BERLIN – Mexican hotel manager and Apple Leisure Group CEO Alejandro Zozaya warned on Thursday of the damage to the tourism industry he says has been caused by US President Donald Trump’s nationalist rhetoric, immigration ban, travel warnings and toughening of visa procedures.
Zozaya – who heads the group that owns 52 operating hotels and another 20 under construction and other tourism-related service companies – believes that Trump has negatively affected the tourist flows both to and from the US.
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“Trump has affected the tourism industry a lot,” Zozaya said in an interview with EFE during Berlin’s ITB, the world biggest tourist industry trade fair, which he has attended for the last 26 years.
“From his rhetoric, from promoting nationalism, so Americans travel inside the US, to putting up obstacles and (creating) problems for third countries. The visa issue, the travel ban and airport security,” he said, ticking them off point by point.
Zozaya said that nationalist rhetoric is the problem, as was the case with Brexit, Britain’s recent semi-isolationist move to withdraw from the European Union, adding that the number of tourists traveling to the US decreased in 2016 and 2017, although tourist flows to most of the world’s important destinations increased.
Cuba and Mexico are among the countries that have suffered the most from the Trump effect on tourism, according to Zozaya, who added “even Havana is suffering both in hotel occupancy rate and (tourist) rates.”
Mexico, meanwhile, has been recovering from the tourism downturn it experienced from August-November thanks to an increase in internal tourism and a rise in European and Latin American demand.
Zozaya also explained that the “country risk perception” in Mexico has declined after peaking between 2010 and 2012 and that more European investors have been participating in developing the tourism sector there.
Tourism in Mexico and the Caribbean increased in general, as did Latin America as a whole, because the situation in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina is improving, despite the “really sad” condition in Venezuela.
Zozaya believes that increasing tourism “is a good thing, because it promotes tolerance, tackles ignorance, encourages knowledge, respect for other countries and peace,” in addition to its “democratizing effect” in terms of economic redistribution.
However, he acknowledged the problem of excessive growth of tourist flows, highlighting the role of cruise ships which “generate very little employment” where they dock, negatively affect local hotel occupancy and do not pay taxes commensurate with the natural and historic resources they use.