Weak Global Economy And Fear Of Crime Turning Travelers Off To Mexico; Country No Longer In Top 10 Of Favored Holiday Destinations

 @PReyMallen
on May 17 2013 12:27 PM
Acapulco, Mexico
Roughly 14.5 million Mexicans visited the U.S. in 2012, a gain of about 7.5 percent. Reuters

México is no longer one of the 10 most popular countries in the world for holidaymakers, the U.N.'s World Tourism Organization said on Thursday. The nation ranked 13th out of 50 countries, falling from 10th place, according to data published by the Organization. Mexico had held the 10th spot for the past five years.

México recorded 23.1 million tourists in 2012, a decrease of 1.2 percent from the previous year. The 10th place on the list was taken by Russia, which saw an increase of 13 percent in visits to 25.7 million tourists. Austria (11) and Hong Kong (12) also received more tourists than México.

However, the drop did not take the Mexican government by surprise. Claudia Ruiz Massieu, secretary of Tourism, predicted the fall in March during the inauguration of the Tourism Fair in Puebla – although she thought Mexico would drop only two positions, not three.

“[México] has stayed one step behind, and we have to revise our measures to go back to our previous competitiveness,” Deputy Secretary of Tourism Joaquín González told the Mexican newspaper Milenio.

Mexico's fall in popularity as a tourist destination would be a big blow to former President Felipe Calderón, who had vowed to make the country one of the world's top five holiday spots. As reported by Spain's El País, Calderón had promised to bring the country up to the top five – not only did he fail in that venture, but México kept on descending in the scale during his term of office: from seventh place in 2005 to 10th place in 2007, and now to a full on drop out of the top 10 in 2012.

“These changes depend on many factors, but we need to take into account that most of the tourists in Mexico come from the United States, and everything that affects the U.S. affects Mexico,” explained Carlos Vogeler, regional director for the Americas at the UNWTO. Indeed, since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008, Americans travel much less and that has directly affected their southern neighbor.

The issues of crime and violence have also deeply affected the influx of tourists into Mexico. American students on Spring Break, once a major demographic group in the tourism of resorts like Cancún, are staying stateside more often, while countries like Spain (which historically has been another important source of tourists to Mexico) recommend avoiding some areas, like Acapulco -- following the rape of six Spaniards there earlier this year.

However, the UNWTO report did provide some praise for Mexico as a tourist destination. “Mexico does many things right in the tourism industry, such as the visa granting system or their emphasis in cultural tourism.” the report noted.

The tourism secretary Massieu is also optimistic about the future, and has promised to draft an agenda to address the issue. “We want to improve in the world scale, increase offers and secure destinations,” she said in her statement during Puebla’s Tourism Fair.

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