Tourism has been taking a hit over the last few weeks, as Cancun sees a slight downturn due to Hurricane Agatha and the presence of excessive sargassum. On May 31st Cancun International Airport reported a 10 percent drop in departing and arriving flights, with only 452 total arrivals and departures scheduled. Throughout the first few months of the year the city was packed with record numbers of tourists and the airport was recording 500 operations or more a day.
The slight downturn in tourism is undoubtedly being caused by two major factors affecting the beaches that so many tourists visit the city to enjoy. These two factors, the first hurricane of the year, and the massive amounts of sargassum that have been present in recent weeks, have left visitors with fewer options for recreation while visiting the city. Now, the influx of visitors is also being affected, as evidenced by the drop in the number of flights coming into Cancun International Airport recently.
Hurricane Agatha, which blew into Mexico from the Pacific coast, had more of an effect on the city of Cancun than was originally expected. Heavy winds and rain from the storm have caused damage in multiple tourist areas of the region and have forced visitors to stay inside during their vacations. While Hurricane Agatha has pretty much passed through the city and the rest of the Riviera Maya area, weather officials are now reporting that the remnants of it may be strong enough to form another tropical depression in the coming days.
In addition to the hurricane season starting out very active this year, local officials are also reporting another massive wave of sargassum out at sea and heading directly for the Mexican Caribbean coast. This has already been one of the worst years in the last decade for the brown smelly seaweed, with tons of it washing ashore in the first few months of the year. The newest wave headed toward Cancun has sparked a request from local hotels for the President to step in and help with the removal of the sargassum and also help with preventing it from reaching the shore, to minimize the effect it has on tourism.
This has been a record-breaking year for Cancun’s tourism industry, with hotels nearly filled to capacity for much of the beginning of the year. The city has surpassed other very popular Mexican cities among tourists in occupancy rates, including Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta. Despite the fact that the hurricane season and more sargassum are currently affecting the industry, a strong summer season is expected, as many hotels are already fully booked for the summer months.
The popularity of Cancun and other Mexican Caribbean destinations has greatly increased since the Covid pandemic hit and began to fade away. Researchers attribute this to the fact that travelers that could work from home and had the funds to afford to do so, escaped to the Riviera Maya area during the pandemic to work from there. It is thought that many of those remote workers stayed even after Covid started winding down.
Many of the flights that are still flying into Cancun International Airport are coming from foreign cities, particularly cities in the United States. Of the 452 operations that were scheduled for May 31st, 152 arrivals were from foreign cities and 147 were departures to foreign cities. A total of 153 flights were national, with 78 arrivals and 75 departures.
Both the sargassum season and the hurricane season end in the fall. With any hope they will both be mild for the remainder of the year so that Cancun tourists can enjoy everything that they visit the city to enjoy.
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