It was a tough weekend for Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean in the fight against sargassum which is a brown type of seaweed that accumulates on beaches from May until August. 250 kilometers of beaches in Cancun, Riviera Maya and Tulum were affected.
The arrival of the seaweed caught hoteliers off guard as the arrival was earlier and heavier than expected. Beach service providers were reporting heavy losses as many tourists avoided the areas that were heavily impacted by the sargassum.
The Riviera May reported more than 200 tons of seaweed were removed from beaches over the weekend which is rare for this time of year. The worst year on record was 2019 and officials fear this year could be worse due to a large patch spotted in the Atlantic that is over 44 km wide. Scientists believe the growing seaweed problem is due to global warming.
According to Nasa, 5.1 million metric tons of Sargassum had accumulated in a large patch and would inevitably make its way towards Cancun in the months of June, July and August when the state of Quintana Roo says the seaweed season it at its worst. The forecast may have been wrong as beaches were inundated with the brown seaweed over the weekend.
Hotels in partnership with the Mexican navy and local authorities have installed barriers to try and prevent the seaweed from reaching the shore but it’s only effective to a certain point. The rest of the seaweed that makes it to shore is cleaned up every morning by tractors. city workers and hotel employees before being taken away by large trucks.
Tourists have been very vocal over the appearance and smell of the seaweed that accumulates on the pristine white sand beaches of the Mexican Caribbean. While authorities are doing everything they can to remove the foul smelling seaweed, it’s a constant battle with nature that happens every year.
While the seaweed is a nuisance to a perfect vacation, travelers are still enjoying up to 40% cheaper rooms than 2019. Costs of hotel operations have gone up including free testing, covid-19 prevention protocols and seaweed removal but so far has not been passed down to the guests as occupancy levels have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.
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