The Tale of Two Wars
While there is a war waging between the Mexican army and drug cartels, there is also a war waging between the Mexican government and tourism. Several news outlets have covered and continue to cover this ongoing drug cartel vs. Mexican army war (drug war), but there is little discussion on how the drug war is affecting Mexico’s tourism industry.
The drug war has been ongoing for the past decade; however, it has reached a fever pitch in recent years and has started to affect Mexico’s billion dollar tourism industry. Tourism is Mexico’s third largest source of money and with the drug war ongoing, tourism has dropped 15 percent from $13.3 billion in 2008 to $11.3 billion in 2009. Other factors have contributed to the drop of this figure, but the drug war is definitely the constant reason that keeps tourists away. Spring Break tourist destinations, such as Cancun and Acapulco have definitely felt the effects of the drug war; Acapulco has experienced approximately a 30 percent drop in tourism for the 2010 Spring Break season. The biggest misconception is that the drug war is waging in all of Mexico’s tourist cities, thus keeping tourists away.
The drug war is occurring mainly in the northern states, along the U.S. / Mexican border and in Mexico City, which is southern Mexico. In an effort to ease the effects of the drug war and to bring tourism back to Mexico, Mexico’s Tourism Board (MTB) has turned to social media to attract tourists back to Mexico. In December 2009, MTB had its first Facebook giveaway – a four day, three night trip for two at the Omni Cancun Hotel & Villas in Cancun, Mexico. Contestants were automatically entered into the contest upon joining MTB’s “We Visit Mexico” facebook page, as long as they joined by December 28th. This particular promotion was geared towards U.S. tourists. MTB also created social media accounts on twitter, flickr, and YouTube, to allow travelers to share their experiences with others.
MTB also teamed up with Latino social network, Quepasa Corporation, to launch a social media initiative. The initiative included “Quepasa promoting Mexico’s beautiful tourist destinations via online communities, indexing content related to specific destinations and facilitating user interaction via blogs and viral tools. At the same time, Quepasa and MTB were approaching online travel agencies, hotels and airlines with regards to sponsoring a broader viral campaign using the Quepasa Distributed Social Media platform.” (PR Newswire) This particular partnership helped MTB reach Quepasa’s U.S. and Mexican databases, which allows the word of Mexican travel deals to go viral and transcontinental.
Aside from MTB, the Mexican Council for the Promotion of Tourism (MCPT) also turned to Facebook to increase tourism in popular tourist destinations, such as Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, and Oaxcaca. MCPT created a game contest via their facebook page, where contestants could earn a certain number of points by correctly answering trivia questions. Winners of the contest were selected based on their rankings in the game, which consisted of a person searching an airport for five objects — a plane ticket, a suitcase, a beach towel, a polo shirt and a baseball cap — using the least amount of points in the shortest time possible. An ultimate winner was selected and received all of the abovementioned items, while the other nine players won the same kit, minus the plane tickets.” (Socialmediamarketing.blog.de) MCPT wanted to increase the number of Mexican’s traveling within the country, so it was required that game contestants lived in Mexico and, of course, have a facebook account (MCPT did not disclosed the number of game participants).
While the Mexican army is waging the drug war, the Mexican government is at war to increase tourism to and within their country. Using social media strategies to achieve this goal is brilliant because Mexico is one of the Latin American countries experiencing the most Facebook growth, with over 6.67 million users in January 2010 and half a million of them were new users. Using twitter is beneficial because there are over 146,000 twitter users in Mexico, with over 67,000 active accounts; and in recent history, Mexicans have turned to social media to take a stance against issues affecting them. Other countries that are experiencing a decrease in tourism and rely on it heavily to keep their economy strong should take notice of what Mexico is doing and incorporate these strategies and more into their marketing strategy.