The number of tourists traveling to Mexican destinations from the Charlotte Douglas International Airport grew 19 percent between January and May compared with the same period in 2011, Mexicos secretary of tourism said during a visit this week to the Queen City.
Of those, 40 percent of those Charlotte visitors went to Cancun, said Gloria Guevara, Mexicos secretary of tourism. She said Charlotte is a fast-growing second-tier market for tourists visiting Mexico.
This part of the country is extremely important to us, said Guevara, who came to Charlotte to promote tourism. In previous years, for whatever reason, we were not paying as much attention, so it was very, very important to us to come pay a visit and work this market in a more aggressive way.
US Airways, Charlotte Douglas International Airports dominant airline, offers four nonstop average daily flights to four Mexican cities: Cancun, Cozumel, Mexico City and Los Cabos, said airline spokesman Andrew Christie. Of the 29 total average daily international departures, four are en route to Cancun, and one flight each to Cozumel, Mexico City and Los Cabos, Christie said.
Charlotte Douglas Airport had in the past offered flights to Puerto Vallarta, but no longer does.
Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete, chief operating officer for the Mexico Tourism Board, said Mexican tourism officials met with US Airways officials at their headquarters in Tempe, Ariz., recently to discuss reinstating flights to that Pacific resort city.
Mexico brought in about $12 billion in tourism dollars last year, Guevara said. Overall, there were 23.4 million travelers to Mexico in 2011 who stayed at least one night and an additional 5 million excursionists, or people who arrive by cruise to places like Cozumel and stay less than a day.
Following an H1N1 flu outbreak and the worldwide economic downturn in 2009, Guevara said her office focused not just on beach destinations but to promote adventure, ecotourism and gastrotourism (travel to experience food in an area) as well as activities related to interaction with ethnic groups and visiting historical sites.
An international branding effort, Mexico, the Place You Thought You Knew, was created to draw people from more nations particularly Russia, Brazil and China, Guevara said. Just a couple of years ago, tourists from Russia, for example, would have to wait 45 days for a visa; the wait now is 24 hours.
Whether Guevara stays on as tourism secretary following the election of Enrique Peña Nieto this month she was appointed in 2010 by outgoing President Felipe Calderon she said the county has a national agreement that includes specific actions with the goal of having Mexico, now a top 10 destination internationally , be among the top five by 2018.