Global visitors are seduced by Mexico's cultural splendor and authentic heritage.
From literary brilliance and cinematic hits to small-town charm, Mexico was the seventh-most visited country in the world in 2017, according to the World Tourism Organization (WTO). A large part of this comes from Mexico’s heritage towns and cultural events, giving visitors a true taste of Mexico.
With 34 UNESCO World Heritage sites—more than any other country in the continent, Mexico has been a leader in terms of cultural and historic tourism in the Americas for decades. The Pueblos Mágicos (Magic Towns) program, launched by the Minister of Tourism in 2001, labels 111 of the most beautiful precolonial and colonial towns worth visiting due to their cultural, gastronomic, and hotel offerings.
The Minister of Tourism and other state authorities have invested over MXN5 billion in these villages since the program was launched, namely for upgrading road infrastructure. Today, in these pueblos mágicos, three out of five inhabitants’ employment is linked with tourism, either directly or indirectly. The country’s heritage therefore already acts as a major magnet for visitors. In recent years, creativity linked to this heritage has also emerged as a relevant stimulus to tourism. Cultural festivals launched by regional and local governments have gained momentum and greatly facilitated the arrival of domestic and international visitors. In fact, Mexico hosts a variety of cultural megaevents every year such as Guanajuato’s International Cervantino Festival—better known as El Cervantino, Morelia International Film Festival (FICM), Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL), and International Mariachi Encounter of Guadalajara. These events are the largest of their kind in the Americas. They represent the strength of Mexico’s creative industries and their role in the country’s attractiveness and influence.
FICM attracted 200,000 people in 2017, when the premier of Coco, Pixar’s movie about the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead, opened the film festival. FIL is the main cultural event held in Mexico every year, the largest literature platform of the Spanish-speaking world. and the second-largest book fair in the world after Frankfurt. As both a public and professional book fair, the event is multi-purpose. According to organizers of the fair, FIL convened over 2,000 publishing houses and 600 writers from nearly 50 countries.
Public authorities, business councils, and artists of all kinds are aligned in trying to promote Mexico’s cultural products and these efforts are complementing the country’s natural and historic landmarks to consolidate major global tourism attractiveness. It is only a matter of time until more local authorities start embracing the same strategy to get a slice of the cultural tourism pie.
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