TBY talks to Enrique de la Madrid Cordero, Secretary of Tourism, on distribution of destinations, global tourism rankings, and opportunities for medical tourism.

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.

One of the government's goals in recent years has been to promote development in the south of the country. What role can the tourism sector play in that goal?

Tourism already represents one of the main income sources for many southern communities, as it creates opportunities to benefit from their cultural and natural assets without having to migrate in search of a better life. Tourism has helped to significantly reduce poverty beyond the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico's most important touristic cluster. In the southern states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Guerrero, there are many municipalities where tourism has positively transformed the lives of inhabitants. The challenge we face is to bring these benefits, employment, quality basic services, housing, and so on to more regions. According to INEGI, the national statistics agency, those municipalities with significant touristic activity show better social and economic indicators than those with no or marginal tourism. We want to ensure that we not only have first-class tourism destinations, but also first-class and sustainable communities. We team up with companies and local authorities to take care of and enhance their particular attractions, helping to reinforce national and regional pride, a sense of belonging, and the common values that make a healthy community and a more appealing destination for modern travelers.

Mexico recently rose to eighth place in the World Tourism Organization's global ranking. To what do you attribute this success?

In 2016, we rose from ninth place to eighth, the highest ranking we have ever attained. This success is the result of many elements; however, above all, it has to do with the deep conviction of President Peña Nieto and all the relevant actors that tourism should be at the front of our country's economic and social development. This has allowed us, along with the private sector, to implement a series of coordinated actions and policies that go from large international marketing campaigns and hosting world-class sport and cultural events, to special financing schemes targeting SMEs that have the potential to participate and benefit from tourism activities. It is the combination of all these actions and a clear objective that have brought great results.

How has the Trump administration's posture toward Mexico affected the tourism sector?

Thus far, the impact, if any, has been minimal. In fact, the numbers show that American tourists still flock to Mexican destinations. Tourists arriving via the border have also increased by 3.3% YoY and account for 3.6 million. Up until March 2017 we received almost 2.8 million Americans via air, which is up 9.2% from the same period in 2016, which was by itself a record number. With a new Air Services Agreement between our countries, we have better air connectivity than ever, and Americans are as welcome as always to visit us and enjoy our increasing number of destinations. Clearly, people of both countries are conscious that our relations go beyond political issues and negative rhetoric.

Mexico still lags behind many other countries in the development of the medical tourism sector. What steps can the country take to promote its development?

Medical tourism does represent an important opportunity to increase the competitiveness of some of our destinations, and the changes that could take place in the American health system could enhance this potential. President Nieto has included this market segment in the country's tourism strategy. We have identified 19 medical clusters in nine states that together represent around 60 hospitals and medical centers with growth potential in Baja California, Chihuahua, Mexico City, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Nuevo León, Quintana Roo, Sonora, and Tamaulipas. To take advantage of this potential we push forward initiatives that ensure quality in attention, standardized services, and a more aggressive promotion of Mexico as a reliable treatment option for patients. In this matter we have already made advances, as the almost USD4 billion in revenue from medical tourism in Mexico can attest.