Mexican President Felipe Calderon attended the Global Travel & Tourism Summit in Las Vegas on Thursday in an attempt to ramp up tourism for his country. Elevating tourism to a cabinet-level post he has made the industry's success an issue of national priority - and it seems to be working. Despite growing violence, tourism numbers for 2010 were up 6% from the previous year.
Texas state officials recently warned college students against traveling to Mexico for their annual spring-break getaways. However, many students did not heed the advice.
Calderon quipped I saw thousands of spring breakers in Mexico having fun. My understanding is the only shots they received were tequila shots - a lot of them.
In the wake of gruesome violence and kidnappings by Mexico's leading drug cartels, Calderon's visit with industry executives and government officials involved in tourism was part of a new effort to portray his country as a top travel destination. Calderon affirmed We are working to establish a safer border, re-enforcing the police corps, and we are getting more cooperation than ever from American authorities.
However, Calderon noted that his government has counted approximately 8,000 U.S. gun stores along the shared border. He blames the accessibility of those stores combined with the expiration of the U.S. Federal Assault Weapon Ban in 2004 for the increase in violent crime.
My government has seized more than 100,000 weapons in the past four years, 85% bought in the U.S.
In response to the troubles with U.S. health care, Calderon suggested that it is possible to reduce the expenditure of Medicare if the (U.S.) government will allow the American people to receive medical services in Mexico. It's a win-win situation. Very good service, quality service, and it would be cheaper for people and cheaper for the government.
Calderon said 1,000 hospitals were built in the past 4 years and he hopes Americans will take notice. Many already cross the border for medical tourism. Los Algodones, just across the border from Yuma, Arizona is crammed with dentists fighting for American clients.
To round off his very public tour, the Mexican President met with Sylvester Stallone and other directors of Planet Hollywood International in an attempt to rev up filmmaking in Mexico.
According to Calderon, Mexico is the 10th most visited country in the world by international travelers. He hopes to make the nation 5th on the list by the end of the decade.
Mark Johanson is the travel editor at the International Business Times. He has traveled to and written about more than 30 nations and territories on every continent except...