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Tourism Baja California Sur 2009 - from Crisis to Epidemic

May 29, 2009

Since September 2008 the tourism industry here in Baja California Sur suffers one set-back after the next.

First the economical crisis brought visitor numbers and spending down,  then the on-going drug wars in the border towns scared tourists away and those that were still adventurous enough to ignore all that, were finally told to stay home because of the swine flu.

For the first time in about 20 years of growth the situation can only be called grim for the economy of Baja California Sur that relies to 44% on incomes from tourism.

In the first quarter of 2009 (before the swine flu scare hit) hotels in BCS reported 1,418,412 room nights. In the first quarter of 2005 this number had been 2,334,337.

In 2006 the average occupancy rate of hotels had been 65% and this as a result of the economical crisis already fell to 57% occupancy in 2008.

In the whale watching business service providers reported a 60 – 80% decrease in visitors in January 2009 compared to last year. And the government reported a total of 7500 jobs lost in January 2009 alone, mostly in the construction sector.

And just as we went into the fishing high season, the press exploded with news about the deadly swine flu virus that was first detected in Mexico City. As a result hotel reservations in Los Cabos decreased another 25%...so from the expected 74% this year down to 49% and that does not include cancellations. Los Cabos also lost around 40 million Pesos because 19 cruise ships were cancelled.  And as cruise ship tourists failed to come restaurants stayed empty and had to give employees 10 days unpaid leave per month to stay in business.

In the game fishing sector 95% losses were reported last month, many smaller service providers went out of business, several hotels and restaurants closed down.

Due to the severity of the situation (authorities report a loss of around 100 million USD since the swine flu was discovered) the Secretary of Tourism Rodolfo Elizondo and the governor of BCS Narciso Agudez recently held a meeting with all mayor officials of the tourism sector namely Service providers and hoteliers. All of them were officially recognized for aiming to avoid the closing of their businesses which would have resulted in further losses of jobs and incomes.

Furthermore a plan was presented to invest a total of 17 Million USD (7 Million will come from the government and 8 Million from the National Tourism Authority) in a promotional campaign that is to start in June 2009, to recuperate the flow of tourism from before the swine flu. The aim is to restore confidence in travel to BCS especially to the US tourism.

Hopes are now that this campaign will at least produce effect for the next season, which starts usually around mid November, before this we will have to get through a long and very slow summer season, hopefully without further negative impacts. At least positive trends can already be seen in the economy, investors are coming back, the Peso is stronger and people seem to start gaining confidence again.

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