Like millions of people around the world, I am also a fan of Mexico´s sunny beaches and the variety of destinations that allow us to enjoy them. More than 450 beaches delimit the Mexican coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of California and the turquoise Caribbean Sea. Some of my favorites are located in the mystic Mayan Riviera, along the coast of the Caribbean Ocean in the Yucatán Peninsula, where you can find friendly tourist towns like Playa del Carmen, Tulum or Cozumel Island. I also enjoy spending time with my family in other traditional beach vacation spots like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco or Los Cabos, it all depends on the occasion.
Mexico’s pre-Hispanic roots are another thing that fascinates me and I enjoy visiting archeological sites of the Aztecs, Mayan, and all the ancient civilizations that are part of our rich history. One of my favorite spots in the state of Yucatán is Chichen-Itzá archeological site, one of the great cities of the Mayan civilization declared by UNESCO as one of the new 7 wonders of the world. Other places that I recommend are the Mayan sanctuary of Palenque in Chiapas and Calakmul, the first site in Mexico declared as both a cultural and natural heritage site by UNESCO in the south-east area of Campeche, and of course Teotihuacán, which is the most visited archeological site in Mexico, the Aztecs´ main city.
And then there is of course all the Mexican colonial cities with astonishing cathedrals, museums, art, and architecture such as Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Puebla, Morelia, Oaxaca, and those that have been acknowledge “Magical Towns”, small and unique villages and towns all over Mexico that have a very special set of history, traditions, legends, gastronomy and folklore such as San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Tequila in Jalisco, Pátzcuaro in Michoacán, or Tepotztlán in Morelos, among many others.
What is your personal hint to the foreign visitors in Mexico? What should nobody miss when visiting your country?
Enrique de la Madrid: Mexico is a country that can offer something for every sort of traveler so I recommend to explore as many destinations as possible as one can easily move around the country and cover a great variety of towns, colonial cities, beaches, astounding natural parks and archeological sites, and above all I recommend to the visitors to get involved with the people and its traditions in order to enjoy a truly authentic experience.
Don’t miss Mexican traditional cuisine, even if it is street food you will be surprised by the mix of flavors and aromas. Destinations like Oaxaca, Mexico City, Puebla, Yucatán, Michoacán or Baja California, are a must when willing to taste authentic food. However, when aiming for contemporary cuisine, Mexican chefs have developed original cooking offers based on the traditional cuisine incorporating ingredients and cooking styles from all over the world and achieving great recognition and certifications internationally.
Visitors should not miss our rich traditions and festivities and learn with them about our culture and history. Celebrations and Fiestas are at the heart of Mexican people and we have all year festivities of all types. Among the most important ones are the “Day of the Dead” a colorful tradition taking place each year on November 1 and 2, deeply rooted in indigenous culture under the belief that death is more a cause for celebration than mourning, and that spirit has been kept very much alive in places like Pátzcuaro in Michoacán, Oaxaca, Mexico City and the Mayan territory. Other festivities include, the “Guelaguetza” in Oaxaca showcasing regional folkloric dance and music from all over the state happening every year in July and Mexico´s Independence Day in September 16.
What local dishes would you personally offer to a friend and visitor?
Enrique de la Madrid: It would be hard to choose because there are so many options. There is a reason why Mexico´s cuisine is inscribed on UNESCO´s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and is one of the most popular cuinsines in the world. It is delicious, elaborate and has great variety and versatility.
I would choose Mole for sure, one of our most emblematic dishes that comes from the State of Oaxaca, one of the most revered regional cuisines. The taste, smell and texture of the more than 20 ingredients mixed in this rich sauce are an assault to the senses. “Chiles en Nogada” is another traditional dish from the state of Puebla, it consists of “poblano chilis” filled with “picadillo” (a mixture usually containing shredded meat, fruits and spices) topped with a walnut-based cream sauce, called “nogada”, and pomegranate seeds, giving it the three colors of the Mexican flag: green for the chili, white for sauce and red for the pomegranate. And of course tamales, a traditional and ancient dish made of corn dough and stuffed with a great variety of fillings like pork, beef, chicken, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, chilies and almost any preparation.
