By: Carlos Dragonné
Knowing that we will be repetitive on the matter, our country’s tourism is suffering one of the biggest crisis in history. And there is a feeling in everyone of us in this industry that it doesn’t seem to be a working institutional plan that helps the sector to activate again and help counteract what happens everyday in Mexico and restructure the tourism web. It’s almost incomprehensible that, being the third revenue in national gross, the Federation is not developing sustainable, measurable and tested strategies proved right around the world, but making look like the tourism is the number one obstacle in what a Nacional Growth Plan. And it looks like we haven’t seen the worst yet. Let me explain.
Today, the brand “Mexico” is, in plain words, synonym of trouble. Several states are fighting their right for not using this brand, knowing about the immediate affectation for their tourism projects. As almost everything that happens in this country, we’re witnessing the consequences of immediate thinking in which searching for answers to correct causes and consequences in the mid-term and long-term doesn’t look like an option. It’s impossible closing our eyes to what’s happening in México in terms of violence and insecurity and it would be unfair not trying to understand the editorial strategy of national and international media when the statistics of 34 thousand people dead in this war against organized crime or the study that portrays the most dangerous cities in the world, among which are 12 Mexican cities. However, we must not ignore either that, except for Acapulco, this cities had never been key tourism destinations for the development of the industry. Of course is dangerous to travel to Ciudad Juarez and that is something that the federal government and local authorities will have to work out to resolve, but the efforts of the tourism sector should be focused on a strategy to reactivate the industry on its focal points that have nourished it for years and that, since he appearing of AH1N1 flu, it looks like everyday brings something new.
The Tourism Ministry looks like it is subordinate to what editorial tables around the world decide. In a year that celebrated the Bicentennial of Independence and the Centennial of Revolution, the projects created for this holidays looked like the main worry was not a long term strategy to reposition Mexico, but only the spectacle of the moment. In this effort we’re doing in Flavors of Mexican Cuisine, in the last months we have traveled the roads of Puebla, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, Estado de Mexico, Michoacán, Morelos, Jalisco, Tlaxcala and Queretaro, among other destinations. We’ve been at Merida, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and, of course, Mexico City. It is dangerous to discover that it doesn’t exist a true feeling of responsibility to promote these destinations with its great range of options for tourists of all kind. The latest award for Mexican Gastronomy as Intangible World’s Heritage should be seized at maximum to create plans and projects that holds this award as an axis of a recovering strategy and public relationships project not thinking only about local tourism but abroad as well. Although its clear the intention of Gloria Guevara as Tourism Ministry to work for the industry, we can’t be satisfied just with good intentions right on a moment of history that oil economics are in the way to extintion, as it was proved and clear in the last COP-16 summit held at Cancun, and the market of remittances is going down in a global economy that is fighting to devaluate the currencies hoping to fight the recession and correcting the interest rates of the countries leading the global economy.
Tourism requires an injection of projects and ideas that create measurable results. It is, of course as any business, a risk, but a necessary one when you see the possibilities of success and the consequences of doing nothing. And this risks can be calculated and focused on sustainable projects that can sort out the political and social difficulties that the country faces in order to work with and within every institution. At the past International Social Tourism Congress, held at Rimini, Italy, was clear that this particular branch of tourism is growing at considerable rates and Mexico isn’t doing a thing to seize the opportunity for this branch. It is moment now to get out of the established routes named as Routes of Mexico and start thinking in the traveler and his needs, instead of thinking in the running projects and their creators. In Michoacán, Puebla, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Riviera Maya, Guanajuato, Chihuahua, Nayarit, Jalisco and Mexico City, we can create new routes of social tourism that stand out with the importance of ancestral traditions still in place and that allow, through this activity, the reestablishment of local and sustainable economies.
On the other hand, Mexican gastronomy should not be another element in the range of options, but a fundamental axis of this development. Let’s take, for example, what is being done in Peru with its regional and authentic cuisine, led by Gastón Acurio. It has allowed that, from a few years now, Peru’s economy gets clearly and positively affected by what is happening with its ingredients. Gaston himself, at Madrid Fusion 2009 -the most important gastronomical event in the calendar- presented a long table with hundredths of latin american ingredients, among which there were an amazing account of Mexican ingredients. Gastón took a potato and a tomato and held up high in front of a wide european audience to give a statement that shock everyone at this event: “You went to our continent and brought only this, potato and tomato. Just imagine everything that is coming if left all of this behind”. And the most important question we should be asking ourselves is: Have you imagined it? Mexican gastronomy allows us to explore it, exploit it and seize it integrally as a way to develop and activate local and rural economies, ingredient exports, cultural exchange and sharing a Mexico that can counteract the image of what is Mexico today not only outside this country, but within the country itself.
It is important to understand that tourism is not a silo-based enterprise. It requires a multi-institutional effort involving Ministries of Economy, Social Development, Foreign Affairs and Public Education, as well as Anthropolgy and History National Institute, Arts and Cultural Council and local governments in a joint effort to create and promote projects of diffusion, exploit, support and tourism infrastructure. It is also important to understand that many of these projects don’t require large amounts of money to invest on them, but a real commitment of every institution to establish international treaties, internal alliances and onboarding strategies. And, better yet, it is not about finding the grail about tourism industry, but only to check and analyze what other countries have successfully done with their own Tourism Promotion. Mexico and its destinations should not be stalled with the plain idea that TV Commercials only-although greatly produced but useless in terms of results- is the path to enhance the activity both within our borders as outside them. Mexico deserves more and it’s time for all of us part of the industry to do what is necessary and expected from us. Otherwise, in just a few years, we’ll be looking at empty destinations and a dead industry wondering what we did wrong and, above all, what we failed to do.