Mexico has announced the shuttering of its national tourism board – at perhaps the most disadvantageous time -- at least where international sports travel is concerned.
Tourism industry leaders have been warning authorities that a reduction in promotional spending will lead to an eventual decline in tourist numbers, and it is quite possible they are correct. 2018 was the most violent year in the country to date, and a shortage of police (who are poorly paid to begin with) has led to uncontrolled gang violence, political killings and a weak government.
It’s a depressing development for Mexico, which has, in the past, hosted multiple large-scale sports events and which has been struggling to bring in sports events in the face of adverse publicity.
There have been some promising developments over the years. In 2014, the World Water Polo FINA Conference was held in Cancun, the spot being heralded as an excellent prospect to benefit from sports tourism. Mexico News Network noted that Cancun has also hosted various international competitions on the international level, including tennis, golf, beach volley ball, soccer and more. This then urged the government of the state to increase the budget for sports venues for events not currently being hosted, including field hockey. Additionally, with the United Bid of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. emerging triumphant to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, play will be hosted in Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara.
Pablo Azcárraga, head of the National Tourism Business Council, told the press in December that the private sector does not have the ear of the government. It did not hear the council’s concerns over cancellation of the new Mexico City airport and now it has ignored proposals regarding tourism marketing, he said. He is now asking Tourism Secretary Torruco to advise businesses what measures will be taken to prevent a collapse of visitor numbers.
The funds diverted following the closure of the CPTM will be used to pay for the Maya Train, a railway that would make it easier for tourists to navigate the Yucatán Peninsula, with stops in Tulum, Cancún, and Chichen Itza.
According to an article in Travel + Leisure, construction on the project is expected to start this year, with completion within four years. Once operational, the train will start in Cancun, will connect 12 stations along more than 930 miles of track. The total cost is likely to be between $6 billion and $8 billion — more than double previous cost estimates.
Unfortunately, this might benefit individual leisure tourists but is expected to do nothing for sports tourism.
A new promotional organization, YesToMexico, is intended to help allay tourists’ fears regarding personal safety. Travel Agent Central noted the group is a U.S.- based nonprofit with a five-member board who all have strong experience in the travel industry and, specifically, travel to Mexico. (According to Travel Agent Central, For travel advisors, YesToMexico is hosting a repository of information on its website, including a number of articles appearing in mainstream media about safe tourism in the country.