Tourism and Economic Development: Evidence from Mexico's Coastline
Tourism is one of the most visible and fastest growing facets of globalization in developing countries. Despite widespread policy interest, however, we currently have limited empirical evidence on the economic consequences of this channel of market integration. This paper combines a rich collection of Mexican microdata with a quantitative spatial equilibrium model of trade in goods and tourism services and a new empirical strategy to estimate the long-run economic consequences of tourism. We
... s of tourism. We begin by estimating a number of reduced form effects of tourism on local economic outcomes in today's cross-section of Mexican municipalities. To base these estimates on plausibly exogenous variation in long-term tourism exposure, we exploit geological and oceanographic variation in beach quality along the Mexican coastline, and use historical high-resolution satellite data to construct instrumental variables. To guide the estimation of tourism's welfare implications, we then write down a spatial equilibrium model, and use the reduced form moments to inform its calibration for counterfactual analysis. We find that tourism causes large and significant increases in long run local real economic activity. Contrary to much of the existing literature on tourism and development, these effects are driven by sizable positive spillovers on traded goods production. In the aggregate, however, we find that these spillovers are largely offset by reductions in agglomeration economies among non-touristic regions, so that the national gains from tourism are mainly driven by a classical market integration effect. -Carvajal provided excellent research assistance. We thank Andrés Rodríguez-Clare and participants at multiple conferences/seminars for helpful comments.