Insecurity, mismanagement and lack of investment have sent cruise lines looking for destinations that are more advantageous than Mexico, which at one time enjoyed greater popularity with the industry.
While that industry has been seeing moderate growth in general, many destinations in Mexico have been facing an all but declared crisis: some haven’t seen a cruise ship in more than three years.
Before 2008, Mexico was the leading destination in the industry, according to the Mexican Association of Cruise Line Service Providers (Amepact), with the largest number of cruise ship visits per year. But thanks to increased insecurity and deteriorating or outdated infrastructure, that is no longer the case.
Not even the most important cruise port in the country, Cozumel, has been spared from the downward trend: according to the Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT), the Caribbean port welcomes 1.1% fewer vessels during the first five months of 2016, compared to the same period last year.
Other ports haven’t fared as well: the Pacific coast destinations of Huatulco, Oaxaca, and Ensenada, Baja California, have seen declines of 15.8% and 10.5% during the same period, respectively.
Guaymas, Sonora, has gone for 17 months without a cruise ship docking in its harbor.
The scenario has been worse for the Gulf of México ports of Tampico in Tamaulipas; Veracruz, Dos Bocas in Tabasco and Seybaplaya, Campeche, where 41 months have passed without a cruise ship visit.
Cabo San Lucas, in Baja California Sur, was the only one that reported an increase in visits, a meager 1.1%.
The case of Tampico serves as example of what’s happening with the country’s harbors: even after several cruise lines showed interest, the harbormaster and the federal government lacked the funding for dredging that would have provided the necessary depth that would allow ships to dock.
Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta have lost some allure by discontinuing inland day trips for cruise ship passengers as a precautionary measure due to violence in the states of Sinaloa and Jalisco.
The president of Amepact says the industry has been severely affected by insecurity and competition from other destinations.
José Arturo Musi also believes that official ignorance or lack of interest in the industry have created a crisis in what is still one of Mexico’s most profitable tourism sectors.
But there is little interest in including the sector in the government’s plans, said Musi. The SCT and the Tourism Secretariat (Sectur) have held three only meetings with Amepact members since 2012, he said.
He thinks the country’s ports must modernize if they are to regain their global competitiveness.
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