efe-epaMexico City

The number of foreign tourist arrivals in Mexico in the first half of 2019 rose 7 percent relative to the same period of last year, the tourism secretary said Thursday.

Around 22.1 million international tourists visited the Aztec nation between January and June, with Mexico earning just over $11.9 billion from tourism during that period, up 13.9 percent from last year, Miguel Torruco said at a press conference.

The average amount spent by international tourists arriving by air and land was $927.80, an increase of 12.3 percent from 2018.

The secretary said the figures come from the latest tourism report by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi).

Between January and March, total spending by both foreign and domestic tourists was down 0.6 percent from the same period of 2018, according to Inegi figures released on Tuesday.

Spending by foreign tourists rose 9.6 percent annually during those three months, while spending by domestic tourists fell 2.7 percent.

Referring to the overall drop in tourist activity in the first three months, Torruco said it was partly due to the fact that Easter week fell in the first quarter in 2018.

The secretary, however, said constant growth in foreign tourist arrivals has been seen at Mexico's six leading airports, the places of entry for 92.4 percent of international visitors.

The number of foreign travelers rose 4.3 percent at the Guadalajara airport; 4 percent in Mexico City; 3.37 percent in Los Cabos, a tourist center located at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula; 3.3 percent in Monterrey, a city in the northern state of Nuevo Leon; and 1.8 percent in Puerto Vallarta, a resort city in the western state of Jalisco.

In the major tourism destination of Cancun, the number of passengers arriving by air was up just 0.5 percent.

A total of 9.84 million so-called "border tourists" (visitors who crossed into Mexico at ports of entry with the United States, Guatemala and Belize) visited Mexico in the first six months of the year, up 14.8 percent from January-June 2018.

Those tourists spent $617.2 million, up 17.5 percent from the same six-month period of 2018.

They spent an average of $62.40, an increase of 2.4 percent from January-June 2018.

In the hotel sector, a total of 22,000 new guestrooms are projected to have been built by the end of this year. That would bring the total number of guestrooms nationwide to 833,900, up 2.5 percent from 2018.

The number of lodging establishments is projected to reach 22,230 by year's end, an increase of 1.9 percent from 2018. That would lift Mexico into seventh place worldwide in terms of hotel infrastructure.

Preliminary figures indicate that in 2018 41.7 million international tourists visited Mexico, which slipped to seventh place in foreign tourist arrivals behind Turkey. EFE-EPA