SEVILLE, Spain -- Choosing his words carefully, former
Mexico president Felipe Calderon expressed "respect" for current
president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador but urged him to "reflect" on
the importance of tourism to Mexico's economy and perhaps "reverse"
his decisions to dissolve the Mexico Tourism Board, cancel the partially
constructed Mexico City airport and to build a tourist train through
traditional Mayan homelands.
Calderon knows firsthand what it is like to reverse policies
that could be detrimental to tourism. As president, he had first proposed
moving the responsibilities of tourism secretary to a subcabinet position.
Subsequently, he not only changed his mind, but became a champion of tourism,
throwing himself into promotional efforts.
In an exclusive interview with Travel Weekly during the
World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit here, he said that while in
government he learned about the importance of investing in tourism to support
the economy and create jobs. "[It] needs a lot of promotion," he
said. "People around the globe need to know exactly what Mexico can
The former leader seemed incredulous that construction on an
airport that was 40% complete would be halted. "It's an incredible amount
of money already invested, now lost," he said. "Beyond the economic
cost is the loss of the benefits for tourism. I hope the government will
reconsider and continue with such an important airport."
Again saying that he respected presidential decisions, he
was nonetheless dubious about the financial viability and wisdom of building the
Maya Train. In addition to the significant distance the tracks will cover --
the equivalent of laying rails from Mexico City to Houston, Calderon said -- he
has "serious concerns about the environmental impact of such a project."
It's planned to cross several natural reserves, among them what he
characterized as the most important jaguar reserve in Mesoamerica.
The train, he offered with "respect," is "not
the best public policy to promote economic growth and tourism."