Peña Nieto speaks to a crowd in Tlayacapan yesterday. Peña Nieto speaks to a crowd in Tlayacapan yesterday.

Tourism takes a hit in quake’s aftermath

President urges Mexicans take holidays in destinations hurt by earthquake

The tourism industry fears that one of the more lasting effects of the September 19 earthquake in central Mexico will be a reversal in the upward trend in tourist numbers seen over the last four years.

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Short-term cancelations are approaching 80% as visitors change their plans to travel to the states affected by the tremor, a trend that will have a negative impact on the December vacation period, the last high season of the year for the industry.

The Mexican Federation of Tourism Associations (Fematur) and the Mexican Association of Hotels and Motels (AMHM) described the outlook for the year as “complicated.”

The best-case scenario for industry leaders is that the figures will remain the same as last year, when Mexico welcomed 35 million international travelers who generated revenues of US $19.7 billion.

Those figures and the upward trend observed in past years were enough for the federal Tourism Secretariat (Sectur) to issue an optimistic 7% growth forecast for the industry this year.

Such growth would likely be enough to move Mexico up one ranking to be the seventh most popular destination in the world, as measured by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Tourism associations head Jorge Hernández Delgado observed that international business travelers have begun holding their meetings within the Mexico City International Airport to avoid staying in the city.

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Domestic tourism has also grown in recent years. Yesterday, President Enrique Peña Nieto made a call to Mexicans to visit the tourism destinations affected by the 7.1-magnitude earthquake to aid in reactivating their economies.

While announcing the launch of tourism promotion campaigns, he said visiting places affected by the central Mexico earthquake “is a way of helping . . . towns where tourism is the axis of the economy.”

The president was speaking to residents during a tour of Tlayacapan, a Pueblo Mágico, or “magical town,” in Morelos where the quake left five people dead and serious damage.

He was accompanied by Morelos Governor Graco Ramírez, who became the target of angry critics who jeered and shouted at him when he began speaking. The governor has been accused of putting political conditions on the delivery of aid to victims.

Ramírez has denied the allegations.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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