By Pedro Pablo Cortes
Mexico City, Nov 16 (EFE).- The tourist sector in Mexico, one of the 10 most-visited countries in the world, on Tuesday launched a new phase of activity with the in-person return of the Tianguis Turistico, the industry’s main event, in the southeastern city of Merida.
“This inaugurates a new phase in the public life of our country, coming out of the tunnel of darkness that we were in because of the pandemic, a very difficult time, with much suffering,” said Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at the inauguration of the fair.
The Tianguis Turistico in Merida is one of the most important events in the Mexican and Latin American tourist sector, attracting 1,539 buyers from 970 companies and 42 countries, Miguel Torruco, the head of the national Tourism Secretariat (Sectur), said.
The convention, postponed several times due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is being held as Mexico experiences one of its lowest points so far in the health crisis, which has infected some 3.85 million Mexicans and killed more than 291,000 of them, the world’s fourth highest national death toll.
“What encourages us even more is the growth that is already starting to be seen and which is going to be unstoppable for tourism in our country. We have pinned our hopes on the continuation of the tourist flow to Mexico because we have unique, extraordinary potential,” Lopez Obrador said.
Sectur estimates that 31 million international tourists will come to Mexico in 2021, spending some $18.1 billion, according to Torruco.
The figures mean an increase of 27.57 percent in tourists and 64.5 percent in spending over 2020, when 24.3 million travelers spent $11 billion in the country, according to the National Tourist Business Council (CNET0 and the Anahuac Tourist Research and Competitiveness Center (Cicotur).
In addition, with few remaining restrictions due to the pandemic, the country has jumped from seventh to third place in terms of international tourist arrivals and from No. 17 to No. 14 in tourist spending, said Torruco, basing his remarks on figures from the World Tourism Organization.
“All these are encouraging figures and provide evidence of tourist activity in the process of recovering and which are also the result of the Mexican government’s policy of non-indebtedness and opting for solidarity instead of supporting group interests, Torruco said.
Even so, the expected figures for 2021 would still be 31.11 percent below those for 2019 in terms of tourist arrivals and 26.42 percent lower in terms of tourist spending, with 45 million foreigners visiting Mexico in that year and spending $24.6 billion.
Mexico’s tourist GDP before the health crisis represented 8.7 percent of the national GDP in 2019, but will close out 2021 at 7.1 percent, and in 2022 at about 8.3 percent, Torruco said.
While the world registered an average drop of 73 percent in terms of international tourist arrivals in 2020, largely due to the restrictions other nations imposed on foreign travel, Mexico saw “only” a 46 percent decline, he went on to say.
“It’s short-term, since competition among the Big Seven in international tourism continues to rebound,” he said.
Torruso also emphasized that Mexico has made “the greatest investments in tourism in the last 60 years.”
In the first half of 2021, some $711 million in foreign direct investment in tourism flowed into Mexico and four million people were employed in the sector.
“Our main commitment for the coming three years is to increase both the inflow of foreign currency and the per capita spending, and of course to improve the quality of life for the local population,” he said.
Lopez Obrador, meanwhile, said that the recovery in tourism reflects the growth of the economy in general.
The president boasted about the record number of 20.85 million formal jobs registered by the Mexican Social Security Institute, exceeding the roughly 20.6 million that had existed prior to the pandemic.
He also noted the strength of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement among the three nations.