Photo: Erik Gazi/Unsplash

By KELIN DILLON

Mexico’s usually-robust tourism industry suffered brutal losses in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, reaching its lowest level since World War II, and now experts are warning that 2021 could fare even worse for Mexico’s tourism than its predecessor.

Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi) revealed in a report there was a 46 percent drop in tourism from 2019 to 2020, with only 24.3 million international vacationers entering Mexico last year. The historic drop came after a seven-year period of record-high tourism in the country from 2013 to 2019.

Only $11 billion in revenues came from foreign travelers in 2020, a 55 percent drop from the year prior, which is the largest decrease in history since Mexico’s tourism figures began to be recorded some 40 years ago.

Now, with Mexico’s vaccination program moving at a glacial pace, other countries, such as Canada and the United States, are now levying restrictions against their citizens visiting the country where inhabitants lag behind in inoculation and covid runs rampant.

So far, Mexico has declined to levy the same restrictions against incoming travelers that many of its peers have, including mandatory covid testing and quarantines upon entering the country, in hopes to make Mexico an attractive destination for stir-crazy foreigners looking for an open vacation spot. 

“The reactivation of tourism will depend on the application of vaccines in the population, but they are being distributed very slowly in Mexico, and that is closing the doors to the rest of the world,” Pablo Álvarez Icaza, a former official for the Secretariat of Tourism (Sectur), told the El Universal daily newspaper.

The United States recently made presenting a negative covid test a requirement for any traveler entering it from a foreign country, potentially deterring travelers from planning new vacations. Canada took things a step father, specifically suspending airline travel between it and Mexico for the foreseeable future, virtually eliminating the possibility of Canadians’ vacationing in Mexico and the much-needed revenue that comes with them.

The United Kingdom also announced new travel restrictions for its vacation-friendly population, saying residents may not be allowed to exit the country until the majority of the population has received vaccination. 

“Vaccines will not be the magic wand, but a factor for tourism to reactivate faster,” said Armando Bojórquez, president of the Association for Culture and Tourism in Latin America. “The year 2021 may be the same or worse than 2020, with everything and the vaccine.”

Bojórquez also noted that countries which manage to vaccinate their populations the quickest will have a leg up on others in the tourism industry, since those countries will be considered safer for travel than others, like Mexico, which has yet to vaccinate over half a percent of its population. The United States, in comparison, has already given over 10 percent of the population its first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Experts hope that with the United States expected to have vaccinated 90 percent of its population by years’ end, tourists will feel more confident traveling to Mexico, even if it hasn’t reached the same levels of inoculation, potentially creating improvements for the tourism sector in 2022.

…Feb. 12, 2021

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