Fostering trade and tourism relations with Mexico

BY:  Brent DeRaad, MTCVB
September 14, 2012

Brent DeRaad MCTVBI was fortunate to be part of a delegation of Arizonans going to Mexico, headed by Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. The trip was created to build relationships and commerce with top trade and tourism officials and with private-sector businesses in Mexico.

Mayor Rothschild, along with Maricela Solis, the business advocate in his office, and Felipe Garcia, executive vice president of the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, conducted productive meetings in Guaymas, San Carlos and Hermosillo. The rest of the delegation then joined them for the remainder of the trip in Hermosillo and Mexico City.

In meeting with people from the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico to Mexican tour operators, it is apparent stronger relationships need to be built, which will lead to additional trade and tourism between Arizona and Mexico. Arizona’s reputation after passage of SB 1070 and a lack of tourism marketing in key Mexico markets are negatively impacting Mexican investment in Arizona. Conducting additional trade missions and increasing our tourism advertising are essential to growing Tucson’s trade and tourism business from Mexico.

A new initiative beginning this month is a weekly, 30-minute TV show, produced by the Metro Tucson CVB, which is airing throughout Sonora state and northern Sinaloa. This program allows us to better educate potential visitors about why they should visit Tucson.

The Metro Tucson CVB operates visitor centers in the Sonoran cities of Hermosillo and Ciudad Obregon. We booked more than 9,000 Tucson hotel room nights last year just through those visitor centers.

Leisure visitors to Arizona can also benefit from SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection) at ground ports of entry and Global Entry at airports. These programs allow visitors who have been prequalified and screened, to enter the United States in a safe and expedited way. The Metro Tucson CVB is working closely with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s field office to offer workshops in Mexico promoting these programs and to use our visitor centers as places where visitors from Mexico can fill out their applications.

A 2008 study conducted by the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management found that Pima County, at 41 percent of the job impact, benefits more than any other Arizona county from Mexicans traveling to Arizona. More than 5 percent of Pima County’s taxable sales are attributed annually to visitors from Mexico.

Increasing Mexican visitation to Tucson is essential to continuing the local tourism recovery we’re finally starting to see.

Meanwhile, Mayor Rothschild is focused on increasing the $6 billion in goods that Arizona exports to Mexico every year. One opportunity is to create a stronger transportation corridor between Tucson and the deepwater port at Guaymas, which could greatly enhance exports and imports between Tucson and Mexican businesses.

During the trip to Mexico, the mayor was able to visit three companies with a strong connection to Tucson. The first visit was to the Offshore Group, a Tucson-based company with manufacturing facilities in Guaymas, Hermosillo, Saltillo and Guadalajara. One of the company’s tenants is Sargent Aerospace, a company that after expanding into Mexico, expanded its operations in the Tucson region.

In Hermosillo, the mayor also had the opportunity to visit Leoni Wiring Systems, part of a German-based global firm that also has a presence in Tucson.

We were able to attest that Tucson companies have great opportunities to become suppliers to the many manufacturing companies in Mexico.

The trade and tourism mission to Mexico was a start to increasing business between Mexico and Arizona. Mexican government officials and private business executives were impressed that the mayors of Arizona’s two largest cities would travel together with a delegation throughout Mexico to build relationships and increase commerce.

Much work remains, however. It’s vital that we find specific opportunities to attract Mexican investment in Tucson companies and seek scenarios where Mexican businesses can expand or create U.S. operations in Tucson. We also need to explore situations where Tucson businesses can export more of their products to Mexico.

My thanks to Mayor Rothschild for taking a leadership role in building trade and tourism relationships between Tucson and Mexico. We at the Metro Tucson CVB look forward to helping deliver local and regional results from these initiatives.

Contact Brent DeRaad, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, at [email protected]. This monthly column is prepared by the MTCVB.

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