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Introduced in 1950, television reached some 70 percent of the Mexican population by the early 1990s. In 1995 Mexico had 326 television stations (almost 25 percent of all stations in Latin America), most of them owned by or affiliated with the Mexican Telesystem (Telesistema Mexicano--known popularly as Televisa) and the state-run Mexican Institute of Television (Instituto Mexicano de Televisión--Imevisión). In 1996 Mexico had about 800 television transmitters and an average of one television set per 8.9 viewers.

In the early 1990s, Televisa was reportedly the largest communications conglomerate in the developing world. Although a private corporation, Televisa is very close to the ruling PRI. It operates three commercial television networks in Mexico and four stations in the United States. Its main network broadcasts twenty-four hours a day, and the others broadcast between twelve and eighteen hours daily. Televisa's flagship news program is "24 Horas," which has long been the most important source of news for many Mexicans. Televisa exports 20,000 hours of television programming to other Latin American countries. In addition to television and radio, Televisa has interests in newspaper and book publishing; production of records and home videos; motion picture distribution, advertising and marketing; and real estate, tourism, and hotels.

The state-run Imevisión operates two national television networks, as well as several regional and specialized channels. The government also operates Mexican Republic Television (Televisión de la República Mexicana), which broadcasts news and educational and cultural programs to rural areas, and Cultural Television of Mexico (Televisión Cultural de México). A competing network, Televisión Independiente, operates seven stations. There are also some twenty independent stations.

In November 1993, the government granted licenses for sixty-two new local television stations, increasing Televisa's total number of stations from 229 to 291. Most of the new stations are concentrated in northern Mexico. Televisa showed considerable financial strength in 1993, with third-quarter profits of some US$120 million, up 43 percent from the same period of 1992. The company planned additional large investments in an effort to maintain its 90 percent share of Mexico's television market. Televisa's main competitor is Televisión Azteca, which owns 179 stations in two national networks. Although it commanded less than 10 percent of the national television market in 1993, it is attempting to increase its market share to 24 percent by 2000.


During the 1970s and 1980s, tourism generated more than 3 percent of Mexico's GNP and between 9 percent and 13 percent of its foreign-exchange earnings. Only petroleum generated more net foreign exchange. The number of arriving tourists rose steadily from more than 5 million in 1987 to 7 million in 1990, despite the peso's overvaluation during those years. The number of arrivals subsequently fell to about 6 million in 1991 and 1992 as the overvalued peso raised costs for United States visitors. Mexico had 7 million foreign arrivals in 1994, and tourism generated total revenue of US$4.2 billion.

Eighty-three percent of foreign visitors to Mexico in 1993 came from the United States, many of them from the border states for short visits. Eight percent of foreign visitors came from Europe, and 6 percent from other Latin American countries. In 1990 United States residents made some 70 million visits to Mexico's border towns, and Mexicans made 88 million visits to United States border towns. In 1984 visitors to Mexican border areas spent some US$1.3 billion, compared with US$2.0 billion spent by all tourists in the interior. By 1990 border visitors spent more than US$2.5 billion, while visitors to the interior spent approximately US$4.0 billion. In 1991 each foreign tourist spent an average amount of US$594. In 1992 Mexico had some 8,000 hotels and some 353,000 hotel rooms.

In the early 1990s, Mexico City was the most popular destination for foreign tourists, followed by Acapulco. In the mid-1970s, the official tourist development agency, Fonatur, began to promote new tourist areas, including Zihuatanejo, Ixtapa, and Puerto Escondido on the Pacific coast, and Cancún on the Caribbean coast. In 1986 and 1987, work began on the new Pacific coast tourist resort of Huatulco. Mexico's tourist industry is particularly vulnerable to external shocks such as natural disasters and bad weather, international incidents, and variations in the exchange rate, as well as changes in national regulations. For instance, a 1985 earthquake that had an epicenter near Acapulco damaged many of Mexico City's central hotels. In September 1987, Hurricane Gilbert struck Cancún, causing US$80 million worth of damage that took three months to repair.

Data as of June 1996

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Mexico Table of Contents