Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Tourism Sector Begins to Rebound, but Number of Foreign Visitors Still Down

Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Tourism Sector Begins to Rebound, but Number of Foreign Visitors Still Down

Article excerpt

The Mexican tourism sector has begun to rebound from last year's slump, but a full recovery is not likely in 2002 unless the number of foreign visitors increases to levels prevalent in 2000. An estimated 19.6 million foreign visitors traveled to Mexico in 2001, down about 4% from the previous year. The numbers were down because of the US economic slowdown and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, said the Secretaria de Turismo (SECTUR). Some estimates say more than 85% of the foreign visitors come from the US.

SECTUR said the decline in foreign visitors was more than offset by an increase in industry profits. Foreign tourists spent about US$8.35 billion last year, slightly above the annual average of US$8 billion. This was also 1.7% above 2000 levels. A strong peso and increased per-capita spending by foreign tourists contributed to the strong earnings for the tourism industry last year, said SECTUR.

Tourism Secretary Leticia Navarro Ochoa said foreign tourism was expected to remain slow in the first six months of the year, with numbers projected to decline by as much as 5% from levels recorded in January-June 2001. The slow influx of foreign tourists was particularly evident in the reduced activity at Mexican airports. Air traffic at Cozumel, a popular destination for US travelers, was down more than 31% early this year. Similar figures were reported at terminals that cater to US travelers, such as Merida and Cancun.

Still, Navarro Ochoa predicted an increase in foreign travelers in the second half of this year, which could bring numbers for the year close to those recorded in 2001. "We anticipate a US economic recovery, which will encourage an increase of US travelers to Mexico," said Navarro Ochoa, who also cited a strong campaign by SECTUR and related agencies to promote Mexico to potential travelers in the US and Europe.

The tourism secretary said Mexico is trying to attract the type of tourists that spend more money, such as golf enthusiasts and business travelers.

Domestic travelers keep industry fairly strong

Still, domestic tourism, which accounts for 80% of all travelers in Mexico, continues to compensate partly for the decline in foreign visitors. The number of domestic travelers last year increased by 1.6% from 2000, generating the equivalent of US$53 billion. This is six times the revenues obtained from foreign tourism.

The trend has continued this year, particularly during the traditional Easter vacation period. Domestic tourism during the last week of March was up about 4% to 5% from last year, SECTUR reported.

Hotel occupancy at beach resorts during the Easter vacation was almost 84%, or almost 20 percentage points higher than during the third week of March. The most popular destinations were newer resorts like Nuevo Vallarta and Guayabitos, but traditional destinations like Cancun, Mazatlan, and Playa del Carmen also reported a large number of visitors.

In contrast to the beach resorts, hotel occupancy in Mexico City and Monterrey was only 47% during the Easter vacation period, compared with 60% in each of the previous three weeks. …

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