Presentation of the OECD Review of Tourism Policy in Mexico


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

13 January 2017

Mexico City, Mexico

(as prepared for delivery)



President Peña Nieto, Secretary de la Madrid, Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is a great pleasure to be here to present the OECD Review of Tourism Policy in Mexico. I would like to thank Secretary de la Madrid for his interest in and commitment to performing this review, and in particular to making the best use of its recommendations. Last November, Secretary de la Madrid visited OECD headquarters for talks with our experts to explore possible follow-up mechanisms and support for implementation. The Secretariat has drawn up guidelines, and we are ready to press ahead.


Tourism is a key driver for Mexico


Tourism plays an essential role in Mexico’s economy. In 2015, over 32 million international tourists visited the country, spending over USD 15 billion. In recent years, the increase in financial flows and people towards this sector has been greater than for many other advanced or emerging economies.


And this is unquestionably reflected in the data. The tourism sector currently accounts for 8.5% of Mexican GDP, more than twice the OECD average (4.1%), and has generated around 2.3 million jobs (close to 5.8% of formal employment). Additionally, international tourism accounts for 77.2% of exports of services, far outstripping the OECD average of 21.3%. The healthy surplus in Mexico’s balance of tourism has helped to offset the declining oil revenues of recent years.


The buoyancy of the sector is also aided by the significant contribution from domestic tourism. Domestic tourism flows contribute 88 out of every 100 Mexican pesos spent by tourists in Mexico, and help to spread the benefits of tourism to regions that generally do not attract foreign travellers.


The Government of Mexico is attaching increasing importance to tourism and has drawn up a Sectoral Tourism Programme (PROSECTUR) that sets out clear objectives and closely defined measures to achieve them.


These are just a few of the sector’s many strengths, but they should not be grounds for complacency. Mexico’s tourism sector faces significant challenges and has enormous development potential.


Challenges for the Mexican tourism model


Over the past decade, the rate of growth for tourism in Mexico has fallen short of the overall growth in the economy. The fact is that tourism and travel have encountered various difficulties including economic problems in countries that are significant sources of visitors to Mexico, natural disasters linked to climate change, public health warnings and insecurity in several regions of the country.


In addition to these short-term factors, the sector is facing a number of structural challenges. For example, Mexico’s success in tourism was based on the development of large resorts in major coastal destinations such as Cancún or Los Cabos. In fact, half of all hotel beds in Mexico are in resorts in just eight cities, focusing the effects of tourism on a handful of geographical locations. However, this model is becoming vulnerable to changing demand patterns and environmental concerns.


The Mexican tourism model must change in order both to be able to compete in a changing tourism market and to support more inclusive, sustainable growth. Because of this, Government agencies will have to develop better links with a more diverse, segmented group of small enterprises and micro-businesses, as well as policies to support smaller-scale projects.


Tourism governance arrangements are another significant challenge. Mexico has an impressive variety of tourism plans and programmes. It is essential to ensure that they are properly co-ordinated and delivered well. Achieving this will require a stronger, more efficient governance framework based on a strategic approach that focuses more keenly on delivery while involving various federal government entities, several tiers of government and the private sector.


Our review also highlights the need to improve the transport network. For instance, there must be improvements in air connectivity (especially to emerging Asian markets), greater competition to reduce the prices of domestic flights, better intermodal connectivity and more accessible, safer land transport. The review also points out to several security issues, particularly in transport, that it is necessary to face in order to increase the flux of tourists.


The review also notes other significant challenges such as the constraints faced by micro-businesses and small enterprises (which account for 99.8% of all tourism-related enterprises) when trying to access credit; the need to narrow the focus of funding onto viable projects; and the lack of strategies to develop and promote new forms of tourism that go beyond “sea and sand”.


Main recommendations of the review


The review recommends a number of public policy measures to address these and other challenges. For example:

  • To strengthen governance: the review recommends further harmonising strategic policy priorities to support tourism; boosting the effectiveness of the Tourism Cabinet to act as a tool to develop cross-ministerial tourism policies; and strengthening evidence-based analysis to support policy formulation.
  • To strengthen connectivity and promote diversification of the tourism market, it will be important to: increase harmonisation of transport and tourism policies from point of origin to point of destination; invest in an integrated national transport system with a competitive infrastructure serving new destinations; press on with work to liberalise air service agreements.
  • To promote more inclusive growth through tourism, encourage diversification of tourism-related supply and develop new destinations, Mexico should: promote initiatives to re-imagine the concept of a tourism destination and draw up a more extensive portfolio of higher-value tourism products including cultural, sporting and green tourism; and ensure that policy formulation and tourism planning incorporate an analysis that draws more heavily on demand for tourism-related products.
  • To improve support for micro-businesses and SMEs, it is important to: focus innovation-oriented investment and funding on the supply of tourism-related products and services; develop support and incentives to help informal SMEs to formalise and modernise their activities (such as the Connect to Tourism programme or the Come and Eat loan programme for SMEs); and capitalise on the experience of the National Tourism Promotion Fund (FONATUR) as the key player in the funding and formulation of a new tourism development model.


These are only a few of our recommendations. I would ask you to read the review with care. The calibre of the analysis and the number of best practices and recommendations it contains are impressive.


Ladies and Gentlemen, Mexico is a country with an unlimited cultural and natural heritage, and tourism is an excellent means of experiencing, enjoying and conserving it. Let us make these gems available to the world and to all Mexicans. You can count on the OECD to make the beauty of our country a driver for inclusive, sustainable growth.


Thank you very much.


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