How the Mexican Secretary of Tourism can Drive Tourism through Pinterest

Encouraged by my Mexican friend and core team member, my wife and I decided to ditch the traditional Thanksgiving turkey and instead book a last minute trip to the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. We had known little about this region, but as we researched more, we were amazed by the beauty that awaited us: magical cenotes, majestic Mayan ruins, and historic haciendas, all nestled among small villages with dirt roads and some of the kindest people you’d ever meet.

Cenote in the Yucatan. Only two tourists in sight!
Uxmal — an ancient Mayan city. No tourists in sight!

Both before and after the vacation, many of our friends asked: “Is it safe?” And indeed, this was a concern we had initially as well. Since renting a car is the best way to get around the peninsula, I feared a situation where I would have to bribe my way out of a bogus traffic violation with my broken Spanish. My Mexican friend laughed at these concerns and assured us our safety. And I’m happy to report that I felt much safer in Mexico than I do in Cambridge’s Central Square.

Yet why does this negative perception of Mexico persist, and what can the Mexican Secretary of Tourism office do about it? To me, the Yucatan peninsula was in many ways as spectacular as Machu Picchu, but the former remains far less popular for tourists; in fact, during our time there, I could count the number of American tourists we encountered on one hand. I believe that the Mexican government can benefit significantly from leveraging the power of Pinterest to drive tourism.

Pinterest is an “aspirational” network with 100 million active monthly users. The user base skews heavily women, yet appeals to a wide age range (18 to 50) and caters to the more highly educated, affluent population.

Snapshot of Pinterest’s User Demographics

By and large, users “pin” photos to boards they create, oftentimes using the social media platform to gather inspiration for future endeavors. Common use cases include planning a wedding, decorating a home, and preparing for a vacation. By developing a Pinterest presence and posting and sharing beautiful imagery of the Yucatan Peninsula, the Mexican government can encourage tourism. Pinterest photos can then be linked to relevant websites (e.g. travel agency, haciendas turned hotels, etc.) The target audience can be easily reached through Pinterest, given the relative education and income of Pinterest’s users. Morever, nearly half of Pinterest’s users come from the United States, which bodes well Mexican tourism given the geographic proximity and relative strength of the U.S. dollar. There is also positive brand association with Pinterest, given the social media platform’s aspirational network. Mexico should want to shed it’s “unsafe” reputation and exude an essence of beauty and luxury, which is well aligned with Pinterest’s brand. Thus, by spreading the word through visual imagery that Mexico is a beautiful place to visit and associating with the aspirational nature of Pinterest, the Mexican Secretary of Tourism can achieve its goal of driving more tourism to the country.