Mexico: Violent protests hit Acapulco tourism

Alberto Arce
Associated Press

Mexico City – — Mexico’s president has tried to keep the issue of violence issue separate from his focus on the economy, but the two are converging as violent protests over 43 disappeared students squelch tourism in Acapulco just before a major holiday weekend.

As Mexico prepares to commemorate its 1910 revolution Monday, hotels in the Pacific resort city have seen a wave of cancellations after demonstrators temporarily shut down the airport, blocked highways and attacked government and political offices in the southern state of Guerrero.

Acapulco hotel occupancy rates are currently at 20 percent, well short of the 85 percent expected for this long weekend when Mexicans typically flock to the beaches, Joaquin Badillo, president of the Employers’ Association for Guerrero state, said Wednesday.

More cancellations have been registered for Christmas week, the busiest time of the year for Acapulco tourism, and Badillo said one company that operates 10 hotels has cut about 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.”

Acapulco’s beaches were semi-deserted Wednesday except for small groups of sunbathers in the city’s famous Gold Zone. The emblematic Papagayo, Condesa and Icacos beaches were all but empty.

The Employers’ Association called for a six-month tax waiver to get local businesses through the crisis.

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

In decades past, Acapulco was a favored playground of Hollywood movie stars and other international travelers. While the city’s luster has faded, it remains an important draw for domestic tourists.

Organized crime’s influence has risen in recent years in both Acapulco and the rest of Guerrero state, accompanied by soaring homicide, kidnapping and other violent crime rates.