In 2018, tourism contributed 8.7% of GDP, higher than the contribution from the construction, financial services and mining sectors. In 2018, tourism directly employed more than 2.3 million people (6.0% of total employment) its highest level since 2006. In 2018 tourism export earnings of MXN 215.5 billion were recorded. Travel exports represented 78.3% of total service exports in 2018. Most tourism consumption was inbound (82.5%) rather than outbound leading to a balance of payments surplus. In 2018, inbound tourism consumption grew by 2.8% compared with the previous year, a higher growth rate than the general economy.

In 2018, there were 41.3 million international visits, a 5.1% increase on 2017. During 2018, international tourism receipts amounted to MXN 433.0 billion and the largest source market was the United States, accounting for 10.5 million tourists. However, since 2016 overnight visitors from the United States have decreased by 56.7%. Other key markets are Canada (2.2 million) and United Kingdom (590 900), both of which experienced steady growth. In 2018, there were record levels of domestic tourism amounting to some 100.4 million nights, an increase of 5.1% on 2017.

The Ministry of Tourism is the lead government body with responsibility for tourism policy, planning, development, quality and regulation. The development of tourism policy is subject to the Guiding Principles set out in the National Development Plan 2019-24, which seek policy measures to strengthen communities and ensure the welfare of all Mexicans. The development plan includes the establishment of a Tourism Diplomacy Council. Composed of representatives of the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, private sector, academic and social sectors, its primary function is the promotion of Mexico’s image abroad to strengthen both tourism flows and foreign direct investment. The tourism budget is linked to the National Development Plan. In 2019, the budget amounted to MXN 8.7 billion. This figure consisted of around MXN 885 million for the Ministry of Tourism, MXN 6.5 billion for FONATUR, the tourism investment and development agency, and MXN 577 million for the Mexico Tourist Board.

The Government’s overall priority is to consolidate Mexico as a globally important tourism destination, where the sustainable use of cultural and natural heritage enables equitable development amongst individuals, communities and regions. The 2019-24 tourism model will involve a new social approach, inclusive and diverse, that will promote constitutional rights to rest and recreation.

The Tourism Sector Programme 2019-24 addresses four objectives:

  • Use tourism to promote a social approach and respect for human rights.

  • Promote the balanced development of tourist destinations, by developing new tourism development projects, formation of tourist attraction clusters, alongside the devolution of functions and powers to regions from the Ministry of Tourism.

  • Strengthen the diversification of tourism markets nationally and internationally, by innovating its promotion and marketing mechanisms through the Visitmexico digital platform. In addition public policies between different agencies will be strengthened; for example joint efforts with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs relating to improving the image of Mexico abroad.

  • Promote sustainable tourism, to move to consolidate as a green destination.

Priority programmes include:

  • Enjoy Mexico. The programme will aim to strengthen the national market and guarantee the right of all Mexicans to appreciate and enjoy their heritage. It will establish agreements with tour operators and national strategic partners to offer low-cost tour packages. Tourism flows will be reoriented to emerging and developing destinations while also improving seasonality in low and shoulder seasons.

  • Smiles for Mexico. This programme will ensure that tourism is accessible for all, with attention to the most vulnerable segments of the population.

  • Mayan train. A high impact project and the largest investment in the sector in recent years (see box).

  • Comprehensive Tourism Development Project of Huasteca Potosina. Within the framework of the presidential announcement for the construction of the new Huasteca Potosina airport, the Comprehensive Tourism Development Project will be a model of nature tourism that will become a national and international benchmark.

  • Anchor Tourist Products. In order to strengthen the regional approach, “anchor” products will be developed to improve and revitalise the current offer and promote the integration of specialised tourist routes, in co-ordination with state, municipal governments and the private sector.

  • Operation Touch Doors. This Programme is focused on diversifying markets and positioning Mexico as a reference destination for international markets, especially in niches with high purchasing power such as the United States, United Kingdom and France.

  • Reunion with my roots. A Programme to attract the Mexican diaspora in North America, to increase the number of trips and the spending of the Mexican - American population.

  • Sustainable Mexico Reborn. The objective of this programme is to position Mexico as an international benchmark of good practice, through the creation of a new generation of sustainable tourist routes.

The Tianguis Turístico travel market has become an important business forum, where entrepreneurs, hoteliers, travel trade, meeting planners and specialised media from all over world meet Mexican companies, generating important annual and multi-year commercial relationships. The 44th Tianguis Turístico de México in 2019 hosted 851 tourism companies and 1 344 buyers.

At the local level, policy is focused on efforts to promote regional development. The Pueblos Mágicos committees promote tourist activities and projects in the most attractive municipalities of the country. The 2019 Tianguis de Pueblos Mágicos, a travel market and business forum, attracted 151 000 visitors. To contribute to the development of the accessible tourism, the Ministry has developed guidelines for building design drawing on best practice and aimed at entrepreneurs in the sector. The sustainable development of tourism destinations is an increasingly important priority for the Ministry as the following examples show:

  • Policy Perspectives to 2040 – In 2017, the Ministry, together with the Tourism Commission of the National Conference of Governors, carried out an extensive public consultation exercise with three national forums held on current challenges. Key themes, based on sustainable and competitive tourism, were identified and aided the development of public policy.

  • Planning Policy – The Ministry has worked closely with local authorities in the design of urban planning instruments and guidelines that will encourage sustainability. This work has focussed on projects that benefit the inhabitants of tourist destinations. The plans integrate national territorial planning and regional development policies.

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