Despite the ongoing reports of drug-related violence along Mexico’s northern border,tourism to Mexico is on the rise and poised to hit record numbers in 2012.
Although the country suffered a brief decline in tourism during 2009,by 2011 visitors arriving by air had risen to 22 million – a number that is projected to grow again this year. The boom is due at least in part to curiosity surrounding the 2012 ‘end of the world’ buzz,which is fueled by superstitions surrounding the coming end of an ancient Mayan calendar,which will occur in December of this year. The conclusion of this calendar cycle has captured the interest of travelers from around the world,and of Hollywood,causing end of time theories to abound and increasing tourism to Mexico’s Riviera Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula,where a number of ancient archaeological sites can be toured.
“We envisage that 2012 will be a record-breaking year for Mexico in terms of tourism numbers,” stated Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete,who is the Chief Operating Office for Mexico’s Tourism Board. “Mexico’s tourism industry is undergoing a stunning transformation – based on a bold strategy of diversification – focused on promoting a broader range of tourism products,such as cultural tourism,adventure travel and health-related tourism,which is aimed at attracting a new breed of global consumer.”
The U.S. State Department agrees and has publicly commented on the safety associated with traveling in most areas of Mexico.
“Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study,tourism,and business,including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day,” states the department’s most recent advisory. “The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations,and there is no evidence that Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) have targeted U.S. visitors and residents based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border regions and in areas along major trafficking routes.”
For the past several years,Mexico has worked diligently to ensure that all visitors enjoy a fabulous time while staying in Mexico. For example,consider the southern state of Oaxaca,which is currently experiencing a tourism boom that even brought President Obama’s daughter here for spring break. The area has been featured often in the New York Times Sunday Magazine,The New Yorker,and several other popular travel publications,which have focused on the area’s excellent cuisine,which features a variety of local and artisanal ingredients,and its mescal – a favorite liquor that is distilled from the region’s cactus,known as maguey.
The U.S. media is even starting to take notice of the safety associated with tourism in Mexico,and has begun to report more balanced coverage of the situation. For example,the New York Times recently called Oaxaca “safe” in its popular 36 Hours series on travel,which generated quite a buzz on social media sites as Americans became curious to know more about this charming colonial city.
But the largest growth in tourism numbers in Mexico can be found – not surprisingly – in the Yucatan Peninsula,which lies in the country’s southeastern region and is the ancient ancestral home of the indigenous Maya. A few months ago the New York Times published 36 Hours in Merida,which is the capital city of the Yucatan state,causing travel agents everywhere to sit up and take notice. Since then interest in Merida has grown so rapidly that there is a new series of books for Americans who are interested in moving here,titled The Essential Guide to Living in Merida,which continues to sell out on Amazon.com.
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is also becoming known worldwide as a destination for chocolate connoisseurs after the Eco-Museo del Cacao opened in July of 2011 thanks to a multi-million dollar investment by Belgian investors. This ecological park tells the colorful – and tasty – history of chocolate,which evolved from the cacao tree and was first discovered by Mexico’s indigenous population. In the September 2011 edition of the American Express magazine Departures,a story about Merida’s artisanal chocolates – known as Ki Xocolatl – also garnered international attention,and they are now being sold online at Amazon.com.
The increase in tourism to the Yucatan peninsula has also helped to increase the value of Mexico real estate,and has diversified the entire region’s international image. No longer is tourism to Mexico only associated with loud late-night parties in Cancun. Instead,the entire region has begun to cater to a cool new crowd,especially in up-and-coming areas like Tulum,which lies just 80 miles south of Cancun and 40 miles south of Playa del Carmen on the Mexican Caribbean.
“Welcome to Tulum,a destination so popular with the fashion crowd this time of year that it almost feels like Fashion Week,” stated Bob Morris in a New York Times article in February of 2012. “While Teva-wearing backpackers look for sea turtles and New Age naïfs look for nirvana,the fashion-obsessed don’t have to look at all to find one another. They are everywhere,artfully dressed down in high peasant style.”
Tourism growth in the region has been so strong that a new international airport is being planned,which will increase the value of Tulum real estate and help free up flights into Cancun’s international airport. It is expected to bring upwards of 3 million new visitors into the region,which includes Cozumel,Playa del Carmen,Tulum and a number of eco-parks,each year. The infrastructure for the new airport already exists,and the government continues to invest millions in the region to improve it even more.
The recent growth in tourism numbers into Mexico is not just for travelers from the U.S. In fact,in addition to a 10.6 percent increase in the number of U.S. travelers,Mexico’s Tourism Secretary recently revealed that 2011 saw a 6 percent increase in visitors from Spain,a 10.5 percent increase from Italy,a 12.4 percent increase from France,and a 9.1 percent increase from Canada. But perhaps most impressive,there has been a 30 percent increase in tourists from China,a 55 percent increase from Russia,and a 66 percent increase from Brazil.
These numbers demonstrate what no report ever could – that travel to Mexico is not only popular but safe for those seeking a relaxing getaway from the stresses associated with everyday life.