Many Questions Unanswered On Future Of Mexico Tourism Promotion
Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw
A new broom sweeps clean, the saying goes, but there are fears among the travel and tourism industry that Mexico’s new broom – the government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador – is sweeping away the tourism promotion infrastructure that has helped drive Mexico’s meteoric rise to become the sixth-most-visited country in the world.
The new president took office 1DEC, 2018, and within a week the country’s newly appointed secretary of tourism, Miguel Torruco, had confirmed that the Tourism Promotion Council of Mexico (CPTM), the entity that funded the tourism board’s more than 20 offices in major cities around the world, would be shut down quickly.
Open Jaw Quebec reports that Mexico’s Tourist Promotion Office in Montreal, located at Place Ville Marie, has been closed since 31JAN, though employees are still answering enquiries from home. While getting a definitive answer is difficult, other reports suggest the Toronto office will close at the end of this month.
Reports in Mexico’s news media suggest that the new government was unhappy about a “lack of transparency” in how the Tourism Promotion Council spends its hefty US$295 million annual budget. Other media accounts said that the budget would be shifted to help fund the construction of a US$7.4 billion railroad linking major tourism destinations on the Yucatan peninsula.
Tourism promotion funding is a frequent target of new governments looking for relatively painless ways to cut costs. But Mexico, where tourism now makes up 9% of the gross domestic product, is in a more vulnerable position than many destinations.
Drug cartel violence is a massive problem for the country’s international reputation, and while that violence rarely involves tourists directly, there are frequent incidents in or around tourism destinations that generate negative publicity and associated fear. MTB offices have played a significant role in balancing that narrative.
There is talk of replacing Mexico’s current tourism promotion structure with a private/public entity – something that has been achieved successfully in other nations.
But as Michel Wohlmuth, president of the Meeting Planners International Mexico Chapter told MPIWeb: “I have talked to the minister of tourism and what I still don’t understand is why it would be shut down before there is anything there to take its place -- we are going to lose time; and I don’t know how much time before there is anything there to take the tourism board’s place,” he said.
Pablo Azcarraga, who chairs both the Mexican hotel chain Grupo Posadas and Consejo Nacional Empresarial Turistico (CNET), the voice of Mexico's private tourism sector, told U.S. trade publication Travel Weekly that the private sector "is in the process of negotiating with the federal government a new proposal to create a new joint entity that will manage the advertising and promotion funds."
When the new Mexican government announced late last year that it planned to close all of the tourist offices outside the country, it said tourism promotion efforts would be handled through the offices of its embassies and diplomatic missions. There are few examples of that being done successfully, and observers say the timing of the dissolution of the Mexico Tourism Board so quickly after the new president took office suggests that a significant analysis of the tourism board’s effectiveness was not undertaken before the plug was pulled.
As well as the Montreal and Toronto locations, Vancouver is also host to a Mexico Tourism Board office. Canada is a massive source market for Mexico tourism, with 2.1 million arrivals in 2018. The destination represents about a third of sun package sales for major Canadian tour operators.
Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief
An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.