Authorities are counting on tourists from the United States and Canada in the coming months to reactivate the sector, which has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a joint press conference Wednesday night with Deputy Health Minister and coronavirus point man Hugo López-Gatell, Tourism Minister Miguel Torruco noted that vacationers from the U.S. and Canada make up 66.4% of all visitors to Mexico, whose proximity makes the country a prime destination.
He said the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people look at travel. Tourists are reevaluating travel plans and opting for destinations that can be reached by flights of no longer than 4 1/2 hours, which could make Mexico a prime vacation spot.
Mexico is potentially easily accessible from 22 Canadian cities, Torruco said, including Ottawa, Quebec, Toronto, Winnipeg and Regina with destinations such as Cancún, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta and San José del Cabo.
Visitors from the United States, which eased a travel advisory on Mexico in mid-September, have even more options with 37 such routes possible from cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco to destinations like Ixtapa, Puerto Vallarta, Cancún, Querétaro, Mexico City, Huatulco and Oaxaca.
While tourism in 2020 is down by around 50%, that could change before the end of the year as travelers weary of lockdown and looking to escape the colder months turn their attention south.
“There could be a pretty interesting rally, especially as Canadians have their winter season from late October to mid-April,” Torruco said.
Should the country move to a yellow light on Mexico’s coronavirus stoplight system by the end of this year, hotel occupancy rates could reach 42.8%, which is slightly higher than the 40.7% predicted two months ago under the same scenario, Torruco said.
If the country remains at an orange level through December, the occupancy estimate drops to 32.9%.
Last year Mexico welcomed 19.6 million international tourists, and projections for 2020 see that number dropping to 6.8 million. Torruco reports that 86% of tourists visit six destinations — Cancún, Mexico City, Playa del Carmen, Los Cabos, Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta in order of popularity.
Overnight tourism along the border area, which saw 21.2 million visitors making quick trips into the country in 2019, is expected to drop to 12.3 million this year.
On October 5, Torruco announced the Tourism Ministry will present a strategy to encourage domestic tourism as well by promoting Pueblos Mágicos, or Magical Towns, as attractive destinations for Mexicans to visit.
In 2019, 102.6 million domestic tourists traveled to different destinations within the country. This year Torruco says 59 million Mexicans will travel within the country.
Torruco also announced that the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association is working with Mexico on health protocols to restart the cruise ship industry in November and December.
In 2019 nine million tourists visited Mexico as part of a cruise, a number that is projected to drop to just over three million this year. And whether the cruise industry will start back up any time soon remains to be seen.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced yesterday that they have extended a ban on cruises originating from U.S. ports to at least October 31.