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By KELIN DILLON

Analysts say Mexico’s international tourism could massively suffer as a result of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgrading its airspace ranking on Tuesday, May 25, from a category one to a category two, effectively limiting the country from opening new air routes or flying Mexican airlines into the United States.

The downgrade came after a less-than-stellar year for Mexican aviation, following Mexico City’s controversial airspace redesign, which caused several near-accidents downplayed by Mexican aeronautics authorities, and the public denunciation of the government’s aviation agency by the National Union of Air Traffic Controllers (Sinacta).

Gerardo Herrera, professor of Tourism at the Universidad Iberoamericana, noted that international tourism could be completely halted by the category degradation, right as tourists feel more inclined to travel as the covid-19 pandemic begins to decline.

Over 75 percent of tourists who entered Mexico in the first quarter of 2021 came from the United States, a figure that could drastically dwindle as a result of the FAA giving Mexico a category 2 ranking, hurting the nation’s already-sluggish tourism industry even further.

Herrera warned it will also hurt airlines like Volaris that have plans to expand further into the United States, essentially stopping ideas in their tracks.

While Mexico previously faced the same category deranking 10 years ago, it was able to reinstate category 1 within six months thanks to increased supervision made possible by an increased budget, something Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is unlikely to apportion the funding for. 

In fact, on Tuesday, AMLO said he did “not consider this a serious matter,” saying national airlines are concentrated on local flights and would not be affected by the FAA’s potential ranking.

“With the degradation, the country’s tourist recovery may be delayed,” said Anáhuac Tourism Research and Competitiveness Center (Cicotur) director Francisco Madrid. “An immediate consequence is that national lines cannot increase their offer of flights and destinations between the United States and Mexico. The U.S. market drives the return of international demand to Mexico and there are no guarantees that U.S. airlines will meet the needs left by Mexican airlines.”

“A cut in Mexico’s air safety rating is not just anything. In economic terms, it would delay the recovery of tourism, fixed investment, growth and employment in the services sector,” added Banco Base’s chief economist Gabriela Siller on Twitter.

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