Mexico Numbers Show Increase

Biggest gains seen in cruising

By: Lisa Jennings

Revenue generated by international tourism to Mexico increased 6.8 percent last year over 2002, a record high of $9.4 billion, the Ministry of Tourism (Sectur) reported last month.

The increase is surprising, considering the number of international tourists visiting Mexico actually decreased last year, from 19.7 million in 2002 to 18.6 million in 2003, according to the report. The downturn was blamed in part on the increased travel restrictions imposed by the United States and other markets to prevent terrorism.

But those who did visit Mexico last year spent more money, the report said. The average amount spent per visitor per day increased 13.8 percent, from $88.40 in 2002 to $100.50 in 2003.

“These figures reflect the recovery of the world economy, but also Mexico’s ability to provide diverse options for high-end travelers,” said Rodolfo Elizondo, Mexico’s Tourism Secretary.

But Elizondo also noted that eight of the 10 most popular international travel destinations all showed decreases in visitors last year. Mexico ranks eighth worldwide in international visitors.

Private investment in tourism increased 12.2 percent to $1.65 billion last year, contributing to a $3.2 billion surplus in the tourism industry’s trade balance, Sectur reported.

Scheduled international air passenger arrivals to Mexico increased nearly 6 percent in 2003 over the previous year, according to the report.

But the most growth was seen in the cruise segment. An estimated 5.98 million passengers disembarked on Mexican shores from January to November 2003, up from 4.54 million in the same period of 2002, the report said.

Business tourism was also up, which the report attributed in part to the creation of a Mexico Convention Bureau in June 2003, as well as the elimination of the value-added tax on conventions and meetings organized in Mexico by companies abroad.

Francisco Ortiz, chief executive officer of the Mexico Tourism Board, said the report results “demonstrate that Mexico’s diversity in tourism offerings and efforts at targeting specific segments are paying off.”