Mexico tourism campaign aims to lure US, Canadian visitors


MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s Tourism Ministry launched an advertising campaign this week as part of a roughly 700-million-peso ($55 million) investment aimed at broadening U.S. and Canadian tourists’ knowledge of the country’s destinations.

“The U.S. and Canadian consumer, when thinking of Mexico, first thinks of sun and beach,” said Stephen Austin, marketing director for the ministry’s Tourism Promotion Council, at a press conference. “Second is sun and beach, and I think third is, as well.”

The TV spots, dubbed “The Place You Thought You Knew,” show the sides of Mexico that tourism officials believe aren’t present in the minds of international consumers. They include images such as friends wandering the streets of a colonial city and rappelling into a dark sinkhole, families visiting a pyramid on the beach and exploring archeological sites, and a man meeting the wetsuit-clad love of his life on a scuba-diving excursion.

“Very few people in the United States think of being able to have an adventure of this type when they come to Mexico,” Austin said.

International tourist arrivals rose 8% in the first five months of 2010 from a year ago, to 4.44 million, the Bank of Mexico said this week. The biggest single draw for foreign tourists to Mexico is the Caribbean region of the Yucatan Peninsula, where the Mayan Riviera and Cancun are located.

The Tourism Ministry’s commercials will air on certain U.S. cable television stations, such as the Discovery Channel and the History Channel, for five months, ending in November. Ads will also appear on the pages of magazines and other publications.

One thing Tourism Ministry officials were more hesitant to address was the impact of rising drug violence–which has killed more than 24,000 people in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon’s term began at the end of 2006–on the industry.

Most of the violence is concentrated around drug-smuggling routes along the northern border, while leading tourism spots have been largely unaffected by it. The U.S. State Department and Canadian foreign affairs ministry maintain travel warnings for Mexico, however, urging their citizens to “understand the risks involved in travel to Mexico” and “exercise a high degree of caution.”

“Undoubtedly the isolated issue of violence that we’ve had is an issue that has a certain impact on the perception of the consumer,” said Rodolfo Lopez, director of the Tourism Promotion Council. “Our function is not to speak of security, our function is to speak of the assets we have as a country.”