Private sector tourism organizations have warned that eliminating long weekends as proposed by President López Obrador would cause economic damage to the tourism sector – but the president himself rejects the claim.
López Obrador announced Wednesday that he would propose a reform at the end of the current school year to eliminate the long weekends known as puentes (bridges) in order to better honor the country’s history.
His proposal will move federal holidays that commemorate historical events to coincide with the actual dates on which they took place, rather than giving the public a day off work and school on a predetermined Monday.
The Federal Labor Law was modified in 2006 so that three historical events – Constitution Day, former president Benito Juárez’s birthday and Revolution Day – are commemorated on the first Monday of February, the third Monday of March and the third Monday of November, respectively, regardless of whether the actual date falls on those Mondays or not.
Many Mexicans take advantage of the long weekends to take short trips with family or friends, especially to beach destinations on the Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean coasts.
In that context, the National Association of Chain Hotels (ANCH), the Mexican Association of Hotels and Motels (AMHM) and the Mexican Federation of Tourism Associations (Fematur) agreed that López Obrador’s proposal must be stopped.
In a letter sent to Tourism Secretary Miguel Torruco, ANCH President Braulio Arsuaga highlighted the benefits that the most recent puente was expected to generate for the tourism sector.
“To give you an example of the benefits that [long weekends] have brought, allow me to share data that you yourself used. On January 29, you reported that for the vacation period from January 31 to February 3, around 1.6 million vacationers would travel. As a result, hotel occupancy would increase 62.7% and there would be an economic spillover of close to 4 billion pesos [US $214.4 million],” he wrote.
The AMHM said in a statement that getting rid of long weekends “would be a terrible mistake,” asserting that the tourism sector could be “severely” affected.
López Obrador claimed that moving holidays to the actual dates that historical events occurred would help educate people, especially schoolchildren, about Mexican history.
But the AMHM insisted that “there are other ways to raise awareness among our boys, girls and young people.”
“We believe that the elimination [of long weekends] is not a measure that guarantees the desired objective,” the association said.
Fematur president Jorge Hernández said that all tourism sector stakeholders should be consulted before any decision is made, highlighting that, in addition to the economic benefit of long weekends, the holidays afford Mexican families a better quality of life.
At his morning press conference on Thursday, López Obrador dismissed the concerns of the tourism sector, which generates about 9% of GDP and provides employment to approximately 3.8 million people.
“I believe that [tourism] won’t be affected. On the other hand, forgetting the past does affect us,” he said.
The president also stressed that his government is carrying out a range of measures to boost tourism, citing efforts to clear beaches of sargassum and the construction of the Maya Train.