by 2026. Leisure tourism to the country far dwarfs business travel, according to data from the WTTC. In 2015, leisure tourism spending, by both international and domestic travelers, claimed just over 90% of total spending, or MXN1.9 trillion (or $103 billion), while business tourism by both foreigners and locals only contributed 9.8%, or MXN208 billion, or $11 billion. Leisure travel spending is expected to rise to just under MXN2 trillion, or $109 billion in 2016, and reach MXN3 trillion, or $163 billion, by 2026, whereas business tourism spending is forecasted to increase to MXN219.8 billion, or $12 billion, in 2016 and reach MXN319.2 billion, or $17.3 billion, by 2026.

The tourism industry's significant effect on GDP manifests itself in many ways; the sector has a considerable influence on the country's job market. In 2015, the industry generated some 3.8 million direct jobs across the country, constituting 7.5% of total employment, according to the WTTC. This year, the figure is forecasted to grow by 2.3%, increasing the number of jobs to 3.9 million but holding the same share of total employment. The WTTC projects that the number of jobs provided by tourism will increase by 1.8% per annum, resulting in some 4.6 million direct jobs by 2026. The sector's indirect job contributions are even more significant, creating just under 8 million jobs in 2015, projected to provide 8.1 million jobs in 2016 (approximately 16% of total employment), and anticipated to provide some 9.8 million Mexicans with jobs by 2026.

Through the past decade, tourist arrivals to Mexico stood relatively stable, but in recent years the country's popularity has increased, perhaps in light of the terrorism affecting popular European and Middle Eastern vacation destinations. According to figures from the World Bank, tourism arrivals to Mexico remained relatively stagnant from 2010-2013, increasing by less than a million over the three years from 23.3 million arrivals to 24.2 million. That figure, however, drastically increased in 2014, the latest available year by the World Bank, shooting up more than 5 million to 29.3 million. The high season typically begins in mid-December and continues through to mid-April. According to Trading Economies, from June 2015 to July 2016, December saw the highest number of tourist arrivals, with 2.3 million guests coming to Mexico. The months from December to July saw a decrease in arrivals but remained relatively steady, between 1.5 million and 1.9 million visitors. The month that saw the fewest arrivals was September, which only saw just over 1 million arrivals to the country. The high and low seasons correlate to when the temperature through the country, on average, is most mild.
The government body in charge of the sector is the Mexican Tourism Board, which is tasked with scouting and developing the country's widely varied and great tourism potential. The tourism sector is an undeniable engine for growth in the country that in more ways than one contributes the country's prosperity. The National Development Plan 2013-2018 puts tourism as a primary sector and requires that the Tourism Board work effectively to increase the quality of goods and services offered to tourists and to create innovative approaches to promoting the country as a destination for all ranges of travelers. The government has also given the tourism sector special priority in the National Infrastructure Plan. Authorities have recently altered visa requirements for most Latin American countries, including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Peru, in order to attract more potential tourists. Mexico has already seen positive results; the number of tourists coming from Chile has increased by 15.8% since the regime was implemented, while Mexico has seen Peruvian tourist numbers increase by 25%.


One of Mexico's most infamous tourist attractions is its Mayan Riviera, located on the coast of the Caribbean Sea and extending just south of the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. This region is home to the country's picturesque powdery, white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and palm trees. The old fishing villages of this charming coastline have long since moved aside and made way for the five-star luxury resorts, spas, designer shopping, and world-class cuisine. The waters boast some of the world's best scuba diving, with an extensive coral reef network that is home to scores of vibrant tropical fish, dolphins, whale sharks, and manta rays. Other water activities in the area include snorkeling and cave diving in the cenotes, or underground sinkholes, that are unique to Yucatan.

Another popular destination is Oaxaca, situated 300 miles south of the capital, Mexico City. The city of Oaxaca is located in the state of the same name that rests on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and not far from neighboring Guatemala. The city, however, is some 5,000ft above sea level, and thus it experiences a pleasant and mild climate for most of the year. The southern city is one of the best in the country to experience its grand ancient civilizations and energetic cultural traditions. The city of Oaxaca was laid out in a traditional colonial plan, with its main square home to the city's cathedral and governmental buildings. Many of these buildings date from the 16th century but have recently been brought back to life through restoration works. Among other things, the city is famous for its mole, a local sauce made from ground chilies; other local cuisine includes a type of string cheese known as quesillo, spicy and deep-fried grass hoppers called chapulines, and, perhaps most notoriously, mezcal, the alcoholic beverage made from the agave plant.