Mexico, this month, will unveil proposed legislation aimed at regulating its fast-growing financial technology sector, including firms that use cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
The bill seems to be aimed at protecting customers, as well as spurring competition in this burgeoning industry. Mexico is also hoping, in this bill, to ensure financial stability and defend against money laundering and financing of extremists.
Massive potential growth in Latin America
Mexico will be joining a small list of countries, which include the UK and the US who have actively sought to regulate not only cryptocurrencies, but also fintech companies.
The hope for fintech companies is to try and crack a massive potential market as over half of Mexico’s 120 mln strong population are bank account-less.
“This legislation recognizes the need that a sector as dynamic as that of technological innovation needs a regulatory framework that allows authorities to mitigate risks and allow for growth in a competitive environment,” the bill draft says.
What’s in the Bill?
The Bill proposes to set out a clear set of rules pertaining to the running of fintech companies which will help reduce costs and drive competition in a sector that includes crowd-funders and payment firms.
Additionally, there will be a section aimed at regulating companies that operate with digital currencies, such as Bitcoin. There is not too much detail on this, but it does say a lot of it will fall to the central bank to referee such actions.
“The regulation is good news for all companies in this sector because … growth will be greater with clear rules,” said Luis Ruben Chavez, the founder of Mexican crowdfunding firm Yotepresto.
Massive Mexican growth
Mexico is a huge untapped market globally, and especially in Latin America where it leads the way.
In 2015, the number of fintech companies came in at about 50, while year to date in 2017 there are already 2401 known companies in the new industry.
A 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico on Tuesday, collapsing buildings and trapping an unknown number of people.
TV images showed a multi-story building in the capital with a middle floor collapsed as sirens blared from first responders rushing to the scene. Other video showed the side of a government building sheering off and falling into the street as bystanders screamed.
In Cuernavaca, a city south of Mexico City, there were unconfirmed reports on local radio of people trapped beneath collapsed buildings.
The quake came just over a week after another major quake shook the country. A civil protection official told local TV that an unspecified number of people were trapped inside various buildings that caught fire in Mexico City.
Mexican TV and social media showed cars crushed by debris. Many people fled into the streets, and electricity and phone lines were down in parts of the capital.
Tuesday’s epicenter was located 5 miles (8 km) southeast of Atencingo in the central state of Puebla at a depth of 32 miles (51 km), the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The quake hit only hours after many people participated in earthquake drills around the nation on the anniversary of the devastating quake that killed thousands in Mexico City in 1985.
Many people were also still shaken from the recent quake on Sept. 7, a powerful 8.1 temblor that killed at least 98 people.
President Enrique Pena was on a flight to Oaxaca, one of the hardest hit areas by that quake, and said via his Twitter account that he was immediately returning to attend to the quake in Mexico City.
A rare and powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck southern Mexico late Thursday, killing at least 15 people as seismologists warned of a tsunami of more than 10 feet.
The quake hit offshore in the Pacific about 75 miles southwest of the town of Tres Picos in far southern Chiapas state, the US Geological Survey said, putting the magnitude at 8.1.
Mexico’s president said the earthquake magnitude was 8.2, the strongest in a century in the country.
The country’s seismologic service initially gave a magnitude of 8.4, which if confirmed would be the most powerful ever recorded in this quake-prone country.
The quake shook a large swath of the country and was felt as far north as Mexico City – 600 miles from the quake epicenter – where people ran out of their homes in their pajamas as buildings trembled and swayed.
A tsunami warning and the prospect of aftershocks kept the nation on alert.
“Based on all available data … widespread hazardous tsunami waves are forecast for some coasts,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.
“Tsunami waves reaching more than three meters above the tide level are possible along the coasts of Mexico,” it said, with lower waves in other countries.
The tsunami warning was for the coasts of Mexico, down through Central America into Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Honduras, and as far south as Ecuador.
The quake was felt in much of Guatemala, which borders Chiapas.
President Enrique Pena Nieto ordered schools to remain closed Friday in Chiapas and Mexico City so officials could inspect for structural damage.
He said on Twitter he was overseeing the emergency response from the National Disaster Prevention Center’s headquarters.
In Mexico City, people ran out of buildings after hearing earthquake warning sirens go off just before midnight (6am UK time Friday).
President Donald Trump floated putting solar panels on his planned Mexican border wall in a meeting with legislative leaders Tuesday afternoon, according to White House and Capitol Hill officials.
It was unclear why Trump brought up the topic, but he presented the panels as a way to fund the wall, which is expected to cost billions of dollars, according to three people familiar with the conversation.
He didn’t express certainty that it would happen — but that he’d heard it as a possible idea and wanted to see what others thought, said a senior official familiar with the White House meeting.
Trump has insisted that Mexico will pay for the wall’s construction — something Mexican officials have repeatedly denied — but has acknowledged that taxpayers may need to initially foot the bill before being repaid.
The past year or so has brought great news for American travelers, as the U.S. dollar has surged in value against other currencies. That means it’s cheaper for Americans to travel overseas. We took a look at some countries where the exchange rate is notably improved from 2014, when the U.S. dollar was considerably weaker. These five destinations are particularly attractive now.
