Business & Economy

Mexico’s Caribbean welcoming tourist wave despite fears of new Covid spike

By Lourdes Cruz

Cancun, Mexico, Mar 28 (efe-epa).- Tourist destinations in Quintana Roo, on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, are operating at 60 percent of their capacity but expect to welcome at least 600,000 tourists within the next two weeks of vacation despite fears of a new spike in the Covid-19 pandemic.

The arrival of national and international travelers has alerted local authorities, who are keeping the open-door policy in place with an eye toward reactivating the economy despite acknowledging the up to 200 percent increase in confirmed coronavirus cases in towns like Isla Mujeres and Felipe Carrillo Puerto.

In the face of this scenario, the state government announced “sanitary bubbles” in zones like Cancun, the Riviera Maya and Tulum, promising that there will be spaces free of Covid-19 to provide security for visitors bearing a Covid-free certificate for tourist service providers.

But this program, which was launched last year, has only attracted 250 companies out of more than 2,000 establishments.

Mexico is the No. 3 country in terms of Covid-19 deaths with more than 201,000 fatalities, along with 2.2 million confirmed cases.

But it was also the third-most-visited country in the world in 2020, when its tourist GDP contracted by 28 percent, although it welcomed more international tourists than other nations because of its lax restrictive measures which never included suspending flights, implementing quarantines or obligatory testing.

Proof of this is the controversy surrounding the 44 Argentine students who tested positive for Covid-19 upon arriving back in their country in mid-March after vacationing in Cancun, where they underwent fake testing to show they were “Covid-free” at two unlicensed laboratories.

Mexican authorities have promised to review all negative-Covid certificates but so far they have only closed the two labs identified in the Argentine case.

In an interview with EFE, Javier Aranda, the executive direct of the Hotel Association of Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Puerto Morelos, said that they are working to raise awareness among visitors.

“If we look at the experience in the case of the Argentine tourists, there are young people who sometimes … are not aware that they should be a little more careful,” he said.

He added that adhering to the safety precautions are the “responsibility of the people who come here.”

“Even when you continue these protocols, and even when they are followed with commitment and responsibility, no company can guarantee 100 immunity,” he said.

Mexico’s main tourist destination is also facing the negative repercussions on the tourist trade of a recent shootout in a bar that left one person dead and three wounded, a reminder that the security crisis is still ongoing.

Despite the active threat of the pandemic, local businessmen are hoping to boost the economy after the annualized 8.2 percent drop in GDP last year.

The private sector is hoping for seven million tourists at different Mexican tourist destinations who will spend some 26.5 billion pesos (about $1.325 billion), according to the Cocanaco-Servytur national chambers of commerce, services and tourism.

“We’re going to be talking about more than 100,000 people each day, and that’s going to be within the first few days, and at the peak we’re talking about almost 105,000 people, a little more on the Thursday through Sunday of Holy Week,” Aranda said.

On Gaviota Azul beach, located in Punta Cancun, EFE found examples of people who had lost their regular livelihoods, like the members of the Salvaje Banda Vakeros musical band who before the pandemic performed at social events but now just play on the public streets for the contributions they can get.

On Monday, health authorities in Quintana Roo will begin an anti-Covid vaccination campaign for elderly adults and plan to administer 13,000 doses.


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