Has the Negative Press About Cancun and the Riviera Maya Affected Tourism? A Look At the Numbers

Source: Linda Kurtzweil

The Mexican state of Quintana Roo has been getting a lot of attention from the American media lately — and most of it is bad.

For those readers who are unfamiliar with Mexican geography, Quintana Roo is where several popular tourist destinations are located: Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos and Cozumel.

It started back in July when the USA Today published a story alleging that some Americans may have been given tainted alcohol while staying at all-inclusive resorts in Quintana Roo.

Like a one-two punch, a second negative article came out talking about an increase in cartel violence in tourist areas — specifically mentioning areas in Quintana Roo.

So, the question is this: Has all of this negative press resulted in a decline in the number of tourists visiting the area?

One way that we can answer that is to compare the hotel occupancy rates from August 2017 and August 2016. Fortunately for all of us, those just came out today from the Secretary of Tourism of Quintana Roo (SEDETUR).

The Results

Surprisingly, the statistical data for August actually shows an increase in hotel occupancy in most areas when compared to same period last year: Cozumel (+2%), Isla Mujeres (+14.5%), Riviera Maya (+2.5%) and Chetumal (+2.4%).

However, hotel occupancy was down slightly in the areas of Cancun and Puerto Morelos* (-0.8%).

There is no way to know if this small decrease was the result of the negative press or some other factor(s). 

* Note- SEDETUR combines the statistical data from Cancun and Puerto Morelos.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Personally, I’m very happy to see that the media hype has not kept the majority of tourists away from this area. Despite what the media would like you to believe, Quintana Roo is still a very safe place for both tourists and expats alike.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. In 2016, they started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) sharing their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border. The blog has been viewed over two million times and the articles have been republished in numerous periodicals across Mexico.

26 Comments on "Has the Negative Press About Cancun and the Riviera Maya Affected Tourism? A Look At the Numbers"

  1. I think it’s too early to tell, the numbers between Dec and March I think will be more indicative. The State Dept. warning was probably directed as much to the Mexican government as travelers.

    • I expected more of a decline on August since people seemed more upset about the alcohol story than they did the safety story. None of the tourists that I’ve spoken with seem very concerned about either.

      • The alcohol I didn’t think would affect travel much. I remember about 7 years ago similar stories were out and my wife and I said we’d use the buddy system to make sure we both didn’t get plastered by bad alcohol. I think people plan their trips in advance and so if you’ve already booked everything you’re more likely to be cautious rather than canceling outright. Hopefully all will pass.

        • Sadly, I’ve had some people write me to say they cancelled their trips over the alcohol story.

    • I agree with Kyle – Dec-March will be the real test. People WILL get spooked over these news items, right or wrong. (Not me of course) I think people are just plain not booking because they’re scared.
      Also, August has to be near- if not at – the bottom of tourist season. Most people probably had trips booked before the double whammy news pieces hit.

  2. Patricia Armstrong | September 6, 2017 at 4:02 pm |

    My best friend and angel r on their honeymoon there in the Riveria Maya this week, I seriously doubt it has affected tourism as the article states. Enjoy your travels Paul and Linda and look forward to lesson 12 <3 PS No rush <3

  3. Stuart D. Phillips, CPA | September 6, 2017 at 4:03 pm |

    The American media, as you probably know, is extremely liberal and is very one sided. It is one of the many reasons my wife and I have settled on Cozumel for our retirement years. It’s funny to me they are constantly quoting “an unnamed source”, which means they need to drum up another story that is anything but true. President Trump is spot on when he refers to them as “Fake News”.

  4. Kelly Coenders | September 6, 2017 at 4:17 pm |

    Actually I have a place in Manzanillo on the Pacific coast. People here in Canada just hear “Mexico” and ask me if I’ll still be going down to my place alone. Some of them hear information and just generalize “Mexico” as one.

    • I think that it comes down to a lack of familiarity with the geography of Mexico and the shear size of it — it’s huge!

  5. I just booked for Puerto Morelos. I’m glad I can help the numbers there. 🙂

  6. Excellent timing and info again Paul. Would you share the web page OR does the source also specify the small hotel occupancy in each community? I suspect that centro Playa is down a bit, but only a guess.

  7. When I lived in Acapulco there were negative propaganda about the resort
    Nothing changed people always think “not to me” so they keep coming and having fun
    Cause that will not happen to them!!!!

  8. Your first post I haven’t agreed with. If some tourists are indeed being served bad alcohol at all inclusive resorts and as a result suffering harm and extortion as a result it’s not a good thing and should be addressed. I disagree with your posting an article about tourism numbers if there is harm going on that needs to be addressed.

    • Sorry to hear that, Bonny

      The purpose of the post was only to see if the negative stories have resulted in a decline in tourism –nothing more.

      I could go on an on about those article — specifically the one related to alcohol. Personally, I think it was poorly investigated

      In the alcohol article cited, the allegation was that some tourists may have passed out due to the fact that there is counterfeit (adulterated) alcohol in Mexico. There was no physical proof that was the cause, just an assumption made the author made because there is counterfeit alcohol in Mexico.

      You’ll be glad to hear that the Mexican government is addressing these and other issues that may affect tourism. They are conducting numerous inspections looking for adulterated alcohol at resorts, bars and restaurants; and they the police are conducting operations to improve overall safety and reduce crime.

      The problem with those articles is that the went viral and created an unrealistic and erroneous view of the tourist areas in Mexico. The articles lacked perspective and contained flawed conclusions.

      I’m just happy to see that people are still coming to enjoy the area.

  9. Has the Hurricane season this year had an effect on tourism there? I can’t imagine being at a hotel there during a category 3 or 4 storm.

    • The hurricane season is something that we always have to contend with living in this part of the world but it rarely affects tourism unless one is rolling through at that time. If the hurricane is serious enough, they have evacuation procedures and shelters here.

      We were here a few years ago on vacation when one passed nearby. They said they might have to send people from the hotel to a shelter if it came too close so we changed our flights and headed home early. It turned out to be nothing so we should have stayed 🙁

  10. I have to admit that the negative press on this issue caused us to cancel a t planned trip. We usually stay in Playa del Carmen or Tulum. One of the resorts specifically identified in the article I read was the Valentin. I know we won’t stay there in the future. But when you do look at it from a broader point of view, I was actually pointed toward your site from NEST Tulum, when I inquired about safety. Thanks for the info!

    • Sorry to hear that you canceled but hopefully you’ll give the area another chance. The good news is that the press has caused the government to conduct frequent inspections of resorts and bars. That means a much safer Riviera Maya for all of us. 🙂

  11. We are going to Puerto Morelos this month and saying at a VRBO. To be honest I’m feeling a little more nervous about safety. There was a post about cartel shooting in the last week.

    • You shouldn’t have any trouble at all. The primary victims of shootings in this part of Mexico are people who engage in criminal activity. They aren’t the tourists or even expats who come here. Millions of people visit the area each year without any problem at all.

  12. Thanks for your comments. I talked it over with my husband; we’re still going along with our two teenagers.

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