Update From Tianguis 2004

Tourism on the rise, increased focus to be put on border states

By: Lisa Jennings

Tourism revenues in Mexico in 2003 reached a record $9.5 billion, a 6.8 percent growth over 2002, tourism officials announced last month at the 2004 Tianguis, the nation’s largest international trade show event.

Mexico now ranks 10th worldwide in terms of tourism revenues, up from 13th in 2002, and it ranks eighth in terms of the number of international tourists with an estimated 18.6 million people visiting the country last year.

Riding a wave of cautious optimism, Rodolfo Elizondo Torres, Mexico’s tourism secretary, said the government has approved about $60 million for tourism promotion this year, with an additional $1.6 million under consideration. About 35 to 40 percent of that total will target the U.S. and Canadian markets, and another 25 percent devoted to domestic promotions.

The rest will be focused on the pursuit of travelers from Europe, and Asia particularly the increasingly mobile Chinese tourist.

“We are making great efforts in Asia,” he said.

Torres also said he hopes to build tourism development in the border states in Mexico with the aim of attracting estimated 12 million first- and second-generation Mexican-Americans who live primarily in Southern California and Texas.

Meetings with the governors of the border states in Mexico are planned to discuss approaches for increasing the volume of border crossings. One example is the possible investment of new hotels in the wine region along the Baja peninsula. And the current administration is pushing the development of a series of marinas planned along the peninsula that would increase boating traffic.

“None of the border destinations perceive themselves to be important tourist destinations,” he said. “We have to make the border states more attractive.”

The tourism board is also aggressively targeting the business and meeting market with the creation of a national convention bureau headed by Eduardo Chaillo Ortiz.

This year, new regulations went into effect offering tax-exempt status to foreigners hosting meetings in Mexico. In addition, the convention bureau is working on building the infrastructure of convention centers and meeting space. A new convention center in Tijuana, for example, is expected to open in 2005. The 29th annual Tianguis was the largest ever with an estimated 994 buyers and 2,250 suppliers registered.