Strong Start To The Year For Hard-Hit Cruise Industry
The cruise port of Cozumel received over 600 thousand visitors from ships alone in the first three months of 2022. The figures highlight a strong rebound after a tough two years of COVID.
The figures, released by the Integral Port Administration of Quintana Roo, show that 346 cruise ships docked in the popular town, allowing 604,445 passengers to enjoy the Mexican Caribbean for a day. Cozumel’s figures represent a significant portion of Mexico’s cruise industry operations for the first quarter. In fact, when including Mahahual the Mexican Caribbean contributes 58% of the total number of docking ships in the entire country.
Assuming current bookings continue and the demand remains the same, Cozumel and Mahahual can expect almost four million total passengers to visit their shores this year. On paper, it seems like wonderful news for everyone, and for the cruise industry, it definitely is. But not everyone is happy with the success.
Many on-shore vendors, from hotels, restaurants, and other businesses are not fond of the type of tourism that cruising promotes. As more customers are lured by the ease of a cruise holiday, typical hotels are working with an increasingly smaller pool.
The pandemic has seen a massive surge in luxury travel with a strong emphasis on all-inclusive packages and minimal planning. Cruise ships offer passengers a paint-by-numbers style vacation, where food, drinks, itineraries, and excursions are preplanned well in advance. This no-fuss style of travel is becoming increasingly popular.
With so many cruise passengers locked into all-inclusive packages on board, their average expenditure has dropped significantly when they come onto land. Restaurants are not reaping the benefits of the sudden appearance of thousands of new visitors, and if they are getting the business, it’s often for much smaller bills for a few drinks or snacks instead of a full meal.
The views of local hoteliers and business owners were heard loud and clear in recent weeks after the President of Mexico suggested that another cruise port should be built in Quintana Roo. The supposed site of this new dock would be in Playa del Carmen significantly increasing the potential number of cruise passengers hitting the Mexican Caribbean.
For more traditional tourists enjoying the beaches and towns of Quintana Roo, the sight of as many as five thousand people flocking onshore is an intimidating one. The sudden surge of crowds can be a damper on many people’s days, and the typically idyllic views associated with the Caribbean are tainted by giant vessels.
Of course, environmentalists are not happy with the growing numbers, especially in areas where the precious coral reef is at risk. The potential pier at Playa del Carmen is particularly worrying for activists as the area is home to a sizable chunk of the underwater ecosystem.
The cruise industry is only likely to continue growing as travel makes its comeback. Pent-up demand for travel is fueling surges across the world, and three-quarters of Americans are planning to vacation this summer. Quintana Roo will continue to reap the benefits of the surge, and the contrasting cruise and hotel industries are likely to continue to step on each other’s toes.
Those hoping to travel to Cancun, Cozumel, or any other areas affected by the cruise industry should prepare for sudden influxes of tourist crowds. Although they will leave again, it may be a good idea to find out the days when cruise ships will be arriving, and plan activities around that to help avoid disappointment.
Tourists arriving in the current high season should anticipate crowds regardless of proximity to the cruise ports. Planning ahead and confirming reservations is a sensible way to avoid any issues on arrival.
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