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NEWS & POLITICS - Tourism Dramatic Drop

Tourism promoters in the Tijuana-to-Ensenada corridor Tuesday called on the federal and state governments to help reverse the dramatic drop in U.S. visitors since 2007 by increasing their promotion of the region.

Normando Novelo, an Ensenada hotelier and vice president of Baja California’s tourism board, said the tourism industry is asking that at least $5.6 million be allocated next year for promotions and crisis management, up from the current sum of $3.2 million.

“We need the federal government to give the region the attention that it deserves,” Novelo told Mexico’s tourism secretary, Gloria Guevara Manzo, during a meeting in Rosarito Beach.

The state’s tourism sector has suffered due to factors such as a recession and a rule requiring passports for U.S. citizens returning from trips to Mexico. But Novelo said the biggest factor has been many Americans’ fears of visiting Mexico because of news reports about drug-related violence.

“They think we’re in a state of war here, and that’s not correct,” Novelo said.

Tourism-related business owners also are asking for more funds for separate public relations efforts. The state and its five municipalities pooled together $300,000 to hire a U.S. firm to elevate the region’s image. Novelo said the group hopes to have $1 million next year by getting additional state and federal money.

Among the areas hardest-hit by the decline in U.S. tourism is Rosarito Beach, where about half of the city’s revenues are derived from tourism and related activities, said Mayor Hugo Torres, who owns the Rosarito Beach Hotel.

Foreign tourism there has plummeted 70 percent since 2007, he said. Crime in the city is down to its lowest level in the past seven years, Torres added, but the message has not gotten across to the U.S. public.

In Ensenada, the number of cruise-ship passengers has dropped by 40 percent.

For some indicators, the numbers have leveled off or shown a slight improvement, Novelo said.

Novelo said the region also needs a “whole identity project promoting the corridor from Tijuana to Rosarito to Ensenada.” The efforts would include standardized street signs, greenbelts and rest stops for visitors.

He also called for measures to protect scenic spots along the corridor. Without them, “We could end up with a wall of condominiums that instead of strengthening our attractions, end up weakening them,” Novelo added.

Guevara, Mexico’s tourism secretary, wants U.S. tourists to stay longer in border regions. She said the state’s wine region and the Gulf of Mexico are featured on a list of 10 tourist routes across Mexico unveiled earlier this year by federal tourism officials.

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