TULUM, Mexico — Friends from Jackson, Mississippi, dug into a white sand beach on comfort chairs and were immersed in turquoise Caribbean waters, grateful for a break from the pandemic winter in the United States.
They were among the thousands of American tourists who landed on the spectacular Caribbean beaches of Mexico in late 2020 and began this year. Quintana Row State, the country’s tourism crown jewel, home to Cancun, the Riviera Maya and Tulum, received 961,000 tourists during that stretch – nearly half from the US – down just 25% from the previous year.
“You come here and it’s a breath of relief from all the upheavals of COVID,” said 40-year-old Jackson firefighter Latron Evans.
But concerns are spreading that the success of the winter holiday may be fleeting, as it came to Mexico and the United States in the form of the COVID-19 transition, the main source of foreign tourists, reaching new heights – and a new As such, more easily spread variants began to emerge in the Americas. If a sharp increase in infection affects a new closure of the tourism sector, the effects will be disastrous.
State tourism secretary Marisol Venegas Perez said tourism accounted for 87% of Quintana Ruo’s GDP. The state lost some 90,000 tourism jobs – of which only 10,000 have returned – and countless others who depend on tourism.
Flights from the US dried up as of last spring until the epidemic gained momentum but has grown rapidly since. Vanegas said that in December, Quintana Row had an average epidemic of 500 compared to an average arrival and departure of 460 per day.
The increase of American tourists helped compensate Europeans, whose numbers are down sharply. More American tourists came to Quintana Row during the epidemic-stricken holiday season than a year ago, when the world was beginning to learn coronovirus. Venegas said he accounted for 9 out of 10 foreign tourists.
And they are staying longer, some on the beach awaiting epidemics, she said.
Authorities “attempted to create a tourist bubble that instills confidence in a tourist’s everything,” Venegas said, describing how visitors move from a van from the airport to a hotel, and then to the state. Authorities to visit health-certified sun-broken archaeological sites.
“Where there may be risk, when they leave that bubble,” she said.
For example, the throbbing crowd that shook shoulder-to-shoulder – many did not wear masks – in the streets and clubs of downtown to ring in the Playa del Carmen in the New Year, the vibrant beach town between Cancun and Tulum.
Indoor veins also pose a risk: restaurants, theaters, salons and other businesses are allowed to operate at 60% capacity and indoor gyms at 50%. Hotels can book at 70% capacity.
Evans, a firefighter from Mississippi, said he was affected by health measures everywhere. “They are taking the temperature when you enter the building and give you hand sanitizer to go everywhere,” he said.
His friend, Gearland Green, a 32-year-old music producer from Jackson where nearly all of his friends have been infected, said the climate and outdoor-focused beach dwellers are confident.
“I don’t have to try the extra amount to maintain social distance because it’s the beach, it’s the water and when you come out it’s not like a lot of people on top of each other,” he said. said.
Venegas said the state’s health department aggressively detects any reported infections. Nevertheless, there are worrying signs. According to federal government data, the positivity rate on COVID-19 tests in the state is around 50% and the weekly number of COVID-19 deaths has quadrupled a week before Christmas.
Health experts fear that increased travel during the holiday season will increase the likelihood of spikes in places that were already under control.
“Among the most popular tourist destinations, you’re going to increase epidemic activity again in a big way,” Dr. of the Medical School at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Mauricio Rodriguez said that citing beach destinations such as Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Quintana Roo. And Riviera Maya.
The southern state of Oaxaca, which attracts tourists to its colonial capital as well as its laid-back Pacific beaches, was half the number of tourists this holiday season until a year ago. The state’s tourism secretary, Juan Carlos Rivera, said that seeing the epidemic was not bad.
“We’re going to enter … an economic downturn in terms of tourism in the coming months, not only in Oaxaca, across the country,” Rivera said.
If the infection progresses rapidly, the pressure will close the beaches again, like last spring, mass layoffs.
When the epidemic arrived in Mexico, big hotels began to address employees in the name of “solidarity breaks”. Workers were told that it was temporary, that they would be put back to work in a month and most were let go without benefits.
There was little debate about the health risks of promoting tourism and the economic impact of losing all those jobs, said Alejandro Palafox-Muñoz, professor of tourism at Quijana Roo University. He said those who lost those jobs had no choice but to go out and look for new work to feed their families.
Sally Camacho, 25, worked as a hostess for two years at a beach club on Cozumel Island, selling tours and at the cash register. Two weeks after the first recorded COVID-19 infection in Mexico, she dropped out of the job.
Camacho earns commissions from selling tours and can make $ 110 on a good day. After it was determined, she abstained from her savings for a month, thinking that she would be hired back. He scrapped his college degree.
His mother and two siblings also lost their tourism sector jobs. Her mother – and many others – tried to sustain herself by selling food from their homes through social networks.
Her mother finally started a new hotel job in a hotel chambermaid this month. After a long search, Camacho was hired as a cashier at a supermarket, where he takes about two weeks to earn on a good day at a beach club.
“Before that, I was working to save my future, to buy a house, to buy a car,” Camacho said. And now, honestly, I work only for food, for expenses.
She still worries about the coronovirus, but admitted that she was bubbling over seeing the tourists return. “To see tourists, in fact, was something exciting, because it is the sustenance for the island,” she said.
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