If you’ve had your eye on China for a while, now is a good time to book a trip. The dollar is currently strong in comparison with the yuan, which was devalued by 6.6 percent in 2016. The U.S. dollar is now 14 percent stronger against the yuan than it was in 2014, meaning travel there for Americans should be about that much cheaper.
There is plenty for the adventurous traveler to see in this vast country, with some of the most famous tourist sites, including portions of the Great Wall of China, situated in or near Beijing. A tour of the wall and the imperial palace known as the Forbidden City costs around 240 yuan. At $35, that’s about $5 cheaper than it would have been in 2014, thanks to the exchange rate. Everything from hotels to internal flights should be cheaper, too.
According to the World Economic Forum’s biennial Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, Switzerland ranked last in “price competitiveness” in 2015, making it the most expensive country to travel to. But the strengthening dollar is making it a little more affordable. The local currency is the Swiss franc, which, at the time of writing, was worth about one U.S. dollar. That’s 13 percent less than the franc’s high point in 2014.
According to Lonely Planet, it costs the average midrange traveler around 200–300 Swiss francs a day to travel in Switzerland. With the current 13 percent savings on the exchange rate, you could save $26–$39 a day when compared to the same trip in 2014.
Switzerland is a stunning country, where imposing castles from the Middle Ages dot the mountainous landscape. No trip to Switzerland would be complete without a trip to the Swiss Alps, which have long attracted visitors for hiking and skiing.
Switzerland’s cities, such as its capital, Geneva, are clean and home to some of the most important international organizations, such as the World Health Organization. Smaller villages such as Gruyères have a fairy-tale charm. The town is famous for the Gruyère cheese that is produced there, and offers authentic fondue and tours of the cheese factory where you can learn how the cheese is made.
According to Lonely Planet, the average midrange traveler spends about 1,000–2,000 Swedish krona a day. That translates to $111–$222, a whopping $92 cheaper per day cheaper than it would’ve been in 2014.
With its many coastal islands and inland lakes, Sweden’s geography has long made it a destination for those looking to spend time on the water, engaging in activities such as kayaking. If you enjoy winter sports, Sweden is also an amazing cross-country skiing and dog-sledding destination. You may even be able to catch a glimpse of the ethereal northern lights in the northern region of Lapland — in particular, the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park.
Even for city dwellers, water is an integral part of life. The Swedish capital, Stockholm, is built across 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. Stockholm is an elegant city, with lively music, art, and fashion scenes. Other cities, such as Visby, contain medieval ruins amid charming cobblestone streets.
With the euro falling in value against the U.S. dollar (down 24 percent since 2014), travel has become more favorable to the 19 countries that make up the eurozone. You could consider a traditionally more expensive destination such as France or Italy, and watch your dollars go further than they have in years. Or you could head to more affordable Spain, where a beer in some parts of the country will cost you just a little over a dollar.
Spain is a diverse country, made up of 50 provinces and five languages, including the official Castilian Spanish, as well as Basque and Catalan.
The Pyrenees mountains offer wonderful recreation opportunities, including winter skiing and hiking along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes. The coast features good diving in the Mediterranean Sea. If a buzzing night life is more your scene, head for the tourist-heavy but beautiful islands of Ibiza and Mallorca.
The dollar-to-Mexican-peso exchange rate is extremely advantageous at the moment, with one dollar worth about 20 pesos. This rate is 54 percent better than it was in 2014. Since this destination is in North America, you won’t have to worry about expensive airfare either.
Mexico is a fascinating country to explore, with beautiful colonial architecture in towns such as Campeche, Guanajuato, and Zacatecas, which have put significant effort into conserving historic buildings.
The Pacific coast is a great destination for surfing and lazing on pristine, white beaches, and it’s often overlooked by tourists heading to the Caribbean meccas of Cancun and Playa del Carmen (which offer their own charm, to be sure).
Living in Mexico City, I will admit to a bit of a bias for this cosmopolitan capital, which offers a vast art scene, delicious cuisine, and no shortage of music and entertainment options to visitors from all over the world.
Regardless of where you choose to go, one thing for sure is that 2017 is shaping up to be the year of the American traveler. Take advantage of a strong dollar and see how far you can go.
You know those massive, all-marble, make-you-feel-like-a-VIP luxury resorts in Las Vegas? If you could apply a yellow coat of Spanish paint, make it an all-inclusive, and transport it to an aqua-green beach near beautiful Cancun, the Iberostar Grand Paraiso would likely exceed your imagination.
A thirty-minute drive south from Cancun International Airport, the peaceful property is situated on one of the most idyllic stretches of private beaches you’ll find in all of the Caribbean. Thatched umbrellas, padded chairs, soft white sand, infinite horizons and inviting blue surf that is remarkably clear, fun to frolic in, and relaxing.
Having stayed here for three nights, I finally understand why this (and Mexico in general) is one of the top two all-inclusive destinations. In the Grand Paraiso’s case, the sprawling but manageable amenities have won numerous awards (both critical and reader’s choice) since the resort first opened a decade ago.
