Marcopolis presents the Mexico Report focused on the investments, doing business, economy and other topics featuring interviews with Mexican leaders. The sectors under review in this issue are industry, oil and gas sector, investments, banking sector, telecom sector and many more.
Jesús Evodio Velázquez Aguirre is the Mayor of Acapulco, one of Mexico's most popular tourist destinations.
Interview with Jesús Evodio Velázquez Aguirre
Investment into the tourism sector in Mexico has grown very much in the last few years. Mexico is the 2nd largest tourist destination in all of Latin America, which might explain such large renewed investments into the sector. How would you like Acapulco to fit into this renewed dynamic, and to reinforce the international image that emblematic Acapulco has enjoyed in the past?
First, it should be understood that for Mexico today, tourism is one of the key options available for continued development. In order to compete at an international level, and, as our President Mr. Enrique Peña Nieto has said, tourism is to be a great focus for our country as we go forward. Acapulco is an iconic city, known worldwide, and an emblematic city for international tourism. For a city such as ours, it is a government priority to invest where needed in order to ensure that we be an international contender in the area of tourism. We want to reinforce and improve the city's "brand" name and its competitiveness, by making it known as a city that is connected, that has sustainability, that we are moving and growing, and that is competitive on the market. We have many innate qualities such as a beautiful climate, and we want to improve upon our touristic image by attracting registered trademark brands in world-class hotels, restaurants, and cruise ships. We are currently speaking with Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Carnival Cruises, and with Pullman Tours. We are bringing back cruise ship tourism to Acapulco. There is an upcoming opportunity to create a new embarkation port - since the metropolitan zone of combined cities in our region represents a population of 45 million people - as this is a very attractive destination for cruise companies desirous of creating new, attractive and innovative cruise destinations. We have, to the North, the Cabo San Lucas, and to the South, Panama. Both are very interesting locations for building a cruise route. We are working very hard, we have beautiful beaches, beautiful weather, and we have professional, warm and experienced people in the area of tourism in Acapulco.
We have a new government and a new vision. We are working with great positive ambition, to generate new trust and bring back the "registered trademark" of sorts that Acapulco represents in world tourism.
You travelled to Europe to promote your city. Tell us a bit more about your recent European tour and your efforts to bring back the tourism that has fallen away in the last years.
Firstly, Acapulco needs to shed the perception that it has acquired over the last few years. Acapulco is not a place of violence; it is truly a safe touristic destination. We have had problems here, as other destinations in the world have had, but with President Peña Nieto, along with Governor Hector Astudillo, we are working hard to eliminate the problems that might have existed in the region over some of the past years. In Acapulco, the touristic area is totally safe now. Tourists who come to the region can count on an entirely secure place. We have thoroughly addressed the issue of safety and security for tourism in Acapulco, as well as that of comfort. So, what we did recently is that we've travelled through Europe - we went to the Blue Coast of France and Italy, and we were able to examine what they are doing in terms of how they handle the general public in the area of tourism. We looked at cities such as Nice, Cannes, Monaco, and Ventimiglia in Italy among others, and compared them with what we are doing in Acapulco. We have found that we are highly competitive in the area of world tourism, and are doing very well compared to those high-level destinations. We met with the World Tourism Organization in Madrid, with its Vice-President, and focused on how to work jointly to recuperate tourism activity levels in Acapulco, and how we can calm any "negative voices" that might exist towards our area of the world. We also visited major tourist destinations in the United States such as Las Vegas, where we spoke with major hotel chains, such as MGM, or NH in France, or the Melia group, among other commercial chains, in order to see how they might come and invest in Acapulco. Many of them have already invested in Acapulco in the past. We also spoke about casinos as one more possible activity to be developed. We addressed the issue of sustainability, as we wanted to demonstrate that we are ready and have planted the seeds for sustaining new investment. As far as infrastructure is concerned, we are developing "Acabus", as well as other infrastructure work such as a micro tunnel, an important investment made with the Carso Group, and also some major restoration work to bring back our old town, with places that are emblematic of hundreds of film scenes of the 60s and 70s. We are working with great positive ambition, to generate new trust and bring back the "registered trademark" of sorts that Acapulco represents in world tourism.
