Page last updated at 21:07 GMT, Saturday, 13 June 2009 22:07 UK

Swine flu strikes Mexico tourism

By Stephen Gibbs
BBC News, Mexico City

Mexican singer Fer promotes tourism, 5 June, 2009
Mexico's economy has been battered by the tourism slump

Mexico says it is going through what is the biggest drop in its tourism revenue since records began in the 1980s because of the swine flu scare.

Tourism officials are speaking of a "lost summer" after visitors, particularly from the US and Canada, cancelled their holidays.

They are not expected to return in large numbers until December.

Some airlines have dramatically reduced flights to Mexico, and cruise liners are still avoiding Mexican ports.

Alicia Dalvila from Mexico City's tourism association admits that any recovery will be slow.

Luxury hotels in the capital said just 4% of their rooms were occupied at the height of the crisis, which broke in April.

"The Mexico City authorities closed everything," she said. "Restaurants, bars and banquet rooms. So it was really a big shock. We lost all the business and little by little we are recovering."

Tourism represents 8% of Mexico's GDP and directly employs two million people.

Enticement campaign

Analysts say the slowdown is an additional challenge for the country, which has been hit badly by the global economic recession.

The Mexican government is preparing a major campaign to entice visitors back.

Privately, officials say that the fact swine flu has now spread around the world might benefit Mexico.

That is because potential tourists will realise they risk catching the virus whether they stay at home or travel to Mexico.

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