Interview with Dr. Nathalie Desplas 

Secretary of Tourism of Mexico City

Dr. Nathalie Desplas 

Secretary of Tourism of Mexico City

My name is Nathalie Desplas and I am the Secretary of Tourism of Mexico City as of July 2022. I have more than 25 years of experience in the tourism sector.

I studied a degree in Economics at the University of Social Sciences in Capitole, Toulouse 1, France, and was a lecturer and researcher in Economics and Tourism on topics such as tourism-based regional development, medical tourism, e-tourism and attracting tourism by nationality. I have also been an international lecturer in many countries and an organiser of international congresses and trade missions.

I obtained a Master's degree in Economics from the Université de La Sorbonne in Paris, France; and a PhD in Economics from the University of Havana, Cuba developing a thesis focused on a development programme for the attraction of European tourism in the Sierra Tarahumara of Chihuahua, Mexico.

I served as Director of the Tourism Research Centre at the Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Chihuahua. In this State I was also Director of the Adventure Park Barrancas del Cobre and Director at the Secretary of Innovation and Economic Development of the Government of Chihuahua.

Dear Dr. Nathalie Desplas, as Secretary of Tourism, we would like to know what your main objectives are for a city as important on the national and international scene as Mexico City.

The main objective is to consolidate the positioning of Mexico City as a tourist destination par excellence. Given its qualities, infrastructure, technological development, the warmth of its people, its geographical location and its benevolent climate, as well as its cultural heritage and history, Mexico City has it all and satisfies the needs of any local, national and international tourist.

One challenge is for families in the capital to benefit from tourism to improve their families' livelihoods and quality of life. The challenge is to "create a virtuous circle that generates more tourism revenue, above all to create jobs".

It is a great satisfaction to link supply and demand, that is to say, that is where employment is, and tourism really allows us to do that, and it is really fabulous.

What does Mexico City offer to the social, economic and cultural development of the country?

Mexico City offers the highest digital connectivity, which allows tourists and visitors to stay and connect via internet all the time without any problem. Thanks to free public wifi hotspots. The country's capital is the second city in the world with the highest number of museums. It has the third largest square in the world: the Zócalo where many free public events are held. In economic matters, the INEGI reported that the CDMX was crowned as the entity that contributes the most to the national economy with 17.3% of the GDP. The contribution of the CDMX to the national tourism GDP is 18.74%.

Mexico City's capacity and hospitality was demonstrated in the organisation of the 47th edition of the Tianguis Turístico, the country's most important event in this sector.  It was held in March and broke all records in terms of attendance, business appointments and activities generated at this major international event.

You stand out for your capacity for work and collaboration. Do you consider that the different sectors of the tourism industry in the state are aligned with the Ministry of Tourism of the CDMX?

Definitely, all the sectors of the tourism industry in the CDMX are in agreement with the policies that are established by the Head of Government and the Ministry of Tourism of the capital. All sectors participate with a common goal: the benefit of the destination, which is equivalent to the well-being of the capital's residents and visitors.

One of the areas of opportunity in the tourism sector is the convergence of "the private initiative with what the government is doing; with the chambers, with the associations to collaborate for a common goal: tourism". As a government we are the facilitators and we participate to make things happen.

Some city professionals highlight your willingness and commitment to the city's industry, what is the current state of the city's tourism?

We believe that "tourism in Mexico City represents approximately 9.1 percent of the capital's GDP, which is huge for a city".

Understanding tourism as a transversal axis that drives the sustainable development of the city is very important. "The three parts of this sustainability - social, economic and environmental - are found in tourism. 

Tourism is a transversal axis that can help many sectors". It has that capacity to be in each of the sub-sectors, from medical tourism that drives doctors, clinics and hospitals to gastronomic tourism that can benefit the "fonditas de comida" that are all over the city, as well as the renowned restaurants.

To say Mexico City is to express greatness, what does the city offer the international tourist?

The city's tourist offer is very diverse because it is not only the capital of the country, it is also the capital of gastronomy, of theatres, it is also the city with the second most museums in the world; a city with sports tourism, congress and convention tourism, romance tourism, medical tourism, cultural tourism, historical tourism, nature tourism, religious tourism, film tourism".

An attractive place for so-called "digital nomads" and the LGBTTTIQ+ community, for which the city received an award in 2022 as well as in 2023. "The city is innovative and always changing, adapting to needs and evolving. Mexico City really has it all, exactly as its slogan says."

Because of its grandeur, do you think the city is manageable for a tourist visiting for about 5 days?

You would have to make a very rigorous selection of where you want to guide that tourist according to his or her own interests, because the offer is immense. 

It could be museums, restaurants, ecological reserve areas, emblematic squares, sports stadiums, music venues, shopping areas, historical areas, universities, medical facilities, churches, forests, parks, main roads, road access, airports, archaeological sites, navigation channels, overnight stays in rural tourism areas.

In various statements you have said that tourism is a priority for the whole of Mexico, "it is a very noble sector where there is a lot of room for growth".

One of the processes promoted by the Ministry is that "tourism should not be a privilege, tourism is a right". To achieve this, "we are looking for ways to benefit all groups of the population and to support traditional tourism". Without forgetting the innovative part, it is important not to neglect social tourism.

This means that "the entire population in vulnerable situations has the right to enter tourist sites, a museum or theatre, a park, such as those that have been recovered now in this administration, or a theme park".

