Mexico fell to seventh place on the World Tourism Organization’s (WTO) ranking of most-visited countries in 2018 after being overtaken by Turkey for the first time.
According to the WTO, 41.4 million international travelers visited Mexico last year, a 5.5% increase over 2017. But international travel to Turkey grew 21.7%, and the west Asian country was able to overtake Mexico with 45.8 million international visits in 2018.
Jorge Hernández, president of the Mexican Association of Travel Agencies (AMAV), told Milenio that Mexico’s drop in the ranking is related to insecurity in many tourism destinations, as well as the large amounts of sargassum that are washing up on beaches around Cancún and the Riviera Maya, one of Mexico’s main travel destinations.
Hernández said that violence has been concentrated in certain places, including Cancún and the Riviera Maya, Guerrero, Tamaulipas and Sinaloa, but it affects the perception of the entire country.
He gave the example of Acapulco, which because of violence has lost its position as an international tourism destination, and now receives only Mexican visitors for the most part.
Countries that remain below Mexico on the ranking are Germany and Thailand, with 38.9 million and 38.3 million, respectively. Exact numbers have not been finalized, but the top three countries are expected to remain the same: France, Spain and the United States.
Hernández said another important reason behind Mexico’s drop in the ranking is that Turkey has become a “fashionable destination” for foreign tourists.
Visiting Turkey is becoming more popular because it has many attractive products and is close to many other destinations. Hernández said that even many Mexicans are starting to visit Turkey, often as part of multi-country trips that include other destinations like the Greek islands.
For the tourist industry, the outlook is not good. The National Tourism Business Council (CNET) says hotel occupancy was down 7% in the first three months, and rates were cut 15% in efforts to lure more business.
CNET president Pablo Azcárraga told Excélsior the disappointing numbers are a result of the decision by the federal government to disband the Tourism Promotion Council (CPTM).
“The problems are due to a mistaken tourism policy that we have in this country,” he said.