Throughout your career, you have had multiple positions, such as Head of Statistics and IT of Guerrero's Department of Youth. Today, you are Mayor of Acapulco. How did you do so much, at such a young age, and what do you believe is your main challenge as you go forward?
I think persistence is a key factor. I guess they say that "he who perseveres, makes it", and as they also say in Mexico, "he who cracks rocks every day ends up getting an opportunity". I must say I have had the opportunity to start tracing my route in the area of politics at a very early stage in my life. I have been a federal and local deputy, I have served public functions at the regional and federal levels and recently have had the opportunity to follow my all-time goal and challenge, which was to serve the municipality in which I was born. And today, I am working with great motivation, each and every day, to recover all the deserved recognition and attention that this city needs, by working with the citizens of the city, and addressing the problems one by one. "You cannot cover the sun with a finger" is a peculiar saying we have in Mexico. Acapulco has great challenges, such as security. Acapulco can be an entirely safe city, safe for all of its 800,000 people within its surrounding state territory. We are facing these challenges with great persistence and great professionalism. We are working to gain credibility on the part of millions of people across the world that love Acapulco, who have seen it and experienced it. This city of Mexico in particular, has given meaning to many people's lives. There is a romantic essence that has been here for many years. It is the destination of many happy honeymoons, including that of President JFK and his wife. Also, there is a glamorous history, in the area of film making, and international celebrities, such as Johnny Weissmuller, the famous Tarzan, came and enjoyed Acapulco and its international glamour.
The U.S. is Mexico's principal investor, representing over half of foreign investments. In your opinion, what are some of the main investment opportunities that Americans should look at in your particular city?
We appreciate foreign investments enormously. The city of Acapulco has a very close relationship with the North-American economy. Mexico and the U.S., not only because of the treaty of free trade between the two countries, but also because of the empathy and friendship between the cultures of our countries due to their geographical closeness, are very close at many levels. There have been important investments of U.S. funds into Mexico, and so of course we are working on all factors necessary, such as labor issues and investment issues, in order to make these investments work as smoothly as possible. We would like that US chains reinforce their presence in Mexico and in Acapulco. We want them to believe in Acapulco, and we are working to earn that trust. Acapulco means tourism - but also, Acapulco means the beautiful countryside, it means fishing, it means industry, and a starting point for activities such as electronics, the automotive industry, and industrial parks to be developed. We have 500 kilometers of coastline in the state of Guerrero, and this can come into the investment picture to strengthen the area of the countryside. Wind energy, solar energy can be opportunities, energies that could generate sustainability. We are preparing for a modern transportation system, and next year we will have a network of cycling paths put into place. Acapulco is a marvelous, competitive place, where we will be able to welcome new investment with open arms.
Acapulco has been a magical place for so many people. Many people have had their first kiss on an Acapulco beach, many people have had their first glimpse at the sea on their first trip to Acapulco. It's a popular place for Mexican and international celebrities alike. What would be your message to people who might have once loved the magic of Acapulco, and that you would like to welcome back? By the end of your tenure as Mayor, what image should Acapulco have in the eyes of those people?
I want to thank all of those who continue to believe in Acapulco. They contribute to the livelihood of many local families. Acapulco still continues to be a marvelous destination; it still fills up with a wonderful clientele, on weekends, and on holidays. I would like to invite those who have let themselves be veered away to give us a chance again. We have a new government, a new vision, we are working very hard, in the area of security with a new program called "Acapulco Confiable" (Trustable Acapulco), which has really wrapped up the issue of safety in Acapulco. People can travel here with confidence. I would like to ask all those who love Acapulco, that they come back to our city. It is a place of opportunity for investment. It will also be an opportunity for them to once again enjoy the marvels of this region and this magical place. Come again and see the famous "La Quebrada" (the famous cliffs), and also see what we have done with the old Acapulco, which we have restored, with all the emblematic places that were so famous in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Come see the golden zone of the city, the restaurants, the gastronomy, and the beauty of its countryside, its rivers, its cliffs, its bays, and come experience the passion that the inhabitants of Acapulco have for their own city. We invite you over, and we hope you will come.