COVID-19 Hits Mexican Cruise Industry HardBy Alessa Flores | Tue, 05/19/2020 - 11:55
Mahahual and Cozumel, both municipalities in Quintana Roo, are two of the Mexican ports with the highest flow of tourists in Mexico, since together they receive nearly 70 percent of the total number of cruise passengers docking in Mexico: over 6 million travelers per year. In 2018, Mexico exceeded expectations in cruise tourism, with growth of 7.2 percent in the number of tourists per ship and 4 percent in cruise arrivals to national ports, which symbolized a spill of US$480 million, according to Notimex. However, the COVID-19 pandemic took an unexpected turn in the continued growth of the sector.
Alicia Ricalde, General Director of the Integral Port Administration of Quintana Roo (APIQROO) detailed in an interview with El Financiero that in late March, when the pandemic barely reached Mexico, the Princess Cruises shipping company canceled the arrival of five cruises to Cozumel due to a temporary break imposed by the company for 60 days. Ricalde explained that those five cruises represented more than 21,546 cruise passengers who would not arrive to Cozumel.
As the pandemic progressed, tourism was completely paralyzed. According to the President of the Mexican Association of Cruises, José Arturo Musi Ganem, COVID-19 caused the temporary suspension of all cruise ship arrivals, which lead to a situation described by Musi as "a severe impact not recorded in the history of nautical tourism in the Mexican Pacific," reported a note by Milenio News.
Due to the pandemic, Cruise Market Watch published the dates of the global Cruise Ship Sailing Cancellations on its official page. The cruises that open their doors to the public sooner are Azamara, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Silversea with dates between June 10 and 18. While cruises like Cunard, MSC Cruises, P&O UK plan to open their doors between July 10 and July 31. This means that until August, the cruise sector is projected to reopen its global operations.
In years before the pandemic, Cruise Market Watch had estimated a global annual growth of 4 to 5 percent per year for the sector. In 2018 alone, the total worldwide ocean cruise industry is estimated at US$45.6 billion, which represented growth of 4.6 percent over 2017. Mexico has also been part of the growth of the cruise tourism sector, since according to the UNWTO its annual growth is close to 8 percent, which has even been higher than global market figures.
Thanks to this, Mexico in 2019 won for the third consecutive year the first place in reception of cruises worldwide according to the Florida and Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA). According to projections from the association, Mexico received an estimated 2,500 cruises that brought about 7.8 million tourists in 2019. On average, a ship with 4,000 passengers generates an economic spill of US$378,500 at the destination only from tourists and crew members. Thus, in Mexico, the average spending of travelers is US$70, according to the FCCA.
The effects of COVID-19 are already beginning to leave economic lags in the sector and in shipping ports. For example, Minister of Economy of Sinaloa, Javier Lizárraga Mercado explained that 156 cruises with more than 500,000 passengers are scheduled for 2020, of which 32 have arrived with 106,000 occupants. If the situation were to take a turn for the worse, the economic loss would be of US$28 million.
Pedro Joaquín Delbouis, Mayor of Cozumel, said the COVID-19 was one of the most disastrous hurricanes that the industry has dealth with. He explained that his municipality is doing everything necessary to care for its population from COVID-19, but the real concern is how to reactivate the economy that has been hit hard by the situation. Delbouis explained that in Cozumel, COVID-19 has affected more than 200 restaurants, businesses, shopping centers and other establishments.