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By: Carlos Dragonné @carlosdragonne
Knowing that we will probably be reiterative of this, tourism in our country is suffering one of the worst crisis in its history. And there is a feeling in all of us that are part of the industry that there does not seem to be an institutional plan that serves to reactivate the sector that helps counteract what happens in Mexico day after day and that helps restructure the fundamentals of tourism. It is almost incomprehensible that, being the third most important capital inflow, the Federation rather than looking for sustainable, quantifiable and proved successful ways, in other parts of the world, tourism seems the number one hindrance of what should be a National Plan of Development. And it seems that this is still not everything in terms of the impact of the sector. Let me explain.
Today, Mexico as a brand is, in simple words, plagued. Several states are fighting not to use the brand knowing the immediate impact that their tourism plans would suffer. Like almost everything that happens in Mexico, we are being victims of the immediate mentality in which we seek to solve day by day problems and not investigating its causes and consequences in the medium and long term. Putting the Mexico brand aside, for starters, is a harmless idea that denotes the profound lack of strategy that affects the entire sector. We cannot, in any way, play blindness to what happens in our country in terms of violence and insecurity. And we cannot help but understand the editorial strategy of the national and international media when they present statistics in which we talk about more than 34,000 deaths in 4 years and studies in which 12 Mexican cities are placed among the most dangerous cities in the world. However, we cannot leave aside the fact that, except for Acapulco, these cities have never been key tourist spots for the development of the sector. Of course, nowadays it is dangerous to travel to Ciudad Juarez and that is a matter of insecurity that the Federal Government must resolve in conjunction with the local authorities, but the efforts of the tourism sector should focus on a strategy to reactivate the industry at the nerve centers who have been feeding it for years and which, since the appearance of the AH1N1 influenza, have suffered havoc every day.
The Ministry of Tourism seems subordinated to what the editorial boards of the entire world decide. In a year in which the Bicentennial of the Independence and the Centennial of the Revolution were celebrated, the projects seemed to focus on the spectacularity of the moment and not on a medium and long-term strategy. The effort we put in Flavors of Mexico has led us to travel, in recent months, roads in Puebla, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, State of Mexico, Michoacán, Morelos, Jalisco, Tlaxcala and Queretaro, among many other destinations. We have been to Merida, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and, of course, Mexico City. It is dangerous for the industry to discover that there is no real feeling of responsibility to promote these destinations that have a range of options for tourism in all its branches. The recent nomination of Mexican gastronomy as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity would have to be exploited to the maximum to carry out plans and projects that celebrate this recognition as the base of a recovery and public relations system, not for domestic tourism, but for foreign tourism. Although Gloria Guevara’s intention to work for tourism has been clear, we cannot remain with all good intentions at a point in history in which the economic benefits of oil are on the way to extinction, as was clear in the past COP -16 that took place in Cancun; while remittances continue to decline in a global economy struggling to devalue their currencies to correct the global interest rates of the leading countries of the economy.
Tourism requires a boost of projects and ideas to generate quantifiable results. It is, of course, like any business, a risk, but it is necessary to assume that risk when projecting the chances of success of such a company. And these risks can be calculated and focused on sustainable projects that allow us to overcome the political and social difficulties that the country faces in order to carry out joint work with all the institutions. At the last International Congress of Social Tourism in Rimini, Italy, the growth of this sector of global tourists was evident. Mexico is not doing anything to take advantage of these routes of opportunity. It is time to get out of the pre-established creation of the Routes of Mexico and start thinking about the tourist and its needs before the projects and their creators. In Michoacán, Puebla, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Riviera Maya, Guanajuato, Chihuahua, Nayarit, Jalisco and even Mexico City, social tourism routes can be created to raise the importance of the ancestral traditions still in force and that allow, through the recreational activity, the re-establishment of the local and sustainable economies.
On its own, Mexican cuisine should not be another element of the range, but a fundamental axis of its development. Let´s take Peru and its gastronomy as an example, championed by Gastón Acurio who has allowed, in just a few years, the economy of Peru to be seen as positive and clearly affected by what happened with its regional ingredients. Gastón himself, in the 2009 edition of Madrid Fusión -the most important gastronomic event in the world- presented a long table with hundreds of regional ingredients from Latin America, among which was a striking amount of Mexican ingredients. Gastón took a potato and a tomato and raised them in front of a European audience to give a statement that shocked all the attendees: “You went to our continent and brought only this, the potato and the tomato. Imagine everything that comes if you left everything else behind”. The most important question we should ask ourselves is: Have you imagined it? Mexican gastronomy allows us to exploit it in an integral way to reactivate not only the tourism industry, but the rural economy, raw material exports, cultural exchange and the diffusion of a Mexico that serves to counteract the current image of the country, not only outside of it, but within our own territory.
It is important to understand that tourism is not an isolated company. It requires an inter-institutional effort involving the Secretariats of Economy, Social Development, Foreign Affairs and Education, as well as the National Institute of Anthropology and History, the National Council of Culture and the Arts and the State and Municipal Governments in a joint effort to create projects of exploitation, diffusion, support and tourist infrastructure. It is important to understand that many of these projects do not require a brutal investment in economic resources, but rather a real commitment from the institutions to establish international agreements, internal alliances and market attraction strategies. And, better yet, many of these projects do not need to find an impossible black thread, but need to analyze and adapt to the ideas that other countries have adopted to develop their respective tourism promotion tips. Mexico and its destinations should not be stuck with the simple idea that only with television commercials – of great manufacture, but innocuous and insufficient – it will be possible to boost the activity both in Mexico and abroad. Mexico deserves more and it is time for all the involved to do what we have to do. Because, if we do not do it, in a few years we will be asking ourselves what we did wrong and, above all, what we did not do.