Cancún sees decline in international tourism for first time in seven years: Insufficient marketing, insecurity seen as two reasons for the 2% drop
Insecurity and a lack of tourism promotion have been blamed for a 2% decline in international arrivals to Cancún in January, the first year-over-year decrease for any month in almost seven years.
Just over 1.51 million passengers arrived at Cancún International Airport in January 2019 compared to 1.54 million in January 2018. The last time Cancún saw a decline in international visitor numbers was in April 2012 when 0.6% fewer passengers flew into the resort city than in the same month the year before.
Hotel occupancy in the first week of the month was also down.
At 76% it was the lowest in six years and was 6.5% less than last year.
Gerardo Herrera, a tourism specialist at the Iberoamerican University, partially attributes last month’s reduction in visitor numbers to increasing insecurity in Quintana Roo, the state where Cancún is located.
The state’s homicide rate shot up from 21.57 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2017 to 44.63 last year, an increase of 106%. There were 71 homicides in Quintana Roo last month, according to the National Public Security System (SNSP), 31 more than in January 2018 and five times higher than the number of murders in January 2017.
Herrera also said the federal government’s decision to disband the Tourism Promotion Council (CPTM) and the resultant lack of tourism marketing was also a factor that contributed to the drop-off in arrivals.
“I believe that there is a perception that tourism will just happen and that’s not right. No product sells itself, it needs advertising,” he said.
Herrera added that the recent depreciation of the United States dollar against the peso could also have been a factor behind the decline.
Given that the economy of Mexico’s No. 1 source country for tourists – the United States – is showing signs of slowing, the academic said that more tourism promotion, not less, is needed.
Armando Bojórquez, president of the Latin America Culture and Tourism Association (ACTUAL), agreed with Herrera that insecurity and a lack of promotion were behind the tourism decline in Cancún, adding that it is cause for concern because the city is the best barometer of the overall tourism situation in the country.
Caribbean countries that compete with Cancún and other Mexican tourism destinations are doing a better job at attracting visitors, he said.
“The Dominican Republic and Cuba are growing at a fast pace and they’re beating us in the market because of marketing, we have to ramp up the advertising strategy . . .” Bojórquez said.
Others have also been critical of the federal government’s decision to disband the CPTM and redirect its funding to other projects.
Earlier this month, the Mexican Employers Federation (Coparmex) described the decision to concentrate tourism funding on the Maya Train project as “almost suicidal.”
Coparmex chief Gustavo de Hoyos said the government’s decision to bet “everything” on the ambitious rail project in the country’s southeast was the “wrong bet” and a “high risk.”
But the federal Secretariat of Tourism (Sectur) remains confident that international tourism will continue to grow.
Sectur estimates that more than 43.6 million tourists will come to Mexico this year, 5% higher than the record 41.4 million visitors who arrived in the country in 2018.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.