By Lourdes Cruz
Cancun, Mexico, Dec 27 (EFE).- Mexico’s tourist sector is ending the year with a strong recovery compared with pre-pandemic figures from 2019 and with a high hotel room occupancy rate, despite the cancellations of flights from the US and Europe due to the spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The Mexican Caribbean, with Cancun as the main attraction, expects to finish out 2021 with a total of 12.5 million visitors for the year, representing an 83 percent recovery of the figures attained in 2019.
Andres Aguilar, the office manager for the Tourism Secretariat of Quintana Roo state, told EFE that during the current winter season, historically considered to be one of the best times of the year for tourism in the Mexican Caribbean, occupancy rates of between 80-90 percent are expected, with days on which more than 600 air operations are handled at the Cancun airport.
“We’re expecting a rather positive winter season … From Dec. 18 to Jan. 2 we’re forecasting the arrival of 1.3 million visitors,” he said.
“For next year, if we maintain the same trends … the levels of certification in protection and health protection, and the vaccination regimes among the local population, we’re not only going to reestablish activity with respect to what we had in 2019, which was a little over 16 million tourists, but – in addition – expect a slight increase,” he added.
For January, more than 1.6 million seats on incoming flights have been reserved already and a similar number for the months of both February and March, clear evidence leading to the optimism for the first quarter of 2022.
Along the Riviera Maya, where there are more than 43,000 hotel rooms, the first two weeks of December saw an average occupancy rate of 80 percent and for the closing days of 2021 a rate of 85 percent is expected.
These figures, as emphasized by Toni Chaves, president of the Riviera Maya Hotel Association, represent a 95 percent recovery compared to average occupancy in 2019, since last year the borders closures and restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic resulted in barely 30 percent occupancy.
“The Mexican Caribbean has benefited from the Mexican government’s strategy to implement health measures and keep the doors open, in contrast to other destinations. Also, it shows the (public) confidence that the Cancun/Mexico brand has acquired over the years,” said Javier Monje, the sales director for the RIU hotel chain in the Mexican Caribbean.
“In our case, we’re clearly seeing these figures reflected in the occupancy of our hotels,” he added.
“After how difficult it was to get started in 2020 and with the good rate at which tourism has responded given the spread of the pandemic, Cancun finds itself one of the most visited cities after the pandemic, a result of public-private collaboration,” said Monje.
Jesus Almaguer Salazar, the commercial director for Spain’s Oasis Hotels and Resorts chain for the Caribbean, said that in Cancun and along the Riviera Maya next year expectations are for a significant increase in tourist arrivals.
Almaguer Salazar said that the good results obtained so far and the favorable projections for 2022 are due to the fact that the area has managed to generate confidence among visitors as a tourist destination that has managed itself well during the pandemic.
“We’ve captured the major part of North American tourism that has traveled to the Caribbean region, from important South American markets such as Brazil, Colombia, Chile and even Argentina. If we do things right, we have guaranteed a very good season,” he told EFE.
Meanwhile, Roberto Cintron, president of the Cancun, Puerto Morelos and Isla Mujeres Hotel Association, emphasized the need to strengthen not only the promotion and publicity strategies to continue to attract foreign tourists, but also to see to it that tourists’ experience in the region makes them want to return not just once but many times.
“We already have a forecast of about 75 percent reservations on flights for the first months of 2022, which are months during which travelers historically come here because of the cold in their places of origin,” he added.
However, Cintron warned about the “risk of losing” part of the tourists captured once other destinations manage to reactivate themselves.
“We’ve got ‘borrowed tourism,’ that’s the reality, because Europe has not completely opened up, because people prefer to come to a spot just two or three hours away by air rather than with a six- or nine-hour flight to Europe or to the center of South America where the security situation doesn’t contribute much and people prefer coming to Mexico,” he acknowledged.
“We have to see to it that those tourists return at least two or three more times to the Mexican Caribbean given the future advertising by countries like Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and other European nations that need the big (tourism) market that is the US and Canada,” he said.