NPR Story
1:46 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

Mexico May Drop As Top 10 Tourist Spot, But International Perception Continues To Grow

Mexico continues to be the most popular tourist destination for the Americans traveling abroad. But the two largest points of entry for tourists — border crossings and ports for cruise ships — have seen dwindling numbers in the past few years. The Associated Press reports,

The number of cruise ship passengers stopping in Mexico dropped 3 percent in 2012 and more than 15 percent over the past two years. The number of border visitors dropped 5.3 percent in 2012, according to Tourism Department figures.

As a result, Mexico faces the threat of falling off the list of Top 10 tourist destinations, measured by the World Tourism Industry.

Tourism is a major industry is for Mexico. Yet, the country of Mayan ruins and rich culture can’t shake a public relations nightmare of graphic cartel violence or the recent gang rape of Spanish tourists.

When President Enrique Peña Nieto took office he vowed to shift the public perception of his country from slain bodies and to the potential for business. Even with the recent assassination of a tourism official in Jalisco, he has more or less been fulfilling his promise.

The gory news hasn’t scared off international investors, or journalists, who in a barrage of articles claimed it would be, among other things, the dominant economic power in the 21st century.

The dropping numbers of international visitors have yet to shake Mexico’s surging economy either.

And although fewer people are visiting the country, there has been an increase in overall revenue from tourism— meaning wealthier individuals are flying into the country and spending more money there.

The Tourism Secretary, like the administration, isn’t focusing on the past. As she told the AP, it’s looking beyond Americans who might not be crossing the border.

"What this administration and the Tourism Department are doing is looking to the future. ... We want to be more competitive globally. We want to diversify our tourism industry," Ruiz Massieu said, referring to efforts to diversify beyond what has long been the country's staple: American tourists visiting beach resorts.

And those American spring breakers sloshing tequila shots at Señor Frogs? Without releasing numbers, Massieu said this spring break season has been very kind to the country.

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