Rodolfo Lopez Negrete
Rodolfo Lopez Negrete

Mexico Tourism Board CEO Rodolfo Lopez Negrete will be retiring, although a date has not been set for when his retirement will become effective.

The executive's tenure has seen an unprecedented five years of sustained growth in arrivals and spending during a period when Mexico faced a series of challenges.

Arrivals grew from 22.3 million in 2010 to 32.‎1 million in 2015, about a 44% increase, and despite devaluations in the peso, the economic impact of Mexico's tourism industry grew by $6 billion during his term, exceeding $17 billion in 2015.

The first quarter of 2016 suggests a continuation of the five-year trend, with an 11% increase in volume and 7.5% increase in spending, year over year.

He launched the enduring "Live It to Believe It" campaign and developed partnerships with international brands including Formula 1, Cirque du Soleil, the National Football League and the James Bond movie franchise (the opening scenes of "Spectre" were shot in Mexico City).

Lopez Negrete was appointed COO of the tourism board in 2010 as the nation was recovering from the H1N1 crisis.

Following his appointment, Lopez Negrete was thrown head first into the public relations crisis surrounding the much-publicized drug cartel-related violence that gripped parts of the country. He was often quoted in Travel Weekly in response to various travel warnings that were issued by the U.S. during that time and in defense of the safety and security of continued travel to Mexico.

But concurrent with the crisis management, Lopez Negrete deployed new strategies for a globalized world that increased the country's international visibility, cultivating strong relationships with the World Travel and Tourism Council and commercial partners in legacy and new markets.

His focus on relationships with international airlines significantly increased Mexico's connectivity to the world. By 2011, the country experienced strong increases in visitors from Russia, China, Australia, the U.K., Brazil, France, Japan and Canada, something Lopez Negrete attributed to a “bold diversification strategy … promoting a broad tourism offering and targeting an expanded breed of global consumer.”

At the end of 2012, following the election of Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto, a new secretary of tourism was named, Claudia Ruiz Massieu Salinas. She oversaw a reorganization of the ministry of tourism, which included promoting Lopez Negrete to the position of CEO of the Mexico Tourism Board.

Once he was in his new role, Lopez Negrete continued to rack up double-digit growth numbers while circumstances tested the nation's resilience. Two resort destinations on the Pacific coast, Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit, both saw a boost in arrivals following his initiative to rebrand them together as “Vallarta-Nayarit."

When powerful Hurricane Odile made landfall on the popular resort area Los Cabos in Baja California, Lopez Negrete mobilized the industry and waged an aggressive campaign to maintain air lift through the crisis and offer satisfaction guarantees. 

Most recently, Lopez Negrete had been working to counter concerns about the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Lopez Negrete's diplomatic bearing and business background — he has a master's degree in marketing and management from the University of Arizona, and had been a regional vice president for Hyatt — came to the fore in discussions with resort developers, wholesalers, travel agencies and airlines, as well as both domestic and international politicians.

He convinced Texas state officials to soften a spring break warning to college students that initially told students to avoid the country.

Within the complex world of Mexico politics, he did the impossible: he worked for three secretaries of tourism — Gloria Guevara, Ruiz and Enrique de la Madrid — under the administration of two different political parties (Guevara was appointed by PAN president Felipe Calderon, while Ruiz and de la Madrid were chosen by current PRI president Enrique Pena Nieto).

His previous experience included 10 years as president of Latin America for BMG Entertainment and president of a partnership between EMI Music and Televisa, and he used his entertainment connections to conduct campaigns that highlighted celebrities visiting Mexico during some of its biggest public relations challenges.

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