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Who pays when a Pope visits?

A man speaks in a payphone displaying images of Pope Francis, in Mexico City on February 10, 2016. Pope Francis will visit four Mexican states from next February 12 to 17.  YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

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Pope Francis is scheduled to begin a five-day visit to Mexico on Friday. The pontiff plans to criss-cross the country, going from the southernmost state of Chiapas all the way up to Ciudad Juarez on the border with Texas.

Who picks up the tab for the trip?

As it turns out, the Pope’s trips are heavily subsidized, starting with the first plane ride.

“All the seats on the plane are sold to journalists at … what you would call an elevated price,” Andreas Widmer said, Director of Entrepreneurship Programs at The Catholic University of America, and the author of a book about his time in the Swiss Guard, the Vatican’s version of the Secret Service.

Once in country, the pope needs security. Mexico plans to deploy more than 10,000 police, soldiers and agents of the presidential guard. The country will pick up the tab for the extra expense.

“That is just the normal protocol for heads of states,” Widmer said.

Mexico will get something for its trouble (and expense). For one, it will get an influx of millions of visitors, who are expected to stay in Mexican hotels, eat at the country’s restaurants, and spend money on souvenirs, transportation and other tourist services.

But, the country will get something even more important, Earl Anthony Wayne said, a public policy fellow at the Wilson Center and a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

“There’ll be a lot of attention from the world on the different parts of Mexico that he visits, including the capital,” Wayne said.

And that could help Mexico longterm, because it could encourage new tourists to visit after they see new, positive messages about the country, not just ones about cartel violence, Wayne said. “People will see there’s a lot of economic vibrancy.”

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