“The sector faces one of the most important challenges in its history; we need to make Mexican tourist destinations much more efficient and respond safely to health threats,” the director of the National Tourism Business Council, Braulio Arsuaga, told Sputnik. .
The so-called “industry without chimneys” is fundamental for the Mexican economy and represents 8.7% of the Gross Domestic Product.
Industry leaders are betting on one of the largest sources of foreign exchange, along with remittances from Mexicans in the US, which will add up to more than 40 billion dollars this year, and compensate for the ailing oil industry.
But the health crisis has had serious consequences on this sector: a radical drop in the number of foreign tourists.
The Ministry of Tourism, with ministerial rank, estimates that the number of visitors from abroad will fall to 19.7 million, compared to the 23.3 million expected.
Miguel Torruco, head of that federal portfolio, made that gloomy announcement at the recent Tianguis Turístico Virtual, a fair that brings together thousands of buyers and sellers in the sector.
This fair is usually held in one of the largest tourist centers in the country, but this year it turned entirely to the internet.
Mexico has not only lost as a tourist destination, but also millionaire investments, according to an official balance for the first half of this year.
That report established that between January and June 2020, Mexico attracted foreign capital investments of 350.8 million dollars for hotel projects, airlines and other services related to tourism.
That figure means a loss of almost a third of foreign direct investment in the sector compared to the first half of 2019, when it received 507.7 million dollars.
“Many of the activities that are contemplated in tourism are not only recreational or cultural, but also have very serious economic implications for the economy as a whole. If before COVID-19 the tourism sector was one of the strongest, currently it is one of the most affected sectors, “explains Arsuaga.
In Mexico, tourism directly generates almost 2.5 million jobs and it is estimated that up to 40% of the sector’s employees could lose their contracts.
Some hotel chains and travel agencies have organized shifts for months to avoid having to lay off workers, but still it is not enough.
“Nothing sadder than an empty hotel,” Jaime Velas, a hotel businessman from Nayarit, on the Pacific coast, points out to this agency, in whose spas the decrease in visitors has been notable.
“We usually have average occupancies of between 80 and 85% throughout the year, with full occupancy peaks in high seasons, but this year the occupancy does not average 33%”, adds the owner of a boutique hotel that employs about twenty people.
The government also fears that a drop in employment in the tourism sector will hit young people and women more drastically.
Another example is the postponement of the second hotel complex that the Spanish firm Iberostar planned to start building this year in the Litibu sector on the Riviera de Nayarit, with 300 rooms and an estimated investment of 80 million dollars.
Construction was halted due to the beginning of the pandemic and there is still no precise date for the restart of activities.
More than beach
Together with hoteliers and their employees, thousands of tourist guides, travel agencies, land and air transporters suffer, and the State itself loses income from taxes on these services.
Mexican airlines suffer a decrease in local travelers of 48% and 52% of international travelers, and have transported less than half of regular passengers.
The Mexican Gloria Guevara Manzo, president of the World Tourism Council and former federal secretary of tourism, assures that the most important thing is the standardization of the strategies of the Government and the private sector, to reactivate the tourism value chain.
“The protocols that have been implemented worldwide point in this regard; for example, conducting COVID-19 detection tests have proven to be a way to safely open tourism,” said the expert at an event of the World Tourism Organization, transmitted by internet.
Now Mexico dreams of seeing its more than 3,000 kilometers of lonely beaches re-bloom; 182 protected natural areas; 193 archaeological zones and ten cities declared a World Heritage Site.