Gloria Guevara Manzo is an influential figure in the Mexican travel industry, having held various positions at Sabre Travel Network and Sabre Holdings before President Calderon was appointed Minister and Secretary of Tourism in 2010. During her tenure, she led the creation of the “National Agreement for Tourism,” which aligned the country’s various sectors towards a common strategic plan. She was named one of the “Most Influential Women in Mexico” by CNN, Forbes, and Expansion and recognized by the United Nations World Travel Organisation (UNWTO) as a world leader in the sector. Guevara is also a special advisor on Government affairs at Harvard University and a member of the Future of Travel and Tourism Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum.
Gloria Guevara was born and raised in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. She fondly recalls her childhood: “I’m from Guadalajara, but I grew up all over Mexico. My parents made it a point to travel all over the country. I learned to appreciate different traditions and have empathy.” This upbringing would prove to be a formative influence on her later career.
After completing her B.S. in Computer Science from Anahuac University, Guevara pursued her MBA from the prestigious Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She continued to expand her academic horizons, undertaking further studies in Marketing, General Management, Project Management, Leadership, and other subjects at IPADE, George Washington University, and other renowned institutions.
Guevara’s impressive academic background served as a solid foundation for her 15-year-long professional journey with Sabre Travel Network and Sabre Holdings, where she quickly rose up the ranks. She was based in Mexico City and Coral Gables, Florida, and had regional responsibilities for the Latin America and Caribbean region. Guevara’s leadership skills and business acumen were recognized when she was appointed CEO of Sabre de Mexico, a joint venture between Aeromexico, Mexicana, and Sabre Holdings. Guevara says, “I love the travel industry because it brings people and cultures together. It’s an industry that can change the world for the better.”
In 2010, Gloria Guevara’s impressive career trajectory took a monumental turn when President Felipe Calderon appointed her Secretary of Tourism, a pivotal cabinet position responsible for leading a sector contributing to 9% of Mexico’s GDP and employing over 7.5 million people. With Mexico being one of the top 10 destinations in the world for international tourism, Guevara faced a formidable task ahead.
Just two weeks after her appointment, Guevara oversaw the Mexico Tourism Board. She skillfully developed strategies to promote and position the country as a premier tourist destination, even during difficult times. During her tenure as Secretary of Tourism, Guevara’s crowning achievement was creating and signing the National Agreement for Tourism in 2011. This groundbreaking initiative was a strategic plan that aligned the entire tourism sector and the Mexican Federal Government with all the Governors of Mexican states, Congress, Senate, Unions, Academia, and representatives from the Private Sector. The agreement laid a strong foundation for the sector’s growth and development in Mexico and has since been used as a model for other countries and praised by the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
Despite facing significant challenges, Gloria Guevara’s leadership as the Secretary of Tourism for Mexico from 2010 to 2012 was instrumental in turning around the country’s tourism industry. During her tenure, Mexico experienced the worst financial and economic crises, as well as the H1N1 flu outbreak and security challenges, making it a challenging environment for the tourism sector.
Reflecting on the tough times, Guevara says, “I was the Mexico tourism board president for three years. That was right after the outbreak of H1N1, the financial and economic crisis in the U.S., and security challenges when many people stopped traveling. It had a huge impact on travel to Mexico. Part of my job was to try to reset the tone and put things in context, to explain that Mexico was a big country and we could not paint it with just one brush – no more than you can paint the U.S. with just one brush. The more you travel, the more you open your mind and learn.”
Despite the challenges, Guevara remained steadfast in her determination to promote Mexico as a travel destination. She implemented various initiatives, such as ‘Mundo Maya’ and ‘Vive Mexico,’ which aimed to showcase Mexico’s diverse cultural and natural heritage. Under her leadership, Mexico’s tourism industry bounced back, and the country welcomed over 23 million international visitors in 2012.
Guevara’s expertise in the tourism industry led her to her next role as the President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council on August 15, 2017. Guevara’s leadership at the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has been characterized by significant achievements, including launching the Seamless Traveller Journey program and prioritizing sustainability, talent development, and innovation in the travel and tourism sector. She has advocated for the industry, promoting it as a critical driver of economic growth and job creation. She has positioned the WTTC as a leading voice in the industry, representing the private sector’s interests while working closely with governments and stakeholders.
She has championed the idea that travel can be a force for good. “Professionally speaking, travel can be a force for good. It has allowed me to meet people I never would have otherwise. It creates empathy and understanding, which are both always needed in the world,” she reflects. According to Guevara, travel allows people to broaden their perspectives and better appreciate different cultures and ways of life. “We jump to conclusions too fast without putting ourselves in the shoes of the others,” she adds.
Guevara’s passion for sustainable tourism is reflected in her belief that travel can promote a deeper appreciation for the environment. “It gives them a better appreciation of other people and other nationalities, whether we’re in Dubai or Hong Kong or the U.S., as well as a better appreciation for nature and sustainable tourism,” she explains. “For example, seeing the migration of monarch butterflies or whales in Baja can help people connect with nature and understand its fragility.”
Currently, Guevara serves as the Chief Special Advisor to the Minister of Tourism of Saudi Arabia and oversees the establishment of the Sustainable Tourism Global Center. This multi-country, multi-stakeholder coalition aims to support the tourism industry’s transition to net-zero emissions while protecting nature and supporting communities.
She stresses that tourism must prioritize inclusivity for all and take accountability for sustainable growth. Guevara says, “This includes addressing climate change and environmental concerns, as we are responsible for protecting our natural and cultural assets.”