Mexico City tourism hit hard by protests

The eight-day-old blockade of a main downtown thoroughfare by leftists protesting the outcome of Mexico’s July 2 presidential election has reduced tourism revenues in this capital by half, industry officials told EFE news wire. “Mexico City will lose between $10 million and $15 million daily,” tourism council chairman Gonzalo Brockmann told EFE.

He said hotels in the metropolitan area usually enjoy occupancy rates of 70 percent-80 percent in August, representing about $25 million a day, but that the number of guests is being halved as a result of the protests.

The protest camps are concentrated on Reforma Avenue, which runs through the heart of Mexico City’s business district and is home to luxury hotels as well as upscale shops and restaurants.

Supporters of leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a former mayor of the capital, are also blocking access to the city’s old quarter, and vow to keep up the demonstrations until Mexico’s electoral tribunal orders a full recount of all 41 million ballots cast on July 2.

The tribunal said Saturday that it will only review just under 10 percent of polling places nationwide. Official results show Lopez Obrador losing to rightist Felipe Calderon by a margin of 0.58 percent, or around 244,000 votes.


Brockmann said hundreds of thousands of tourism-related jobs “are at risk” if the disruptions continue.

He warned that a prolonged blockade of the financial district will prompt people to cancel reservations made for October and November, months that normally see large numbers of tourists and business travelers visit the Mexican capital.

The powerful Coparmex business federation issued a statement Monday accusing Mexico City Mayor Alejandro Encinas of “unprecedented passivity and apparent negligence.”

The group also repeated its earlier demand that the municipal chief “fulfill his duty to govern or leave the post.”

Sources in the tourism sector say that spending by the 12 million people who visit Mexico City annually represents 60 percent of the capital’s gross domestic product and 20 percent of national GDP.

The federal tourism secretary, Rodolfo Elizondo, urged municipal authorities to ensure the immediate “re-establishment of conditions of normality.”

Encinas, who belongs to the same party as Lopez Obrador, rules out using police to break up the non-violent protests.

Under an ordnance enacted during Lopez Obrador’s 2000-2005 tenure as mayor, blocking main thoroughfares is illegal.