The "Colibrí Viajero" programme was created for this purpose: "to offer the vulnerable population access to these attractions. We have "hummingbird friends", which is the private initiative that supports us with tickets to a theme park, theatres, museums or parks.

This programme is an example of what can be done between private initiative and government. Without the support of 90 "hummingbird friends", it would be very complicated to attend to the thousands of people from the city's municipalities who have been able to enjoy the capital's tourist attractions. "In 2022, 360,000 people were served and this year, we are going for half a million".

Also in some interviews, you talk about Mexican cultural identity. What are the main concepts and developments that make this city identifiable with respect to other national destinations?

The main museums that give Mexican culture its identity are the Templo Mayor Museum, located in the Historic Centre, and the National Museum of Anthropology, in Chapultepec, which shows the roots of an ancient city.

Let's talk about the city's accommodation offer. Do you consider it to be innovative, or is it following national trends?

Mexico City has more than 60,000 hotel rooms with more than 774 establishments in the lodging industry. The accommodation offer in the city is totally innovative and growing, as there are several areas recognised for the accommodation they represent, as is the case of the Polanco-Reforma corridor. 

On the openings there is the Hotel Hotsson Ciudad de México Condesa Sur, inaugurated last year, and other new brands that arrived in the city such as Mondrian by Ennismore-Accor, and Andaz by Hyatt, which are part of the mixed-use complex i421 Live District Roma-Condesa; he also said that the small hotel industry is expanding with new boutique units that satisfy an increasingly demanding segment of tourists.

What would you include to strengthen this offer?

More investment, because we are in a consolidation stage and tourism infrastructure is a sure asset for the City that has everything.

In the international media there are reports of violence in some Mexican destinations, how does this news affect the city and the rest of the country?

News of violent events in any place should not affect the perception of tourists, because negative facts spread very easily and frequently, while the positive aspects are not so easily highlighted. It is necessary to be balanced and to analyse the facts. Take care of the tourist offer and create quality tourist products.

What do you think are the main changes in tourism in Mexico City and its evolution in recent years?

A notable change was the experience of COVID 19 and being able to work remotely. This led to greater interconnectivity and Mexico City is the most digitally interconnected city in the world, giving rise to the growth of digital nomads. This has allowed digital tourism to increase and gradually grow alongside traditional tourism.

Regarding collaboration between the different states in the country, do you think there is a common strategy or is it one of the country's weaknesses?

There is coordination with the different entities in the country through collaboration agreements, where each entity carries out promotion and dissemination work for the neighbouring entity, as well as bringing tourists to both places. There is a common strategy to promote destinations according to their attractions, infrastructure and development alternatives, with the aim of benefiting the resident population and satisfying the needs of visitors.

Let us remember that Mexico is wonderful, rich in culture and tradition, it is a diverse country and that we do not compete between states, but rather we complete each other.

Tourism and crafts are closely related in Mexico City, what does the institution you lead do?

There are various activities and agreements with groups of artisans in Mexico City, and exhibitions and sales of their products are constantly held, as well as promoting their work. For example, in January of this year, the "Art and Colours" exhibition was inaugurated at Punto México, at the headquarters of the Federal Tourism Secretariat: it included gastronomy and a wealth of handicrafts. The Centro Artesanal Reforma and the Centro Artesanal Garibaldi were also inaugurated.

Regarding the important value of the architectural heritage, what would you highlight from the work of the Secretariat?

In conjunction with the Ministry of Culture, the Government and other entities, the architectural heritage of Mexico City is promoted, protected and disseminated. It should be remembered that two of the four declarations established by UNESCO for Mexico City correspond to architectural heritage, such as the Casa Estudio Luis Barragán and Ciudad Universitaria.

Let's talk about the digitisation of the city's tourism industry, what plans is the Secretariat developing?

In collaboration with the city's Culture Secretariat and the ADIP, a digital billboard was created in Spanish and English so that tourists and locals have access to all the city's tourist and cultural activities in one place. We want visitors to stay an extra night.

In some areas you spoke about the internationalisation of the state's tourism offer, what are you doing at the moment and what do you propose for the medium and long term?

As a result of the 47th edition of the Tianguis Turístico held in March of this year, there was a registration of more than 2,338 buyers; 1,383 companies from 90 nations, in addition to our country, which represents the largest number compared to previous editions.

The Mexico City pavilion hosted 150 tourism service providers, who had a total of 6,803 business appointments during the three days of the fair. Special attention was given to international guest buyers, as well as to the international press for a worldwide promotion that will continue in the medium and long term.

Finally, in your opinion, what should we visit when we travel to the city?

There are several unmissable places in the city: the museums, the theatres, Garibaldi, the fireflies of Milpa Alta, the Historic Centre, the Reforma - Historic Centre corridor, San Ángel, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, the Xochimilco Canals, the Tláhuac Forest, the murals from the Cablebus, as well as the gastronomy in every corner of Mexico City, the City that has it all.

And what should we savour?

That is a very difficult question, but I think that undoubtedly the mole from Milpa Alta, which gives the artisanal touch to a world-renowned dish.

Dear Dr. Nathalie Desplas, Secretary of Tourism of Mexico City, thank you for conveying to us the imprint of a great city that has a special flavour. Thank you.

The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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