MEXICO CITY - Mexico's top tourism official said the country may drop out of the world's top 10 tourist destinations, a spot it has held for years.
Tourism Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu hasn't said why the drop occurred, but there were declines in 2012 in two areas that have been affected by violence: border tourism and cruise ship stopovers.
The number of cruise ship passengers stopping in Mexico dropped 3 percent in 2012 and more than 15 percent over the past two years. The number of border visitors dropped 5.3 percent in 2012, according to Tourism Department figures.
Mexican border cities such as Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo have experienced waves of drug cartel violence, and a number of cruise operators have dropped port calls along Mexico's western Pacific coast, which also has been affected by drug-fueled violence.
The drops contributed to a 1.2 percent decline in overall international tourism to Mexico in 2012.
"We have indications that we may drop one or two places, but we're not sure because the figures aren't ours, they are from the World Tourism Organization," Ruiz Massieu said Monday.
The WTO regional director for the Americas, Carlos Vogeler, said Tuesday it may be less a story of Mexico losing tourists, than about other countries making big gains.
"For example, Russia has improved its figures, Malaysia has improved its own, and Austria," Vogeler said. "There are a number of countries that have increased their numbers significantly."
And he noted Mexico has continued to gain in tourism revenues. Income from International tourists rose 7.1 percent in 2012, despite the decline in the number of visitors.
"According to our initial data, Mexico has increased its income, apparently because people who arrive by air (rather than crossing a land border or arriving on a cruise ship) generally spend more time, and more money, in the country," Vogeler said.