After Mexicans earlier this month elected as president the
left-wing populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the country's tourism industry
weighed in on whether the president-elect and his incoming administration
aligned with sustaining the sector's recent growth.
"The new administration has already expressed key
priorities for them in terms of the country and tourism destinations,"
said Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board. "For
example, they want to elevate security. They also have expressed that they want
to increase international connectivity into the country."
Overall, Esponda said he was very encouraged by the new
Another priority of Lopez Obrador's administration, Esponda
said, is to diversify its source markets beyond North America, while still
remaining committed to its No. 1 source market, the U.S.
"The best strategy they have expressed is that they
want to attract higher expenditure per visitor," he said.
Lopez Obrador, commonly known as AMLO, will officially take
office on Dec. 1. He has already announced his cabinet selections, including
Miguel Torruco Marques as secretary of tourism. Several people in the industry
said Marques' extensive experience serving Mexico's tourism industry bodes well
for the sector.
Gloria Guevara Manzo, president and CEO of the World Travel
& Tourism Council and Mexico's tourism minister from 2010 to 2012 under
former president Felipe Calderon, said Marques "has been in travel and
tourism for years. He was in charge of tourism for Mexico City for four or five
years, and Mexico City counts for probably 20% or 25% of tourism in the
She added that Marques has a strong record in recognizing
the crucial role of job training in developing the tourism economy.
Zach Rabinor, CEO of Journey Mexico, a high-end ground
operator with offices in Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun, said he, too,
felt encouraged by some of the incoming administration's top goals and how they
align with the tourism industry's.
"I definitely think that AMLO will be good for tourism,"
Rabinor said. "He has two major platforms. One is job creation, and the
tourism sector is the largest creator of jobs in the country."
As for anti-corruption, Lopez Obrador's other top priority,
Rabinor said, "I think anti-corruption also feeds nicely into growth in
the tourism sector because it will lead to less crime, less violence and so on."
Rabinor said Mexico has a lot of opportunities to promote its
lesser-known locales and experiences and to market itself as much more than
just a sun-and-sand destination by touting its cultural, natural and adventure
attributes. He said helping to promote lesser-known destinations would offer
citizens economic alternatives to lives of crime.
Lopez Obrador and Marques will assume office at a time when
Mexico's tourism industry has a lot on the line. After fighting through what
Guevara described as some of the toughest years for the industry in 2010 and
2011, the country's tourism economy has rebounded strongly.
President Enrique Pena Nieto announced earlier this year
that Mexico had jumped to the world's sixth most visited country in 2017, up
from No. 8 in 2016 and No. 15 in 2013, citing rankings published by the U.N.
World Tourism Organization.
Mexico last year welcomed 39.3 million international
visitors, a 12% increase over the previous year.
Guevara said Mexico's key challenge will be to sustain that
growth, which will require big investments in infrastructure, especially in
airports and hotels.
The new administration, Guevara said, needs to clamp down on
the security issues the country faces. At the same time, she said, the industry
must communicate that the country is as safe as other destinations.
Esponda pointed to Los Cabos as a model the new government
can follow to enhance security measures in other parts of the country: a
public-private collaboration to enhance surveillance systems and increase
As for some of the anxiety about electing a socialist,
Rabinor said he was not concerned: "I think a lot of the fears are ...
kind of unfounded, sensationalized fears about his being a chavista [a follower
of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez] or being a real left-wing
socialist. But in truth and in fact, what he has done historically has been to
make alliances with the private sector. And as you can see, post-election, the
markets have responded favorably."