Mexico Seeks to Triple Foreign Tourism Revenue, Official Says

Mexico aims to triple its foreign tourism revenue in eight years by attracting more visitors to cultural sites where spending is higher, said Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, chief operating officer of the Tourism Board.

The board is targeting an increase in expenditure by non-Mexican tourists to $40 billion by 2018 from $11.9 billion last year, and to increase the number of visitors to 50 million from 22.4 million in 2010, he said.

“We recognize and accept that it’s a very ambitious goal, but we believe we can do it,” Lopez Negrete said in an interview at Bloomberg’s offices in Mexico City.

Tourism revenue fell 15 percent to $11.3 billion in 2009 from the previous year because of the U.S. recession and a swine-flu scare. A rebound has been slowed by competition from U.S. destinations that have cut prices and by “negative news” on drug-related violence, Lopez Negrete said.

The number of tourists should rise 15 percent this year from 2010, Lopez Negrete said. He declined to forecast revenue this year.

General travel advisories on Mexico, especially from the state of Texas, hurt U.S. tourism for Spring Break, he said. Deaths related to organized crime reached 15,273 last year, a 59 percent increase compared with 2009, and total more than 34,000 since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006, according to data compiled by the president’s office.

Completely Safe

The violence is confined to about 80 of the country’s 2,500 municipalities, many of them along the U.S.-Mexico border, Lopez Negrete said. Most major tourism attractions, such as the beach resorts of Cancun and Los Cabos, remain completely safe, and there were no incidents of violence involving international tourists during the Spring Break season this year, Lopez Negrete said.

To reach the 2018 revenue goal, tourism officials are trying to attract more visitors from regions outside North America, he said. Tourists who visit cultural destinations, such as the anthropology museum in Mexico City or the Mayan ruins at Palenque, also tend to stay longer and spend more, he said.

Mexico seeks to increase cultural tourism to about 35 percent of revenue in eight years from about 17 percent now, he said.

“While our sun and beach destinations continue to be the backbone of the tourism sector, we believe we have a tremendous opportunity to promote what we call the cultural destinations,” Lopez Negrete said.

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