Tourists are set to flock to some of Mexico’s most popular coastal resort cities during the Christmas-New Year vacation period despite appeals for people to stay at home due to the worsening coronavirus pandemic.
Acapulco, Guerrero, and Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, are both gearing up for a large influx of holidaymakers while Cancún, Quintana Roo, and Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, also expect tourist numbers to rise albeit to levels below those seen at the same time in recent years.
According to tourism authorities in Acapulco, hotels are already booked to their 50% permitted capacity for the period between December 21 and January 8. At least 350,000 people with hotel reservations are predicted to descend on the Pacific coast resort city during the three-week period.
Authorities say that the number of visitors could easily double to 700,000 given that many people stay in timeshare apartments, holiday homes and properties rented on online accommodation platforms such as Airbnb.
Due to the expected influx of tourists and the ongoing pandemic, the government of Guerrero, the state in which Acapulco is located, has canceled New Year’s Eve fireworks displays in tourist destinations across the state.
Guerrero is currently an orange light “high” risk state, according to the federal government’s coronavirus stoplight system. Acapulco has recorded more confirmed cases and Covid-19 deaths than any other municipality in the state.
About 1,000 kilometers to the north, Puerto Vallarta is also expecting to end the year with hotels as full as they are allowed to be. In the case of Jalisco’s premier tourism destination the maximum capacity is 75%, said state government official Alejandro Guzmán Larralde.
“The tourism industry is beginning to recover after being one of the [sectors] hardest hit by the pandemic,” he said.
Luis Villaseñor, director of the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Trust, said that an influx of both domestic and international tourists is expected at the end of the year, adding that most of the latter will come from the United States.
“We’ve recovered some flights that no longer operated, … that’s the case with the United Airlines flight from Newark, with daily flights, and the American Airlines flight from Charlotte,” he said.
There were about 1,000 flights in and out of Puerto Vallarta in October, up from just 322 in June, while there were almost 700 in the first half of December, providing another sign that tourism is recovering.
Certified by the World Travel and Tourism Council as a safe destination due to its compliance with measures designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Puerto Vallarta is also commonly accessed by road, especially from Guadalajara, located about 330 kilometers inland.
The city has recorded just over 2,600 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. Jalisco is currently orange on the stoplight map.
On the other side of the country, Cancún has had average hotel occupancy of 45% this month but there is optimism that it will increase to 65% by the end of the year. But even if that level is achieved, it will be the lowest in recent years for the end-of-year vacation period.
Roberto Cintrón Gómez, president of the Hotel Association of Cancún and Puerto Morelos, had expressed hope that occupancy levels would go as high as 90% if the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo reached green light “low” risk status on the stoplight system.
However, the Yucatán Peninsula’s tourism mecca regressed to orange from “medium” risk yellow at the start of last week.
Cintrón said that 60% or 65% occupancy during the winter holiday season would be low compared to previous years but at least give hotels some much-needed revenue.
According to Quintana Roo authorities, there are currently just over 70,000 tourists in the state but that number is expected to increase in the coming days with greater numbers of domestic and international flights scheduled to arrive.
Other popular tourism destinations in the state include Playa del Carmen and Tulum, which have recorded far fewer coronavirus cases than Cancún. Almost half of Quintana Roo’s 15,128 confirmed cases were detected in the municipality where Cancún is located while more than a quarter were found in and around the state capital, Chetumal.
At the tip of Mexico’s other famous tourism peninsula, hotels in Los Cabos currently have an average occupancy level of 39% but hoteliers hope to reach the maximum permitted capacity of 50% by the end of the year. Hotel owners in other Baja California Sur tourism hotspots, such as the state capital La Paz, also hope they can at least have half of their rooms occupied during the upcoming vacation period.
However, 50% occupancy would be 20% lower than the average in previous years during the entire winter period when tourists from the United States and further afield commonly seek out warmer weather in destinations such as Los Cabos.
The downturn in tourism this year has hit Baja California Sur hard, causing economic pain for hotels, restaurants and other businesses that rely heavily on visitors. According to the national restaurant association Canirac, about 8,000 direct jobs in that sector alone have been lost in Baja California Sur.
The state is currently orange on the federal stoplight map with just over 1,000 active coronavirus cases, according to federal Health Ministry estimates. Just over 30% of Baja California Sur’s 16,027 confirmed cases were detected in Los Cabos while 50% were found in La Paz.
Another state where the tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic is Veracruz. Sergio Lois Heredia, president of the Metropolitan Tourism Council in the Gulf coast state, said that this winter holiday season will be the worst on record.
He said hotel occupancy of just 50% is expected whereas it has been above 75% at the same time in recent years.
Veracruz is one of just three green light “low” risk states in Mexico but according to Heredia, visitor numbers in the state’s eponymous port city have not yet recovered.
Source: El Financiero (sp)