The port towns of Quintana Roo continue to lead the way in cruise ship tourism to Mexico, with cruise visitors to the Caribbean resorts of Cozumel and Mahahual increasing by around 50% over the last year.
According to the federal Tourism Ministry (Sectur), Cozumel received 3.23 million cruise passengers between January and October 2023, 48.5% more than in 2022. Mahahual received 1.38 million, a year-on-year increase of 55 percent.
Over the same period, the number of ships visiting Cozumel increased from 864 to 905, while Mahahual saw a drop from 363 to 348, but received larger and fuller cruise vessels.
This put Quintana Roo’s ports at the top of the list of Mexico’s most popular cruise destinations, which also included Ensenada, Baja California; Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur; and Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. Between them, these five ports accounted for 97.2% of Mexico’s total cruise tourism over the period.
Luis González, director of tourism in Othón P. Blanco, the municipality in which Mahahual is located, told the newspaper La Jornada Maya that the increase largely reflected the recovery of the cruise industry since the pandemic. Nevertheless, he predicted that the upward trajectory would continue at least through 2024.
“In November in Mahahual we received 49 cruises, now in December there are 77, and the best months for the sector are May, June and July,” he said. “We want to believe that next year we will [see] an increase of between 35 and 45 percent from what was achieved this year.”
The increase also corresponds to newly inaugurated cruise routes that are bringing larger ships to the Mexican Caribbean. In December, for instance, Cozumel received the 3,200-capacity luxury ship Norwegian Viva for the first time. In 2024, Quintana Roo is expected to receive Royal Caribbean International’s new ship Icon of the Seas. With capacity for 5,610 passengers and 2,350 crew members, Icon of the Seas will be the largest cruise ship in the world.
Although environmentalists have pushed back against the expansion of cruise terminals in Cozumel, González stressed that cruise visitors create an important economic spillover in the region, estimated at between 1,600 and 1,800 pesos (US $94-$106) per visitor per day. He said that much of this revenue goes to small businesses, such as companies giving tours of archaeological sites.
Cruise tourism is also recovering steadily in Mexico’s Pacific ports, although total numbers in 2022 remained lower than in the Caribbean. Puerto Vallarta, for instance, received 456,435 cruise passengers during the first ten months of the year – 50% more than in the same period of 2022.
With reports from La Jornada Maya