The hospitality industry is doing well in the Isthmus region of Oaxaca where journalists from Mexico and around the world have converged with government, Army and police officials on the epicenter of damage from the September 7 earthquake.
But in places like Oaxaca city, Puerto Escondido and Huatulco, whose economic driver is tourism, hotel occupancy rates have plummeted, according to a report by Susannah Rigg at Condé Nast Traveler.
“I believe people think the city was destroyed,” said tour company owner Rosario Hernández about Oaxaca after a tour canceled due to safety concerns. Yet there was little structural damage and no deaths or injuries reported in the capital city.
Hotelier Jaime Amaro said occupancy plunged from 70% to less than 10% after the earthquake, while chef Pilar Cabrera of La Olla restaurant said tourists who had planned to come for the city’s well known Day of the Dead event are scared to come.
“They don’t realize the Isthmus is four hours from here,” he said of the region most affected by the 8.2-magnitude quake.
Equally far away is the Mixe Sierra, which was also hard hit. But the news reports say Oaxaca so “tourists think that the houses in Oaxaca city have collapsed,” Cabrera said.
The Oaxaca Hotels and Motels Association said an occupancy rate of at least 40% was expected in the city for this long weekend but most hotels will be fortunate to see 20%.
Puerto Escondido’s hotels association said the rate is only 10%: visitors canceled after the tsunami alert that followed the earthquake. At best, the tsunami’s waves were two meters high, not much for a city that boasts one of the world’s top 10 surfing beaches.
Some 400,000 people in the state are estimated to make their living from the tourism or hospitality industry and as Condé Nast reported, people staying away creates a precarious situation beyond the earthquake.
“The earthquake has shaken up the most impoverished areas and our help really is needed there, but it has also greatly unbalanced the financial backbone of the state, with over 3,000 tourism operators who will face the fight to stay afloat themselves,” Amaro said.
Two days after the earthquake, the state’s Tourism Secretariat assured travelers that three major tourist destinations of Huatulco, Puerto Escondido and Oaxaca suffered no major damage.
People have been asking how they can help, and making a donation is one way. But not cancelling travel plans to visit is another, Rigg wrote. Maintaining the flow of tourist dollars through the city will help the whole state in this time of crisis.