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Mexico Tourism Secretary's Advice to Fuqua MBA Students: "Focus on your Assets"

Mexico's Tourism Secretary gives advice to Fuqua MBA students about how she turned Mexico tourism around

Guevara Manzo
November 19, 2012

The outlook wasn't bright a few years ago for Mexico's tourism industry. The global financial crisis, the swine flu disease, and security issues were having a negative impact. Gloria R. Guevara Manzo faced this perfect storm head on when she was appointed by President Felipe Calderon as Mexico's Tourism Secretary.

Guevara also had to alter perception about Mexican tourism. Many just think of beaches for potential vacations to Mexico. Guevara made it a point to focus on the other assets, including its culture, gastronomy, adventure, and sustainability. She led a number of initiatives which have helped Mexico shatter its previous records for national and international tourism and generate 18 consecutive months of growth in the industry. Key to this was proactively communicating the unique attributes of Mexico and countering any negativity.

Guevara, one of the featured speakers during Duke University's Fuqua School of Business Latin America Student Symposium held on November 14, advised MBA students to also be proactive in their communications. "Don't let anyone else speak for you," Guevara said. "You need to speak for yourself and your brand. You need to be proactive, decisive, and take control."

She shared some of the keys to Mexico's tourism turn-around and offered additional tips to business school students in the following Q and A.

What was the key to Mexico's turn-around in its tourism industry?

Faced with the external obstacles back in 2009, we embarked on an ambitious strategic plan that aims for Mexico to be one of the top five tourist countries by the year 2018. Our strategic plan centered on getting the support from our highest authorities.  President Calderon declared 2011 as the "Year of Tourism" in Mexico which had a very positive impact. We worked with industry and generated investment from the private and public sector. We also focused on diversification and embarked on a proactive communications and marketing strategy to make audiences know about some of the unique attributes of Mexico besides our beautiful beaches. We also campaigned aggressively to counter some of the bad news that was being reported about Mexico.

How did Mexico overcome negative news?

We told our story. We used testimonials of tourists, expats, CEOs and celebrities to set the record straight when necessary and to tell unique aspects of Mexico. We engaged in an aggressive PR strategy in conjunction with the Mexican private sector which led to more than 800 interviews and also complimented this with ad campaigns. We took a holistic approach and combatted fire with fire.

What advice do you have for MBA students?

Focus on your assets. Also, be inclusive and act decisively. Along with communicating proactively yourself, also be sure to collaborate with others and have them help in delivering a unified message.

How do you see the value of an MBA?

I have definitely seen how my MBA has benefited my career. It gives you a different perspective. It stretches you and makes you confident and then gives you the courage to make the right decisions.

How do you deal with uncertainty?

There is a saying "When it is dark, one can better see the stars". I think this is very true. In tough times, there are opportunities around when others can't see them. You can never have all of the information at your disposal, but you can be clear on the end goal and not lose focus on it.

What are your thoughts on the tourism industry?

I am biased, but in my opinion it is the best industry in the world. There are lots of opportunities for social benefit. Tourism creates empathy. The more you travel, the more you have an understanding of others.

Fuqua's Latin America Student Association supports the Latin American community at Fuqua in academic, career, admissions, and social efforts while encouraging the integration of the Latin American students into Fuqua and Duke University.