Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative to Reduce Mexico’s Tourism Revenues by a Scant 2.2 Percent This Year
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which now requires air travelers returning to the United States from Mexico to show a valid passport, is expected to reduce Mexico’s international tourism revenues by only 2.2 percent this year, Tourism Secretary Rodolfo Elizondo said.
Given that some 5.3 million of the 21.3 million international tourists visiting Mexico in 2006 were Americans traveling by air, spending an average of US$798 per stay, the resulting US$254 million in lost revenue will amount to only 2.2 percent of the US$11.6 billion in international tourism revenues his country expected to post for the year, he explained.
Mexico’s Tourism Secretary added that the number of Americans who traveled to Mexico by air and did not have passports dropped to merely six percent by January 2007, in part due to an informational campaign launched in October 2006 by the Mexico Tourism Board with the support of tour operators, travel agents and other travel industry representatives.
The initiatives implemented or planned by Mexico to educate consumers about the United States’ new passport requirement have included news releases, micromedia flashes; information packets; consumer contests and events; and promotional materials, such as passport holders. The MTB also added the slogan “We want you back in Mexico. Please get a passport” to its advertising in an attempt to entice U.S. citizens to obtain their passports.
In addition to the Mexico Tourism Board’s efforts, destinations that receive large numbers of American tourists are also doing their part to educate Americans about the law. The Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau has launched “V.I.P., Very Important Passport” program encouraging U.S. visitors to spread the word. The campaign will include posters created for high-traffic U.S. vacationer sites that include relevant U.S. passport information and the U.S. Department of State website address. They have also distributed hundreds of thousands of informational coupons about the new passport requirement, some of which are imprinted by local retailers with an individual message of their own, ranging from a discount to special value offer.
“Our campaign will reach virtually every American visitor vacationing in Cancun for the next three months,” said Artemio Santos, chief executive officer for the Cancun CVB. “We are providing tourism businesses like hotels, restaurants, shops, and attractions with the necessary information and tools to reach visitors to Cancun several times during an individual vacationer’s stay. This is a destination-wide undertaking,” said Santos.
Tour operators and travel agents are also strategizing to educate their customers on the new law. Funjet, one of the top U.S. tour operators for Mexico, has created an online program to inform travel agents on the new requirements and how to reach out to their customers proactively regarding passports. The program includes guidelines for organizing “passport parties” for consumers, designed to facilitate passport processing for people who have traveled to Mexico in the past with other forms of identification. Additionally, Apple Vacations has initiated a promotion for a free passport with the slogan, “You fly, we buy.”
The WHTI will not go into effect until 2008 for cruise passengers and 2009 for road travelers. For more information, please visit http://travel.state.gov/passport and www.visitmexico.com.
About the Mexico Tourism Board
The Mexico Tourism Board (MTB) brings together the resources of federal and state governments, municipalities and private companies to promote Mexico's tourism attractions and destinations internationally. Created in 1999, the MTB is Mexico’s tourism promotion agency, and its participants include members of both the private and public sectors. The MTB has offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America.
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