Violent Mexico Protests Hurt Acapulco Tourism

It seems like many vacationers have changed their Acapulco travel plans this holiday season. Tourism in Acapulco, a hotspot beach location, has recently come to a standstill as protests over 43 disappeared students continue and worsen.

Hotels in the Pacific resort city have seen a sweep of cancellations after demonstrators temporarily closed off the airport, blocked highways, and attacked government and political offices. All of this comes just before a major holiday weekend and the nation’s commemoration of its 1910 revolution on Monday.

Acapulco hotel occupancy rates were expected to reach 85 percent for the long holiday weekend, one where Mexicans typically swarm to the beaches. Rates, however, are currently at 20 percent (65 percent under), Joaquin Badillo, president of the Employers’ Association for Guerrero state, reported. Seemingly, Acapulco’s beaches were for the most part abandoned on Wednesday except for clusters of sunbathers in the city’s popular Gold Zone, while the Papagayo, Condesa, and Icacos beaches were all deserted.

What’s more, further cancellations have been filed for Christmas week, the busiest time of the year for Acapulco tourism. The mass withdrawing of visitors has cost the livelihood of many working Mexicans: Badillo mentioned one company that operates 10 hotels has cut nearly 200 temporary jobs in recent weeks.

“Seasonal employment in tourism is really being hurt,” Badillo said. “We’re talking about cleaning workers, security, bartenders, barkers, transportation.”

In an effort to assist, the Employers’ Association advocated for a six-month tax waiver to get local businesses through the economical crisis.

“With that, employees would not lack for salary and the businesses can maintain themselves in good shape,” Badillo said.

On October 17th, thousands of protesters marched through Acapulco calling for answers from authorities as to where the 43 college students were. The group disappeared on September 26th following a police attack in which six people died.

Investigators say the police gathered the students, delivered them to a drug gang where they were apparently killed, and their corpses charred into ash and disposed of in a river.

“In Iguala and the communities that surround it, some pharmacies have cut hours. They open later and close earlier,” Juvenal Becerra, head of a pharmacy trade association, said referring to the statewide 20 percent downturn. Organized gangs “never stopped charging extortion or kidnapping or assaults, but since the students disappeared in September, clients leave home less often.”

Authorities have yet to confirm that any human remains found during the search so far belong to any of the students. Officially, they are still considered missing.

Protestors have blocked the city’s airport for hours, armed with clubs, machetes, and gasoline bombs. They’ve also burned the local headquarters of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party in the state capital of Chilpancingo, and have set on fire the state legislature as well as an educational building.

Led by the Tourist Hotels Association, multiple state business groups released a statement last week acknowledging that the protesters have a legitimate demand for justice and clarity. But the statement also criticized what it called “conditions of civil disorder, panic, damage to private property, vandalism, looting, the blockading of roads resulting from the total absence of public order.”

“It all started when the (Oct. 17) mega-march was announced,” Badillo said. “Then came the invasion of the airport on Monday, and the announcement of more marches, and everything falls apart.”