Mexico City, Jan 24 (IANS/EFE) Mexico is striving to diversify its tourism sector and overcome an image of insecurity created by thousands of gangland killings.
"We're competing with the world and we want to offer the international tourist unique experiences and a very high-quality product," Tourism Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu told EFE in an interview Wednesday.
She made her remarks on the eve of a trip to Spain to participate in the upcoming International Tourism Fair in Madrid.
Tourism is Mexico's third-biggest source of foreign exchange after oil exports and remittances from expatriates, accounting for close to 9 percent of gross domestic product and providing employment to 2.5 million people.
Last year, Mexico received 23 million international tourists and the industry generated more than $11 billion in total revenue.
Ruiz recalled that Mexico has recently endured some "tough years" due to the swine flu outbreak in 2009 and a crisis in the public safety perception, "which has undoubtedly posed a challenge for the tourist industry".
"We're in recovery, but what we want to do in this administration (of new President Enrique Pena Nieto) ... is to make a qualitative and qualitative leap in the sector" that allows a much faster pace of growth, she added.
Ruiz said her department will employ a diversification strategy that encompasses all market niches, from large megaprojects to eco- and rural tourism and golf destinations.
"We're one of the most naturally diverse countries. We have all kinds of scenery, coasts, wonderful beaches, and also a very vibrant culture and cultural richness that is a great attraction for many people," she added.