I can see why. For one thing, the exclusive property is adults-only. Guests are on the older side, between 30-60. But this keeps the environment quieter than you’ll get further north. In other words, Playa del Carmen is to Cancun what Fort Lauderdale is to Miami.
In addition to its calming ambiance, the Grand Paraiso is staffed by some of the nicest attendants you’ll encounter. One Iberostar official that represents all of their Latin American properties even admitted to me that the Mexican staff “offers more hospitable service than our other Caribbean locations, which are still good, but not as endearing as the Mexicans.” After being waited on, befriended, and exposed to my broken Spanish, this doesn’t surprise me.
As for the rooms, the marble floors, elegant natural decor, and ocean-facing patios are compelling enough to make you want to stay indoors, even as the beach, infinity pool, and soothing grounds constantly beckon to get you out.
If permanent beach-bumming isn’t your thing, adventure is nearby. One of those excursions is Rio Secreto, an elaborate underground cave system or “cenote” flooded by crystal clear rainwater. Discovered 10 years ago by a farmer, this 27-mile swimmable “river” could be one of the most incredible caves you’ll ever explore. Even National Geographic endorses it.
Another is the Great Maya Reef, to which Dressel Divers offers both snorkeling and scuba tours. Although not as “great” as its name implies, the reef showcases an impressive array of colorful fish, modest coral and a few hyper-green sea turtles that should impress both beginner and intermediate divers.
As for the Grand’s all-included food, half of my meals were worth writing home about. The rest were just okay. Overall I’d say the food was very good for an all-inclusive, even though the service was a little slow. Furthermore, the spa was worth the extra cost, but the included on-site entertainment ultimately underwhelmed (at least while sober).
My only true disappointment with the experience was the limited exposure to local and Mexican culture in this overwhelmingly touristy location. My interactions with local staff and off-site adventures helped a little. But if you’re seeking exotic regional culture, you probably won’t find it among the 85% of guests that come from either the U.S. or Canada.
Still, Grand Paraiso offers the most relaxing beach setting I’ve ever visited. That alone is worth coming for, not to mention its proximity to mainland America. And unlike other Mexican resorts, there’s a lot more to do here during those rare moments when idleness loses its appeal.
Mexico, Iceland and Cyprus all experienced a surge in tourism spending in 2016, according to a new report from the World Travel & Tourism Council.
The group’s report also contained something of a surprise: Azerbaijan, which suffered from a currency crash, saw a boost in spending.
Here’s a look at four vacation spots on the upswing:
Foreign visitors spent 24% more pesos in Mexico last year, according to the WTTC.
The country’s tourism industry — the world’s 17th largest — benefited from a weaker peso, which made hotel rooms and travel packages cheaper for foreign visitors and especially Americans.
The currency’s decline against the dollar was driven by worries over President Trump’s supercharged rhetoric toward Mexico. He has pledged to build a new border wall separating Mexico and the U.S., as well as renegotiate a key free trade agreement called NAFTA.
But tourism in Mexico powered ahead, with spending by foreign tourists hitting 382 billion pesos ($20.1 billion) in 2016.
Beyond politics, Mexico is having a major moment in the sun.
Mexico City launched its first ever Day of the Dead moving parade in October after being inspired by the fictional parade in the James Bond film “Spectre.” The country is also welcoming chefs from the world-famous restaurant Noma, who are setting up a pop-up restaurant in Tulum in April and May.
The northern island nation of Iceland continued to expand its tourism base by leaps and bounds, welcoming visitors who were willing to bundle up against the cold, unpredictable weather. Tourism spending in the local currency surged by 27.5% last year, according to the WTTC.
This boosted the local economy, which grew by nearly 5% last year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Iceland has courted tourists through high-profile marketing campaigns and airline offers that encourage people to visit for short stop-over adventures.
The promise of seeing the Northern Lights is a huge attraction, helping the country bring in 373 billion krona ($3.4 billion) in tourism spending last year.
Cyprus, situated in the eastern Mediterranean, saw tourist spending shoot up by 17% last year to nearly €2.6 billion ($2.8 billion).
Tourists flocked to the island nation because they consider it to be a relative safe haven compared to other European destinations that have experienced a slew of high-profile terrorist attacks.
Tourism spending in France, for example, declined by just over 7% last year following a string of attacks.
Azerbaijan, a country of 10 million people sandwiched between Russia and Iran on the Caspian Sea, saw local currency spending by foreign tourists surge by nearly 71%. Like in Mexico, a much weaker currency has boosted the industry.
“The depreciation of the local currency in 2015 and 2016 have vastly improved the price competitiveness of Azerbaijan as a tourism destination,” said WTTC research director Rochelle Turner.
The country brought in nearly 4.6 billion manat ($2.7 billion) in foreign tourist spending, putting it roughly on par with Cypus.
Azerbaijan has prioritized tourism as it tries to reduce its dependence on oil. WTTC said this led the country to introduce new investments in infrastructure and improve its visitor visa system.
The country’s economy contracted by about 2.4% last year.