New numbers from the UN World Tourism Organization that have gone out to their Barometer subscribers say it’s goodbye döner kebabs, hello tacos. Mexico just passed Turkey for tourism visits and is closing in on the United Kingdom.
Turns out it wasn’t even close. Mexico received around 38 million visitors in 2016, an increase of millions, while Turkey’s total dropped down to 28.3 million—below Thailand. The United Kingdom is only around 600,000 visitors ahead of Mexico, so it may be a tight race this year.
Mexico’s is the 8th most popular country for tourists now, but it’s not a sudden move. Their fortunes have been on the rise for years and the country has kept moving up the ranks, setting new records the last couple years. Turkey’s pain was their gain last year and that lead will surely widen as Turkey’s self-inflicted political wounds keep getting worse. With that country looking more and more like an oppressive dictatorship with a Putin-style ruler for life, the airport bombing and other incidents have been the final straw for many foreign tourists.
Mexico has its own continuing problems of course, with cartel violence and more than a little corruption. Plus the anti-Mexican hatred that came out in the U.S. presidential campaign from the eventual winner hasn’t exactly been great PR for the country. Apparently those followers don’t travel very much though because visitation numbers from the USA keep going up and up.
Similar reports are coming from the industry side. Around half the 447 high-volume travel agents surveyed reported that their Mexico business was up at least 5%, despite the negative political climate. Many reported that clients keep returning again and again after having a great experience.
For those who book through agencies, where they’re going is quite predictable.
Asked which destinations are performing best, Riviera Maya was the clear leader with 84%, followed by Cancun at 68%, Los Cabos, 37%; Puerto Vallarta, 35%; Riviera Nayarit, 19%; Mazatlan, Merida and the Yucatan Peninsula, all 8%; and Mexico City and Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, tied at 6%. Colonial Cities were mentioned by 4% of the agents.
We’d like to see more than a paltry 4% mentioning the interior of Mexico, but we will admit that most of the best-known luxury resorts are on the coasts. All of the top-5 markets listed above have several luxury Mexican resorts that continually rank as some of the best in the world. With the peso being weak against the dollar over the past calendar year, this has allowed many resorts to beef up an already high staff-to-guest ratio, helping them win the service game compared to competitors in countries north and south of them.
See our detailed reviews of the best luxury hotels and resorts in Mexico.
When you get tired of the beach, you’ll find plenty of other great places to stay in places stretching from San Cristobal de las Casas to Tequila.