TBY talks to Enrique de la Madrid Cordero, Secretary of Tourism, on the country's successes, the importance of tourism for the economy, and future plans.

Enrique de la Madrid Cordero
Enrique de la Madrid Cordero obtained his degree in law from the National University of Mexico and holds an MA in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at the University of Harvard. He was appointed as the Secretary of Tourism in August 2015.

What do you see as your biggest achievements so far as Secretary of Tourism?

One year may seem like a short time in terms of policy; however, not only have we managed to maintain the good results of the three previous years, growth in the Mexican tourism sector actually accelerated in 2015. We had a record number of international visitors and a record amount of receipts from these visitors. Such a good performance took us from 10th to ninth place in the UNWTO global ranking in visitors, and from 22nd to 17th in terms of receipts. This dynamic allowed the tourism sector's contribution to GDP to grow by 3.8% in 2015, which is 52% faster than the Mexican economy as a whole. We have also launched important and specific initiatives, most importantly the Viajemos Todos por México program (Let's all travel through Mexico), which has an objective to promote growth through the better utilization of the installed capacity in the hotel and transportation sectors. Another initiative worth mentioning is Mejora tu Hotel (Improve Your Hotel), an innovative program to finance small and medium-sized hospitality companies, with loans backed by the Mexican Eximbank, BANCOMEXT, which will allow them to make the necessary investments to stay competitive in today's highly demanding tourism markets.

How would you characterize the importance of the tourism sector for economic growth and poverty reduction?

There is no doubt that tourism is, and should increasingly be, one of the driving forces of economic growth in Mexico. Right now, tourism accounts for around 8.5% of GDP, a larger share than sectors such as construction, primary activities, mining, financial services, and many others. In terms of employment, its role is even more important; as a labor-intensive sector it generates close to 4 million direct jobs, and the UNWTO estimates an additional 5.6 million indirect job positions. In the last decade alone, touristic activities created 1.2 million direct jobs, more than the dynamic automotive sector and more than all primary activities combined. Tourism is also a powerful tool for poverty reduction; it demands a high degree of labor from some of the population's most vulnerable sectors. It is the most important employer of young workers, with 20% of the total, it has the second highest proportion of female workers, with 56.8%, and it is the third largest employer in the southwest of the country, with 24.8% of the labor force. In some states with a high degree of marginalization, tourism contributes a higher share of GDP and gives its communities a greater chance of social improvement, a clear example of which is Guerrero, where the tourism sector represents 36% of GDP.

What are your major plans and goals for Mexico's tourism sector for the next three years?

Our main goal is increasing the role of tourism as one of the main transformational forces to achieve social development and improvement throughout Mexico. Through sound policies and innovative initiatives we can aspire to regain in a fairly short period of time the 9.3% share of GDP that the tourism sector had back in 2005. For that to happen, the sector must annually grow by one percentage point above the total GDP between 2015 and 2025, something that seems reasonable based on recent performance. A more ambitious but still achievable objective is to reach a contribution to GDP of 12%, like that of countries such as Spain. We are focused on challenges like increasing internal tourism flows through Viajemos Todos por México, also increasing the average spending of our international visitors, developing emerging niches in the industry such as medical, religious, LGBT, adventure tourism, and other segments. We also ensure that some of our destinations can reach their full potential and develop new ones. All of these are part of a coordinated effort to fulfill the mandate of President Enrique Peña Nieto of ensuring the benefits of tourism in terms of social and economic development reach more people in Mexico every year.