Mexico saw an influx of international visitors in 2020 despite being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the World Tourism Organisation, in early January, Mexico had less COVID cases per 100,000 inhabitants than most developed nations. Among the countries receiving the most tourists in 2020, Mexico was “only” in ninth position in the ratio of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Will this continue in 2021?

In challenging times such as the ones that the world has been going through recently, Mexico is spreading a surprising dose of optimism. In an official announcement released on January 7, the Secretary of Tourism of the Government of Mexico, Miguel Torruco Marqués, highlighted the resilience of his country in the COVID-19 pandemic; a result achieved despite the fact that Mexico has a less advanced public health system, considered far below most developed countries.

The Secretary of Tourism highlighted that the country recorded a proportionally lower number of positive cases as well as deaths, despite having inherited a less advanced public health system than that of developed nations such as the United States, the UK, France and Germany, among others.

Torruco Marqués pointed out that according to data from the World Health Organisation, as of 5 January 2021, for every 100,000 inhabitants Mexico had 1,120 cases of Covid-19, while the United States showed 6,180 cases; Spain, 4,500; France, 4,000 and the United Kingdom 3,910 cases. All these countries are among the top ten countries that received the most tourists last year.

The Tourism Secretary added that with regard to the number of deaths caused by Covid-19, Mexico ranked fifth, along with France, in the list of the ten top tourist destinations.

The Minister indicated that the crisis generated by the Covid-19 pandemic drastically affected the tourism industry around the world, which will cause changes in the list of the ten nations that receive the most tourists. however, Mexico has been among the least restrictive nations to welcome foreign travellers.

US and Canada tourists are welcome

Conscious that tourism is an important source of income for many, Mexico decided to remain open for US travellers, its main inbound source of visitors. At the end of January, it was still possible for US citizens to fly into the country. However, land borders between the United States and Mexico remain closed at least until February 21. No testing requirements and no quarantine are in place. During the festive seasons, beaches of Acapulco and Cancun were filled with US vacationers. A similar open-border policy applied for Canadian travellers.

This policy has been bearing fruit. According to preliminary data from the UNWTO at the end of 2020, Mexico would rise as a global destination from #7 (the position it held in 2019) to #3. In 2019, Mexico welcomed 45 million foreign travellers. Mexico lost an estimated 44% of its total international visitors. This would thus represent a total of 25.2 million arrivals last year. The decline is however less severe than for competitors. Other large tourism nations experience last year a drop of between 55% and 85% of their international visitors’ arrivals.

In mid-2020, Cancun, the holiday hotspot on Mexico’s Atlantic Coast, offered free hotel stays, meals, hire cars and theme park entry in a campaign designed to bring tourists back to the nation. Cancun’s initiative, which involved over 200 businesses, offered free stays for up to two children when two adults booked, or two nights for free for every two nights booked – the deal was also extended to hire cars.

Torruco Marqués pointed out that the federal government’s decision to maintain an open skies policy helped to soften the damage caused by the pandemic. Forecasts point to a further recovery this year. Total arrivals are likely to be between 32 and 38 million international arrivals.

To preserve this good performance, the Secretary is coordinating the implementation of vaccines against COVID-19 across the country. Coordination is carried out with the head of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Health, with the target being to make Mexico the leading country in Latin America in the application of the vaccine. Such a move will help Mexico retain its appeal for foreign travellers. It will also help the tourism sector to recover faster.

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