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May 6, 2009

Mexico Tourism Responds To Influenza Emergency

By Pardhasaradhi Gonuguntla

The Ministry of Tourism (SECTUR) and The Mexico Tourism Board (MTB) are strategically working together in light of the recent health scare that has directly affected tourism, the country’s third most important source of revenue. The Minister of Tourism , Rodolfo Elizondo and CEO of The Mexico Tourism Board, Oscar Fitch, are working cohesively with Mexico’s National Trust Fund for Tourism Development (FONATUR) to form an integrated evaluation committee with Mexico’s tourist destinations to monitor the impact that the H1N1 Influenza is having on the sector.

Elizondo explained that as of last week, a series of monitoring and mediating actions have been taken to track the impact, but as of now these numbers are not complete. The recent monitoring from all the destinations have shown very preliminary information in regards to hotel vacancies, flight, cruise and meeting cancellations. The Ministry of Tourism is hopeful that once the situation is under control, it will be possible to face the challenges that will have arisen from this situation and it is at that time that a plan of action in favor of the tourism industry will be established that will be accurately based on more precise information.

In regards to the spread of the illness on a national level, the Ministry of Health reports that Mexico is seeing a trend in the reduction of cases and in their May 3rd update, The World Health Organization (WHO) clarifies that the new confirmed cases in Mexico are actually the results of previously submitted lab samples, a fact that is important to emphasize and clarify-these are not new cases.

It is also important to stress that the World Health Organization (WHO) has maintained their stance of not restricting international travel or the closing of borders. At the same time, they do recommend that people who do experience flu-like symptoms immediately seek medical advice upon arrival from their international destinations.

In relation to the direct impact this will have on the tourism sector, a great number of national and international institutions planning to hold their annual conventions in Mexico have followed the advice of the federal government and of the international organizations of health. As a result, The World Congress of Pediatrics, expected to bring in approximately 4,000 participants and to take place in Cancun during the month of May, has been rescheduled for November.

Al though this health emergency has had a negative impact on the tourism sector, conferences such as the Mexico Show Case-Travel Expo demonstrate the resilience and dynamic of this sector. One-hundred and twenty US and Canadian representatives from the organization Meeting Planners attended the conference, which took place in Cancun and Riviera Maya from April 30th through May 4th. As a symbol of unity, the meeting counted on the presence of Joanne H. Joham, Regional Director for North America from the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA).

We are also extremely proud to say that the outpour of support for the tourism sector of our country from many of our commercial partners has been overwhelming. Such is the case of Deborah Sexton, President of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and Leigh Harry, Vice-President of the International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA), who on behalf of their respective organizations, have come forward and offer to work alongside Mexico in overcoming this challenge and designing a plan to confront this crisis.

Elizondo promises that as soon as a more concrete evaluation of the impact that H1N1 Influenza has had on the tourist destinations, the tourism sectors will be prepared to immediately implement necessary actions. The Minister added that in the immediate short-term- the three entities will continue to monitor and gather information from the principal destinations while always placing the safety and security of tourists as their top priority.

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