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Published on Monday, February 10, 2020 | Updated on Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Document number 20/02

The risk of sargassum to the economy and tourism of Quintana Roo and Mexico

An analysis of economic variables and through Big Data is made to quantify the effects of sargassum in the tourist activity of Quintana Roo in 2019. The results do not find solid evidence in this regard, either because it was not a relevant factor or by the success of mitigation actions.

Key points

  • Key points:
  • From January to September 2019, there was a drop of -2.2% to -5.0% in hotel occupancy in Quintana Roo.
  • However, domestic (+2.4%) and international (+0.1%) air passengers and cruise ship visitors (+7.8%) increased, and unemployment, underemployment and informality indicators were very similar to the previous year.
  • The Big Data analysis for 2019 shows that Cancún and the Riviera Maya had real contractions of economic activity of -1.8 and -3.3%, respectively, explained by the drop in retail sector sales and not by activities directly linked to tourism.
  • The hotel sector (+5.3%), restaurants and prepared foods (+2.0%), travel agencies and websites (+2.5%) and other sectors had positive performances in real terms, and in some cases above the average of other beaches in Mexico.
  • The latest satellite image records indicate that the sargassum bloom could be very low for 2020.

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This study makes an analysis, of economic variables and through the Big Data of acquiring business operations affiliated with the BBVA network, to determine the effects that could be attributed to excess sargassum on tourism activity in Mexico in 2019.

From January to September 2019, there was a drop of -2.2% to -5.0% in hotel occupancy in Quintana Roo; however, domestic (+2.4%) and international (+0.1%) air passengers and cruise ship visitors (+7.8%) increased, and unemployment, underemployment and informality indicators were very similar to the previous year.

The Big Data analysis for 2019 shows that:

  1. Cancún and the Riviera Maya had real contractions of economic activity of -1.8 and -3.3%, respectively,
  2. For the 2018-2019 end-of-year holidays, Easter and summer vacations Quintana Roo saw lower economic performances on average than other beaches in Mexico, and
  3. Contractions in economic activity can be explained by the drop in retail sector sales and not by activities directly linked to tourism: the hotel sector (+5.3%), restaurants and prepared foods (+2.0%), travel agencies and websites (+2.5%) and other sectors had positive performances in real terms, and in some cases above the average of other beaches in the country.

Thus, these results do not seem to support the hypothesis of a serious impact of sargassum on the tourism activity of Quintana Roo in 2019, either because it was not a relevant factor on tourist demand or because of the success of the mitigation actions.

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