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Economy, Tourism

Zapatista Army of National Liberation, Zapatistas, resort cities, Yucatan Peninsula, southern Mexico

Mexico’s tourism industry is an essential component of the economy, often helping to sustain economic growth during times when growth is slow in other economic sectors. The government has long had a cabinet-level agency devoted exclusively to expanding and improving tourist facilities. In terms of foreign exchange earnings, tourism often ranks third in importance behind petroleum and manufacturing. Tourists spent $8.3 billion in Mexico in 2000.

Mexico’s most important tourist destinations, other than the capital city itself, are numerous beach resorts. These include: Cancun, an island and resort town just off the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo; Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan, all resort cities on Mexico’s Pacific coast; and Los Cabos, a sport fishing and resort center at the end of the peninsula of Baja California in the state of Baja California Sur. Mexico’s border cities are also important tourist attractions and are visited by residents in nearby U.S. states. The most popular of these destinations is Tijuana, just across from San Diego, California. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens regularly visit this community and other border cities on weekends. In 2000 Mexico tallied 20.6 million visits by tourists, with most of the visitors coming from the United States and Canada, other countries in Latin America, or Europe.

Recent guerrilla movements, most notably the emergence in 1994 of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, or Zapatistas, in the state of Chiapas, severely damaged the tourist trade in southern Mexico. The appearance of another guerrilla group known as the Popular Revolutionary Army, which attacked government facilities near the tourist site of Huatulco in the state of Oaxaca in the summer of 1996, did not appear to affect the tourist trade in that region or elsewhere in Mexico.

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