Mexico City — Mexico is seeking record foreign exchange earnings from tourism by the end of 2023, in the midst of headwinds buffeting the industry due to various factors.
Tourism Minister Miguel Torruco and Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum on Sunday inaugurated the country’s annual tourism fair, the Tianguis Turístico, which this year is being held in Mexico City, accompanied by a dozen state governors of the ruling Morena party.
However, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was not in attendance, the second year in a row that he hs not attended the event’s opening ceremony, and who posted on his Twitter account that he had a meeting in Mérida, Yucatán, with public and private builders to evaluate the progress of the Tren Maya, his flagship infrastructure project, and after which he confirmed that the train network’s inauguration date of December 2023 remains in place.
Torruco, who has more than two decades of experience in the tourism industry, told buyers and sellers of domestic and foreign services present at the event on Sunday that this year the country will reap $31.16 billion in foreign exchange from tourism, a 26.8% increase over 2019 levels, the year before the pandemic.
“The tourism potential of a nation is not measured by the number of tourists received, but by the foreign currency captured,” he said.
The goal set by the government is to reposition Mexico in the world ranking of major foreign currency receivers.
In 2022, 38.3 million international tourists entered the country, which represented a recovery of 85% compared to 2019 levels, with the figure 14.9% below the levels of that year, according to the country’s statistics bureau INEGI.
From January to December 2022, 21.3 million inbound tourists arrived by air, up 8.6% on the number that entered the country by air in the same period of 2019, when 19.6 million tourists landed in the country.
Consequently, foreign exchange income from international tourists between January-December 2022 was $26.34 billion, an increase of 17.9% compared to the same period of 2019, when $22.35 billion were captured.
“Tourism activity in 2023 and until September 30, 2024, when the current administration concludes, will be enriched with new, varied and attractive products that will bring exponential growth to the sector: the Maya Train and the railroad interconnection of the Interoceanic Corridor.”Miguel Torruco, Mexico's tourism minister
The flagship projects of the president’s six-year term seek to extend foreign tourists’ stay in Mexico, Torruco said.
However, tourism in Mexico is facing some headwinds this year.
The bankruptcy of short-gaul carrier Aeromar is the latest piece of bad news in the tourism sector, which implies fewer regional cities with an air connection, and in addition Mexico still has not recovered Category 1, although in recent months there have been increased meetings between US and Mexican authorities with a view to recovering the category in April.
President López Obrador has said the government would buy the Mexicana de Aviación brand for the country’s airline, but there is no progress on this project, and the airline’s former workers remain uncertain about their future.
The Felipe Angeles International Airport (AIFA), Mexico City’s second airport that opened last year, is still not profitable and, after one year of operations, the airport has not significantly increased its flight frequency, and some of the access roads are still under construction.
But the reform to cabotage rules in Mexico proposed by the government is the main concern of Mexican airlines and other sectors. The possible authorization of cabotage, which would allow foreign airlines to operate domestic flights, would put the country’s connectivity at risk, warned the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA).
Juan Carlos Machorro, an expert in aeronautical and airport law of law firm Santamarina y Steta, told Bloomberg Línea that the bill aimed at opening Mexican skies to cabotage operations to foreign airlines implies a threat of disastrous results in terms of air sovereignty and viability of the sector.
He said that the cabotage issue in the package of proposed reforms to the country’s civil aviation law would seem to be intended to give greater operability to the AIFA, although there is also mention of boosting tourism and expanding competition with the purpose of reducing the prices of air tickets.
“In any case, none of the objectives will be met by opening our skies to cabotage,” he said.
The Mexican Pilots’ Association (ASPA) stresses that cabotage is prohibited in practically the entire world and despite this, the Mexican government seeks to authorize this practice with the erroneous idea that foreign companies will encourage competition.
“Cabotage opens the door for foreign airlines to harm Mexican aviation, because they will take profitable routes, not those that the government offers them and, with fewer Mexican routes, fewer jobs for Mexicans,” the pilots warn.
Asked about his opinion on the cabotage reform at the tourism fair on Sunday, Torruco said: “I have no opinion on that, it is not the subject of this Tianguis”.