BOSTON, Massachusetts — Many people have decided to put their travels on hold in accordance with health and safety guidance in these unprecedented times. However, the craving for warm sun, beautiful beaches and Pina Coladas might make some Americans consider risking a flight to get to their favorite holiday vacation spots. The Mexican Government is not all opposed to the projected travel plans. The presence of tourists in Mexico remains important for the county’s economy.
The Director of Tourism, Francisco López, is optimistic about reopening Cancun over the holiday season. He believes there is a good chance the country will see “occupations of 80, 90 and even 100%.” While some people celebrate the high projections, others are concerned that the country should take more precautions to curb the spread of COVID.
Mexico has lifted stay-at-home orders in some areas and resumed some transportation and business operations. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Mexico due to COVID-19. The CDC suggests travelers exercise caution if they are considering going to Mexico for the holiday season. Even with the possibility of another outbreak, the government is hoping that the tourists in Mexico will fill the hotels and help revive the economy, which has tanked over the last six months.
Roughly 6.15 million tourists in Mexico visited Cancun in 2019. When the pandemic hit and the government established social distancing guidelines, the tourism industry collapsed. When tourists travel to Mexico, they often spend money at locally run stores, restaurants and on tourist activities. In April, the income generated from tourism dropped by 93.7%. Americans packed their bags and hotel doors closed for an indefinite amount of time. The beaches were completely deserted.
The job market in Cancun is largely made up of airport employees, taxi and bus drivers, hotel workers and restaurant staff. Hospitality is in a fragile state as the need for such workers has reduced during the pandemic. In April, the state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, reported that nearly 64,000 people lost their jobs.
Dangers of a Second Wave
While Mexico remains open to travelers, some government officials and healthcare experts worry that the country is not equipped for another wave of Coronavirus, noting that the locals will be the most vulnerable. For years, Mexico has struggled with an underfunded and unorganized healthcare system. Even before the pandemic, there was a shortage of doctors, nurses and equipment. When the pandemic began, hospitals immediately became overcrowded, and the staff was overwhelmed.
“’We have had many of what we call ‘dumb deaths,’” said Pablo Villaseñor, a doctor at the General Hospital in Tijuana, the center of an outbreak. “It’s not the virus that is killing them. It’s the lack of proper care.’” While tourists in Mexico will be able to escape back home to receive treatment in America if they contract the virus, locals do not have the same privilege.
The United Way Mexico
Since the pandemic hit and reduced the number of tourists in Mexico, organizations have mobilized to bring support across the border. United Way Mexico is working on the frontline of the crises. Currently, it is raising funds to deliver “emergency medical supplies, food and hygiene products and safe kits for medical personnel” and those directly affected by the crises.
The organization is hoping to raise $99,000 for those in need in Mexico. The United Way Mexico uses 95% of each donation directly towards pandemic relief efforts. Recently, it has prioritized opening food pantries in communities where people have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Donations to United Way will support those in critical need.
Although tourists in Mexico are an important source of income for the country, the dangers of traveling this holiday may outweigh the economic benefits. Organizations like United Way Mexico are working to help support those in need during the pandemic.
– Miska Salemann