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Sargassum crisis could wash away tourist income by 30%

Tipple effect of international tourist cancellations would put Mayan train in peril

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Chart: Adapted from Milenio

The sargassum crisis could cost the Riviera Maya up to 30 percent of its tourist trade this year, according to a presidential commission.

According to the document obtained by Milenio, stinky seaweed tides will affect at least 200 kilometers of beach in the Riviera Maya, from Cancun to Tulum.

Sargassum is a free-floating weed that forms large mats moved by wind and ocean currents. A massive bloom is now appearing almost every year in the tropics, causing big problems here for at least five years.

In 2018, at least 522,226 tons of sargasso were collected, and the invasion is expected to be 300 percent more intense this summer.

After a late-year pause, sargassum started to appear again in January.

Boats with nets and land crews with rakes are all officials can offer to counter the beach-clogging mess. Navy officials are expected to monitor sargassum tides from the air.

In addition to its effects on tourism, sargassum threatens biodiversity as it blocks sunlight that would normally penetrate the ocean It also blocks the arrival of sea turtles to the coasts, preventing them from nesting and laying eggs.

The president of the Association of Hotels, Roberto Cintrón, affirmed that “the affectations to the tourist sector by the sargasso add millions of dollars and their direct impact will be felt in the summer season; if the problem is not adequately contained, the economy of the state and the country will be at risk.”

He said that a drop in tourism could risk the Mayan Train’s finances.

“Quintana Roo captures 50 percent of the international tourism that arrives in the country, Fonatur (the tourist development agency) depends on the non-resident tax paid by those international tourists. If that 50 percent is affected, the Mayan Train will be at risk, in addition to the fund for international promotion and the National Fund for Tourism Promotion of Mexico,” said Cintrón. “The problem will grow on a national scale, because if there is a decrease for the agency in charge of international promotion, it will affect other tourist centers such as Los Cabos and all those that require international promotion.”

Mahahual, the main tourist center of the Costa Maya, reported that 40 percent of all upcoming tourists have canceled their reservations because of sargassum. Most have shifted their plans to Bacalar, which is free of sargasso.

The Mexican government will seek cooperation from the 19 countries affected by sargassum. Those include the United States, the Netherlands and France, said the president of the Tourism Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, Luis Javier Alegre, who applauded the López Obrador’s decision to put the Navy in charge of addressing the problem.

Source: Milenio

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