The number of international tourists visiting Mexico annually could reach 50 million by 2021, the federal tourism secretary said yesterday.
At a press conference to announce that a record 39.3 million foreign visitors came to Mexico last year, Enrique de la Madrid said that figure could continue to grow by a further four million each year.
If the 50 million number is achieved, it would likely make Mexico the world’s fifth most popular tourism destination.
Mexico overtook Turkey last year to become the world’s eighth most visited country. In 2012, it ranked 15th.
Visitor numbers in 2017 increased by 4.2 million or 12% compared to the number of foreign arrivals in 2016, and international travelers spent just over US $21.3 billion while they were in the country, de la Madrid said.
Figures for both arrivals and expenditures broke previous records for the fifth consecutive year.
The latter represented growth of 8.6% compared to 2016, when visitors spent US $19.65 billion.
Almost half, or 18.5 million, of all international tourists arrived at the nation’s airports. That figure was up 9.9% on 2016 numbers.
De la Madrid said that more flights were arriving in Mexico, not only from the United States but also from other countries including Canada, Argentina, Colombia and the United Kingdom.
Visitors crossing into Mexico by land increased by 17% to almost match the number of visitors arriving by air.
Almost 17 million arrived via border crossings that Mexico shares with the United States, Guatemala and Belize. The remainder arrived by sea at the nation’s ports, with cruise ship visitor numbers up by 18.3% compared with 2016.
“We have many vocations but tourism is definitely the most natural vocation for Mexico,” de la Madrid said, adding that tourism was growing at a faster rate than other tourism-oriented countries.
Between 2012 and 2017, the number of international tourists grew on average by 10.9% compared to an average of 5% in the rest of the world, he said.
Mexico City’s Day of the Dead parade and the Mexican Grand Prix were cited as specific examples of events that had helped to boost tourist numbers. The latter left an economic spillover of almost 15 billion pesos (US $808 million) last year.
The spokesperson for the federal government said that tourism success was driven by unprecedented support for the sector from the current federal administration.
“The tourism sector is one of the pillars of the president’s economic project. Today, more than 10 million Mexicans live directly or indirectly from tourism, an industry that has grown more than our economy as a whole . . .” Eduardo Sánchez said.