Interview with Secretary of Tourism, Gloria Guevara
Last month, we met with Secretary of Tourism, Gloria Guevara, to talk about current statistics, the country’s marketing plan, and the role of social media in Mexico’s promotion of itself as a tourism destination. We also asked Guevara what to expect from the incoming administration, as the controversial Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI party was elected president on July 2 and will take office in December.
Secretary Guevara opened by speaking about Mexico’s marked progress in terms of the total number of visits in the first quarter of 2012. From January to May of this year, said Guevara, there was a five percent increase in the number of visitors compared to the same time period for 2011. 2008 was the best year ever for tourism in Mexico, but 2012 is exceeding expectations and by year’s end may well surpass 2008 statistics.
Part of the reason for the increase in visitors, said Guevara, is thanks to the uptick in regional travel due to promotion related to Maya 2012 and “end of the world” events. The primary reasons, though, are SECTUR’s and Mexico Tourism Board’s aggressive promotion of the country through traditional marketing and advertising, as well as increased investment in digital and social media.
One of the initiatives that has been central to the digital and social promotion of the country has been Mexico Today. Comprised of eight community managers and 16 contributing bloggers, Mexico Today is an online platform where six specific topics–economy, security, infrastructure, health, the environment, and culture/travel–are covered by people with direct ties to Mexico; most are expats living in the country or those who have lived in Mexico recently.
Guevara explained that the launch of Mexico Today was part of the country’s strategy for using the Internet to spread honest word-of-mouth stories about writers’ and bloggers’ direct, personal experiences in Mexico. The program, she said, complements traditional ad and marketing initiatives, which primarily aim to provide information and disseminate facts. Online and new media, she explained, provide what’s conventionally missing from advertising and marketing: the influence that first-hand experience exerts over people’s decisions to travel. “99% of travelers say they’d recommend Mexico to family and friends,” Guevara added, “and 98% say they will return. Few countries in the world have that kind of statistic.”
Programs like Mexico Today and another new media initiative, The Mexico Taxi Project, serve as sources of additional information and insight for prospective travelers who, said Guevara, are obviously influenced by mainstream media. And while the coverage of Mexico in the States’ mainstream media has largely been negative of late, that trend is beginning to change. Guevara said that from January of May to 2011, negative mentions of Mexico in mainstream US media exceeded positive and neutral mentions. Now, however, 77% of media mentions in the US are positive or neutral.