By Lisa Coleman
Recently, I had an opportunity to sit down with Jorge Gamboa, the Director of the Mexico Tourism Board (MTB) in Los Angeles. The MTB is the key player in establishing a base with Mexico’s travel partners in the United States and serves as ongoing support for the marketing efforts and outreach to tourists. It was interesting to hear his perspective on tourism and how the numbers (not the headlines) tell the real story of Mexico’s ongoing success in bringing visitors to this extraordinary country.
How did you get started in tourism and the MTB?
I am from the beautiful city of Merida in Yucatan. I had always wanted to share the treasures of my country so I got involved with my state tourism office. I soon became the head of the tourism board for Yucatan and was later asked to join the MTB in their Houston office. I have been at the MTB in Los Angeles since 2000, but in the tourism business in Mexico for more than 27 years.
Tell me about the MTB and how it works?
The Mexico Tourism Board is under the umbrella of SECTUR (Secretaría de Turismo). We are funded by the taxes gathered from foreign visitors, not the federal government. We have 18 offices worldwide, including five in the U.S. – Washington D.C., New York, Miami, Atlanta and Los Angeles. There is a Director in each office who handles the states by region. Our philosophy is to build relationships with travel partners. We know that is a key to our success. Despite the surge of online travel options for tourists, the MTB puts a lot of weight on working with travel agents, airlines, and associations. We have always been about the face-to-face connection. It is very important when selling the image (and now safety) of Mexico that we promote in person in both primary and secondary markets. I attend more than 80 events a year to personally meet travel agents, and other travel partners to establish relationships for Mexico.
In the last two years, you have been up against some difficult press, how do you address this with your travel partners and how does this influence the marketing strategy for Mexico?
We focus on our country’s infrastructure and ongoing success in tourism. Over 22 million people visited Mexico last year, so we must be doing something right! We are proactive with our message and know that we aren’t alone in our effort.
We demonstrate to our travel partners that we have strength in numbers and that we have the resources to bring travel agents, airlines, meeting planners and tour operators together to commit to selling Mexico. Despite what you read and hear, the numbers tell the story. According to Perspectives on Tourism (a survey that was produced by the credit card company Visa), the average amount of money spent in Mexico by foreign visitors increased by 12% last year, compared with 2009.
As far as our marketing strategy, we know it is a constant push. It is imperative that we present the best of Mexico by offering unique travel opportunities for visitors from around the world. And, at this time, the prices around the country have never been more inviting. Families can travel to Mexico at a tremendous bargain and people are taking advantage of the packages that are available right now.
We are reaching our audience through multi-media channels. We now have a number of programs going on via the internet and blogging, as well as more traditional advertising on television and in print. Our goal is to educate tourists who are considering Mexico. One of the most important aspects is helping travelers to know the geography. If visitors become more aware of the location of the tourist areas, they will see they are generally located far from the areas of violence. And, that most of the incidences you read about in the U.S. papers are isolated incidents.
The MTB also sponsors a number of travel agent seminars and online learning programs so our partners can pass their expertise and knowledge to the end user, giving Mexico a more informed tourist base. This platform continues to be very successful. We also strive to teach agents and visitors about our amazing culture. Our beaches are fantastic, everyone knows that, but it’s the culture of Mexico that is so very special. The traditions, the food and the people…there is just so much here to share.
You mentioned the infrastructure… can you tell me what is happening in Mexico to demonstrate the progress?
The Secretary of Tourism, Gloria Guevara, has been touring the United States spreading the word about Mexico’s success. This year there has been a 127% increase in tourism investment. Flights continue to increase so the airlines are growing with us. In 2010, the private sector invested $3.5 billion dollars in tourism projects in Mexico, representing an increase of 19.2 % compared with 2009. The industries that received the most private investment were hospitality with $1.6 billion dollars and real estate with $1.1 billion. Those are pretty impressive numbers for any country. Those investments help to develop 869 projects, compared to 500 projects in 2009. That is in increase of 73.8 %. That is the real story. And these are the kinds of things that will change the face of Mexico forever.
From a personal perspective, how do you see Mexico coming through these struggles?
I believe that all Mexicans love their country, and as a society, we want to live in peace. We want a future for our families. For the first time in many years, the government is providing tools to help and I see our people standing together. If we stay in this direction, we can make the changes we need. It’s a battle of scale, and in the end, I know Mexico will win.
Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own. Mexico Today is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination.