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Small businesses hurt by big cuts at tourism board

Independent operators left stranded after Mexico decimates its tourism promotion program

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Small tour operators, like this sport-fishing company in Cancun, are feeling the brunt of the cutbacks at the Mexico Tourism Board. Photo: Facebook

Cenotes, cultural sites and adventure tours are feeling the pain from the government’s drastic cuts at the Mexico Tourism Board.

While major destinations such as Cancun still get some marketing support from large hotels and resorts, independent tour operators in smaller destinations are especially challenged, reports Skift.

Tulum, Mexico’s only Mayan archaeological site built on the waterfront, is especially suffering, said city native Manuel Rodriguez, whose scuba tours went from boom to bust.

Now Rodriguez travels to international tourism fairs, including those in Berlin, Spain, and London, on his own to promote his company with videos, postcards, and posters.

“It is sad what is happening,” he said.

The Mexico Tourism Board shuttered all but four of its 21 international offices and slashed marketing budgets under orders from President Andreas Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office Dec. 1. Tourism funds will go toward the Mayan Train instead.

“This is the worst I’ve seen in 15 years,” Rodriguez said. “There is no plan or action on how to promote all of the different things. They are doing absolutely nothing.”

Multiple tour operators interviewed by Skift, a travel news site, echoed Rodriguez’s sentiments. A spear-fishing company reported losing half his business in Cancun.

“Cancun doesn’t grow a tomato,” said the fishing operator’s owner, Alex Ojeda. “The whole population of the town depends on tourists. It’s a horrible place when it comes to planning. There’s no backup. It’s too big to fail.”

Employees of Mexico City-based destination marketing company and tour operator Kamino Tours saw the effects firsthand this year when they showed up at ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism fair and a place to promote Mexican tourism to travel agents, hotels, and tour operators from around the globe.

“For the first time in 20 years, the Mexico stand was the most boring and plain stand in the whole fair,” said Bob Dijks, a manager at Kamino Tours. “Normally we would have a very eye-catching stand with big television screens showing amazing footage of Mexico. You would have a hostess serving drinks, coffee, tequila, and small Mexican snacks. You would have an entertainment team, mariachis.”

With Mexico’s tourism operators already fighting a negative worldwide image linked to violence, the lack of international marketing support means there is nothing to counterbalance this view, he said.

“The tourism board was an element to try to give people another perspective on Mexico,” Dijks said. “I’m afraid that’s going to disappear. There’s no funding. I personally don’t know who is going to take that over. Who is going to step up now and make sure Mexico keeps on being promoted?”

Source: Skift

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