Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Mexico saw a spike in tourism over the holidays, attracting nearly a million visitors to Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean in the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Day.
According to Marisol Vanegas Pérez, secretary of tourism for Quintana Roo, 961,000 people visited the state between Dec. 22 and Jan. 6, which is down only 25% from the same period of 2019.
Pérez said that over 150 hotels in the state requested special permission to exceed the allowed 60% occupancy to keep up with demand.
Nearly half the tourists were Americans, drawn to the region by its proximity to the United States and Mexico’s relatively lax COVID-19 travel restrictions. Domestic tourists also visited in large numbers.
“With everything that has happened due to the pandemic, we could say that we had a successful year-end holiday season, with a good number of hotels open, increased operations at the airport, tourists from the United States and from around the country,” Pérez told Riviera Maya News.
Tourism drives Quintana Roo’s economy, accounting for 87% of the state’s gross domestic product. The region’s tourist industry lost around 90,000 jobs when the pandemic began, and only 10,000 have come back.
To reduce the spread of the virus, restaurants, theaters and other businesses are required to operate at 60% capacity. Indoor gyms are restricted to 50% capacity. The state health department also uses a vigorous track and trace system to identify the sources of all reported infections.
However, these measures may not be enough to hold back the spread of COVID-19, especially the new, more virulent strains of the virus that are popping up in many countries. The state’s COVID-19 infection rate is nearly 50%, and its weekly number of coronavirus-related deaths quadrupled immediately after Christmas.
In early January, hotel officials from some of Mexico’s most popular tourist areas, including Quintana Roo, started working on new COVID-19 vaccination and testing policies designed to keep the country’s tourism industry afloat as the pandemic continues.