Finally I wouldn’t be a Mexican if I didn’t offer tacos, Mexican street food is amazing and the best known is tacos. The great thing about tacos is that just about anything can be wrapped in a fresh corn tortilla, from beef, pork, chicken
Tasting the authentic Mexican cuisine is a unique experience and I invite those who have the opportunity to visit our country to try as many dishes and local food as possible, which I am sure you will not regret.
When is the nicest time in a year to visit Mexico?
Enrique de la Madrid: There really is no bad time to visit Mexico, we have places with good weather all year long, but certain times of the year may be better according to the destination that you want to visit or if you want to experience one of the many festivities that take place in Mexico.
For instance, the weather at sea-level tends to be warm to hot throughout the year, making for year-round beach weather. On the other hand, if you'd like to experience one of Mexico's unique celebrations like Day of the Dead, the Guelaguetza, or witnessing natural events like the annual Monarch butterfly migration, or releasing baby sea turtles on the beach, or whale watching at Sea of Cortez, there is a specific time when you can do it. But of course, there are many places in Mexico where you can find all you are looking for all year round.
How important is tourism in Mexico?
Enrique de la Madrid: Amid a slowdown in global economic growth, the tourism sector in Mexico has emerged as an effective vehicle for job creation, economic growth and inclusive development.
The recent dynamics of tourism in Mexico are remarkable. Last year we received 32.1 million international visitors, more than any other year and 9.4% more than 2014. Since 2012 we have observed a 37% jump.
During this administration Mexico has gained six places in the WTO ranking of international tourists, going from the 15th possition to the 9th thus returning to the top ten.
In terms of international receipts, a 9.4% growth in 2015 allowed us to reach a record of 17.7 billion USD in 2015, an amount 39% larger than in 2012.
The country has also gained 5 places in the international receipts ranking in which we now occupy the 17th place.
As an economic sector, Tourism contribution to Mexico’s GDP is around 8.5%, and for some states like Quintana Roo (77%), Baja California Sur (53%), Nayarit (37%) and Guerrero (36%), touristic activities have the largest share of GDP.
As one of the most inclusive sectors, tourism provides first access for women and young people to the economically active society, allowing them to gain experience and skills that give them the opportunity to climb the value chain and to have access to a better income.
The multiplying effect of tourism is important, it generates more employments than any other industry because it is a labor-intensive activity. In this regard, WTO estimates that one job in the core tourism industry generates about 1.5 additional jobs in another sector.
Today, tourism related activities in Mexico represent around 9 million jobs, of which 3.8 are direct and the rest are indirect, and from related and induced activities.
The TUI Group is the leading European tourism group in Mexico, where it operates 17 of its own RIU brand hotels. It is still extending its presence in the country, with six further RIU projects in the pipeline between now and 2020. How important is this commitment for Mexico?
Enrique de la Madrid: Very important, and I’m sure that this investment will continue the return of handsome profits. TUI Group will find in Mexico a trustable partner for this and further projects.
In SECTUR our focus is on promoting greater domestic and foreign investment into the sector through various initiatives and programs that can provide communities´ better development options.
There is no doubt that the tourism sector is one of the most efficient ways for Mexico to achieve accelerated and sustained economic growth.
In the winter 2016/2017 season TUI Cruises will be including the Mexican Caribbean island of Cozumel in its Mein Schiff cruise routes for the first time. How relevant are the cruise ships for the Mexican tourism and what is the Tourism Minister doing to continue the growth path of cruise tourism?
Enrique de la Madrid: The cruise business has an economic impact of nearly $2bn annually across the Caribbean and it has transformed Cozumel due to its favorable impact on employment and economic activity.
The benefits of cruise tourism in Mexico reaches $400 million annually. In addition to Cozumel, Costa Maya in Majahual is a strong cruise draw, which has developed due to the cruise industry.
We are making tourist destinations more attractive for cruise passengers through innovative investments in technology, human resources, and new tourism events.
Our corporate logo at TUI is a Smile. What should a visitor in Mexico do that would make the local people smile? And what would the Mexicans do, to make visitors smile?
Enrique de la Madrid: Any Mexican would smile at you if you smile at them, we are a people with strong social relationships and a sense of social support through families, friendships, and extended families, so we are very open and we are always looking to share experiences new friends. Our visitors smile is proof that we are doing our best, our culture is characterized by its vocation for hospitality and our people really enjoy providing all the care and attention required by the travelers visiting Mexico.