Arrivals at Cancún airport hit their highest level since February 2020 last month, even as the suspension of Canadian airlines’ flights to Mexico remained in effect.
A total of 1.57 million air travelers flew into the resort city’s airport in March, according to its operator, ASUR. Just under 56% of that number arrived on international flights while just over 44% flew in from other cities in Mexico.
Incoming passenger traffic hadn’t been so high since 2.17 million people flew into Cancún in February last year – before the World Health Organization had declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.
International arrivals have now outnumbered domestic arrivals during four consecutive months, even though flights from Canada — Mexico’s second-largest source country for tourists after the United States – to Mexico were suspended on January 31 and won’t resume until early May.
The airport’s high numbers have also occurred despite many countries, including the United States and Canada, requiring incoming travelers to present a negative Covid-19 test result.
ASUR said in a statement that the Easter vacation period helped increase incoming flights in March. Holy Week began this year on March 28 and ran through April 4.
Analysts at the Mexican bank Banorte said in a note that March arrivals at airports operated by ASUR, which includes facilities in several other cities such as Mérida, Hautulco and Veracruz, exceeded expectations.
They predicted that international air arrivals will increase further in coming months due to the fast rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in the United States. Almost 152,000 flights are scheduled between the United States and Mexico in the seven-month period between the end of March and the end of October, a 6% increase compared to the same period in 2019.
Cancún will be the most popular destination this summer, according to data also showing that 11 of the 13 airlines that fly between Mexico and the United States will provide services to and from the airport in the Caribbean coast city. All told, there will be direct services between Cancún and 40 airports in the United States, among which Los Angeles International Airport and Dallas-Fort Worth International will have the most connections.
Air Canada, one of four Canadian airlines that agreed to the Canadian government’s request to temporarily suspend flights to Mexico and other sun destinations, will resume services to the country in early May.
According to the company’s website, flights from Toronto to Mexico City will resume on May 3 with three services per week. Twice-weekly flights from Vancouver to the Mexican capital will resume on May 6, while twice-weekly services between Montreal and Mexico City will begin again on May 10.
The newspaper El Independiente reported that Air Canada was planning to resume flights to Los Cabos in early May, but that destination doesn’t currently appear on the airline’s upcoming routes schedule.
The resumption of some flights to Mexico from Canada is welcome news for the Mexican tourism industry, which had its worst year in living memory in 2020. Tourism Minister Miguel Torruco said that the three-month suspension of flights could cost the sector US $782 million in lost revenue.
The Tourism Ministry predicted in January that international tourist numbers would increase 33.7% in 2021 compared to last year in a best-case scenario, but even if that upturn is achieved tourism would still be well below 2019 levels.
Now, however, the summer schedule for flights between the United States and Mexico, the rapid vaccine rollout in the U.S. and the upcoming return of Canadian tourists give cause for optimism that the recovery could exceed that prediction.