Nightmare in Paradise: X-ray of the brutal COVID-19 hit to Quintana Roo, the jewel of Mexican tourism


They estimate to lose 4.632 million dollars in the economic spill. Quintana Roo faced in 2020 as one of the worst years in its history.

After the knockout of COVID-19, paradisiacal enclaves such as Cancun, Tulum, Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, and Puerto Morelos became ghost cities. But little by little, in small steps, the tourism sector has been rebuilding itself, and for the Christmas season, the prospects are encouraging.

Marisol Vanegas, secretary of state tourism, explained that Quintana Roo is on the right path, and although they do not foresee “rapid growth”, this year they expect to lose 4,632 million dollars in the economic spill -compare with what was collected in 2019-, the industry begins to show signs of reactivation.

“The most important indicator is the airport arrivals. We have three international terminals and the sum of these operations is already at a level very close to what we had before Covid-19. Today, for example, we had 358 operations, and a week before the formal declaration of the pandemic we were close to 480 operations. This has been a very pleasant surprise, ” she said.

Much of this recovery in air traffic is due to the closure of borders in Europe. The shielding of the old continent has led many North American companies to redirect these lost routes to Mexico.

“Of the total of 358 operations, more or less 180 were arrivals, and of those, little more than 60% are already North American. We had about 100 arrivals from the US and Canada which are the strongest international ones. This is influenced by the high growth of the North American market, which has to do with the fact that they cannot travel to Europe, so many flights are being diverted to Quintana Roo ”, Vanegas pointed out.

Despite the restrictions of the European countries, part of this market has also recovered. They have even started to make trips from the UK; and as announced this week by the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, these flights will not be suspended after the spread of the new strain of SARS-CoV-2.

“We have some arrivals from Europe already. British Airways just arrived this week with very large flights of 380 passengers; We also have flights from Air France, Evelop, which also started flying, and Lufthansa. These are the most important Europeans ”, she added.

The increase in connections has allowed that at this time there are almost 80,000 tourists in the territory. A figure that will increase between now and the end of the year, due to the Christmas season.

The secretary did not want to reveal the number of visitors expected for these special dates, because the estimate they made could vary if sanitary measures change, but advanced reservations “are very strong.”

“We know that reservations are very high, but they must always correspond not only to the air capacity but also to accommodation capacity,” he explained.

In total, Quintana Roo has 110,000 hotel rooms. But the state Epidemiological Risk Traffic Light, yellow in color, only allows accommodations to rent 60% of their rooms. However, due to the high demand expected for Christmas and the winter months, the state government granted hotels a special permit that will allow them to increase the maximum occupancy to 80%.

The measure comes after businessmen in the sector stated that in some resorts the demand for this season exceeded the 60% limit allowed by the traffic light, for which they demanded concrete measures to be able to rent a greater number of rooms since a total of 44,000 would be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Responding to this request, the state will allow companies to occupy up to 80% of their total capacity, a concession that will be in force between December 21, 2020, and February 21, 2021.

However, despite this action, the figures would continue to be far from those recorded in the same season in 2019.

Between December 21 and January 7 of last year, around 1.4 million tourists visited the jewel of the Mexican Caribbean. And from December 28 to 31, Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, and Riviera Maya, registered very high occupancy rates.

In that period, the lowest data was a spectacular 80% in Isla Mujeres, -on the 28th-, and the highest percentage occurred in Cancun and Puerto Morelos on the 30th, with 97.8% of occupied rooms. Now, however, even with the new measure, the average would be around 60% occupancy.
Although this year many rooms were empty, the secretary said that in 2020 no accommodation has gone bankrupt. She highlighted that new rooms have been built, and investment has remained at the same rates as in 2019.

“About 8,000 or 9,000 new hotel rooms are built and opened each year. We are in the same figure, “she said.

For Marisol Vanegas, the essential thing is that Quintana Roo has managed to generate trust and certainty in visitors, travel distributors, and airlines. This has allowed us to take the first steps in the reactivation of tourism. However, hoteliers do not agree with the optimistic and promising outlook drawn by Marisol Vanegas.

From the Hotel Association of Cancun, Puerto Morelos, and Isla Mujeres, which represents some 38,000 rooms, they assure that even with the 60% occupancy they had in December, they were losing money, because they have had to lower their rates to attract customers.

In this sense, the head of the agency pointed out that this does not constitute the prelude to a major crisis in 2021, and considered it a mistake to lower prices.

“Not all companies have had to lower rates. On some occasions, there are companies that have travel distributors that exert this pressure effect on rates. It is not the general case in Quintana Roo ”.

And she added: “Our market intelligence studies corroborate that the profiles of those who are traveling at the moment are much higher, and their trip would not be affected by a lower price. Therefore, the flow will not be affected whether or not the price falls. I believe that we must maintain the level of competitiveness that destinations have always had ”.

On the $ 10 tax that the entity wants to apply to foreign tourism, Marisol Vanegas was in favor of the tribute and against the statements of hoteliers, who believe that it could discourage the arrival of international visitors.

“No tourist anywhere in the world decides because in one place they charge 10 dollars or not. […] We think that it is a necessity, it is not an unusual situation, and it has to do with the economic situation in which the state will be next year ”.

The truth is that the losses that are estimated for 2020 are millionaires.

In 2019, the economic spill was 15,440 million dollars. This year, due to COVID-19, it is expected to decline by 30%. That is, in 2020, Quintana Roo will lose approximately 4 thousand 632 million dollars.

Regarding the number of visitors, the figures are not promising either.

Last year 22.8 million travelers visited the entity, of which 7 million were cruise passengers. The remaining 16 million were overnight tourists, a figure that according to current forecasts would fall by around 30% in 2020. That is, around 4 million 800 overnight travelers will be lost.

To this must be added the difficult situation in the ports of Cozumel, Mahahual, and Cancun. Between January and March 2020, 2.7 million cruise passengers arrived at the entity. But after the outbreak of the pandemic, no cruise ship docked in Quintana Roo. In this way, the data remained stagnant, and very far from those reported in 2019.

To speak no longer of estimates but of confirmed data, the latest report “How are we doing in tourism?”, Published on the Sedetur website, indicates that between January and October 2020, 9.8 million tourists visited the entity. For that same period of 2019, 21.9 million travelers were already registered in Quintana Roo.

This represents a drop of 54.9%. However, the Secretary estimates that the loss of visitors at the end of 2020 will be 30%, so the estimates are quite optimistic, and reflect great confidence in the Christmas season.

Another indicator that shows the hope that the state has for the holidays is the hotel occupancy rate. Although they hope to end the year with 60% of rooms occupied, until October 2020 the annual average in the main tourist enclaves -Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Cancun, and Puerto Morelos and Riviera Maya-, was 34.5%.

Also, between January and October 2020, the nationalities that have fallen the most in visits have been the English (-84.65%); the Spanish (-82.85%); Argentines (74.08%); Colombians (-71.64%), and Germans (-70.46%), were those that registered a greater fall concerning 2019.

Given the current outlook and the havoc that the second wave of COVID-19 is causing in the world, 2021 is expected to be a difficult year. For Marisol Vanegas, the best wish for the new year is for Quintana Roo to achieve growth, even if it is “slow.”

“We don’t think we are going to grow that fast. I think the best wish for the entire sector would be to continue growing in the way we are doing, gradual, well ordered. Stay united, producing trust, generating certainty and unity. That would be the best of our scenarios ”.


The Canun Post