CHARLOTTE AMALIE, St. Thomas — Gloria Guevara, Mexico’s secretary of tourism from 2010 to 2012, outlined steps that were taken to help reposition her country’s tourism product during a time of crisis.
Guevara addressed an audience at the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s State of the Industry Conference.
“In 2009, Mexico found itself in the middle of a perfect storm with the global financial crisis, the H1N1 flu epidemic and the issues of security and crime. It was the worst year ever in terms of tourism numbers and revenues,” she said.
When Guevara was appointed to the cabinet post, her team assembled a list of the country’s tourism assets, including 38 Unesco sites, gastronomy, 83 Magical Towns, 40,000 archaeological sites, 50 golf courses, 640,000 hotel rooms and 70 convention centers.
A strategic plan evolved. Mexico’s president at the time, Felipe Calderon, designated 2011 as the Year of Tourism, and an unprecedented alignment was formed involving government, the private sector and various global organizations.
For years, Mexico had depended upon sun-and-beach tourism.
“We saw the need to diversify our product line and began marketing adventure travel, medical and religious tourism, the Mayan world, the Ruta Gastronomica and the meetings and convention sector,” Guevara said.
Like the Caribbean, Mexico has diverse tourism offerings.
“Mexico has 31 states and the Federal District (Mexico City). Each state has its own assets and is a unique destination in and of itself, much like each of the Caribbean countries,” Guevara said.
Mexico had drawn 80% of its tourists from the U.S. With a subsequent easing of visa requirements, visitor numbers from destinations such as Russia, China and South America climbed.
And, visitor spending increased as did Mexico’s visibility through its online presence, media interviews, ad campaigns and testimonials.
“We were telling our story, controlling the story and repositioning the Mexico brand,” she said.
Caribbean countries face tough competition, and Guevara advised each country to find its own DNA and capitalize upon is uniqueness, offering experiences to travelers. She also recommended easing visa regulations to open up their country to more source markets.