Resilience, unity and determination mark the mindset of Mexico this week. Deadly quakes have rocked the country since September 7, when a temblor measuring 8.1 on the Richter Scale hit the Pacific coast. A 7.1 quake struck central Mexico on September 19, affecting Mexico City and neighboring Morelos and Puebla states.
On September 23, yet another quake hit Oaxaca. Measuring 6.1, it was likely an aftershock of the original 8.1 quake.
Mexico City remains in recovery mode, as workers are still digging through rubble of some 40 collapsed buildings. More than 300 people have died. And nearly 4,000 buildings suffered some type of damage.
Authorities claim that most of the collapsed buildings were built prior to 1985. A massive quake struck that year, killing thousands. It resulted in stricter construction codes for the quake-prone city.
Chillingly, last week’s quake struck Mexico City on the anniversary of the 1985 temblor. The city had just gone through a yearly earthquake drill, adding a surreal tone to events.
Mexico City resident Lillian Aviles was driving back from San Miguel de Allende with colleagues when the quake struck. Aviles is business development manager for Journey Mexico.
“It was utter chaos at first. People were walking on the tracks of the above-ground train. It took hours to get back into the city,” Aviles tells Travel Agent.
Mexico Search and Rescue Team
Mexico City’s airport closed, but resumed operations within hours of the quake. And within days, tourism officials gave the all-clear.
“There is no reason for visitors to cancel travel plans to Mexico,” said the Mexico Tourism Board in a September 21 statement.
Travel Agent reached out to Teresa Solís, undersecretary of planning and tourism policy for the Mexico Tourism Board.
“Mexico City itself had no major damage in its hotel and restaurant infrastructure. Its roads, airport and world-class meeting venues are in good condition to host international visitors,” Solis tells Travel Agent.
Aviles says operations are continuing with little disruption.
“The Centro Historico, the Zocalo, all are fine. All museums that we work with are open. Our operations team contacted our hotel partners. The only one we work with that has closed for repairs is La Valise. It’s in a historic building and they want to make sure it’s all right,” said Aviles.
Published reports indicate that seven other hotels were temporarily closed after the quake. The most high-profile is Le Méridien Mexico City. A statement from Marriott International said the hotel sustained elevator damage. All other Marriott International properties in Mexico City are open.
Closed for inspection are Holiday Inn Coyoacán, Eurostar Suites Cuauhtémoc, Hotel Ejecutivo near Reforma, Excalibur Insurgentes Sur, Hotel Filadelfia and Hotel Misión Zona Rosa.
“Anyone considering coming here should know that the infrastructure is working. Obviously, if you’re going to certain areas where buildings collapsed, some streets are blocked off. But, in Mexico City, services are intact. If you have a tour booked, you should definitely come,” Antonio del Rosal, co-founder of adventure operator The Muddy Boot, tells Travel Agent.
Based in Mexico City, del Rosal describes the events surrounding the earthquake as “overwhelming.”
“I say overwhelming, not only in terms of the tragedy. But, to see everyone lending a helping hand in some way. Neighbors helped dig people out of the rubble. We had such an outpouring of help from the expat community here, from travelers who happened to be visiting. I’ve seen international delegations from about 25 different countries. That part is amazing,” said del Rosal.
Mexico Search and Rescue Team
The trendy Mexico City enclaves of Condesa and La Roma were hard hit by the quake. But, even they were on their way back as of this past weekend, Solís tells Travel Agent.
“I crossed the area by car over the weekend and walked in the area while attending a tai chi class. I thought that the class would be cancelled, but was informed that they continued working normally. I was happily surprised to see that the area was almost fully functional, with restaurants, coffee shops and small businesses open, trying to come back to normality,” said Solís.
It’s important to remember, Solís added, that other Mexican destinations suffered no harm.
“We are thankful to report that no other international tourism destinations in Mexico have been affected and all are operating normally including well-known places such as Cancun, Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit, Los Cabos, Acapulco, Ensenada, Guadalajara, Monterrey and many others,” said Solís.
Angelica Espinosa, director of travels for Catherwood Travels, tells Travel Agent that the Yucatan Peninsula remains as enticing as ever.
“The Yucatan Peninsula is not an area of earthquakes. We get hurricanes, but, fortunately, the last ones haven’t hit the area. Other areas that we cover have suffered damage. But, if clients are planning future trips, I strongly advise them not to cancel plans. These regions will need tourism to activate the economy. Travel is a way to help,” Espinosa tells Travel Agent.
In a similar vein, Aviles notes that clients who feel wary about Mexico City have many other options.
“We can always rearrange trips. Yucatan hasn’t suffered. San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato didn’t even feel the quake. We feel very lucky. Some people have postponed their trips. But, we haven’t had one cancellation for our ‘Day of the Dead’ tour to Oaxaca. Our fingers are crossed,” said Aviles.
Optimism remains the dominant sentiment in the tourism sector.
“In the last few days all Mexicans and residents in this country have received millions of messages from the world over conveying their concern, good wishes and offers of help. We are totally grateful for such an outpouring of goodwill. The best way in which all the world can help us now is by making plans to travel, for leisure or business, to this beautiful, diverse and amazing country,” said Solís.
Del Rosal echoes the sentiment.
“One of the best ways to help is to make sure that the economy in the affected regions does not stall. This will become a severe double blow,” said del Rosal.
His tour company, The Muddy Boot, is redoubling promotions on tours to Mexico City, Oaxaca and Chiapas.
“We´ll be providing additional incentives for travel agents who wish to partner with us. We usually give agents our net rate, but we will be offering an additional ten percent commission. So, I hope we can send some incremental visitors to these three affected regions,” said del Rosal.
He adds, “People who come in the next couple of weeks will see an incredible outpouring of gratitude. The Mexican people will give them such a heartfelt welcome.