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Business Leaders to Lührs: “Stop the ‘Happy Talk’!”

By: Patrick Ellis | Real Acapulco News - 29 August, 2011

(Acapulco, ElSur 29 August) The president of the local chapter of the National Chamber of Commerce, Javier Saldívar Rodríguez, and the president of the local chapter of the National Chamber of Restaurateurs and Food Industries, Imelda Álvarez, called upon Acapulco’s Secretary of Tourism, Érika Lührs Cortés, to stop trying to persuade the world that the high summer season in Acapulco was “positive.” “It was not,” they said. In fact, it was the worst in decades. “We can’t block the sun with a finger,” Mr. Saldívar said, using a popular expression that means you can’t make a problem go away by ignoring it. “The politicians do not have to live with the losses,” they said. “We do.”

In separate press interviews the two business leaders admitted that the views of the private sector and of the government are very different. They have instituted a voluntary one-day-per-week “solidarity layoff” amongst employees, to avoid having to cut people entirely from the payroll. But that means everyone earns 16-20% less now. The two insist that the high levels of violence have contributed to the falloff in tourism, and they said that the next long weekend (for the Independence Day holiday on September 15-19) does not look very bright, either. The problem, they say, is that the businesses had such a poor summer that they have no reserves to make it thought the tough months of September through mid-November. Such occupancy as the hotels have managed to muster comes from deep discounts, attracting a much less affluent type of visitor. They buy food at super markets and avoid going out to bars, restaurants and clubs. “The per capita expenditures seen today are about 20% lower than in previous years,” said Saldívar.

“This is not a mere ‘little problem’,” he said. “It is very grave: we do not have the income to keep going.” Saldívar was clear in his reproach of those who try to paint a rosier picture. In spite of its competition, Acapulco is still a “noble destination,” he added.

Ms. Álvarez expressed her dissent from the government approach to the problem, which emphasizes public relations and promotion as the solution. “I cannot say to you that what the Secretary [of Tourism] says is what we have to live with daily,” she responded. “The discos are making an effort to survive and are closing one or two days each week, and only one disco opens on weekdays so as to stay alive. It is not that they lack promotion. Visits to discos have fallen to near nothing because of the insecurity problem . . . What needs to stop is the promotion of this insecurity. Even though all Mexican destinations have this problem, Acapulco always has first place in the lurid headlines.” She added, “Acapulco is a 100% tourist town; if you do not understand that much, you are out of touch or not a realist. We all suffer when the tourists do not come.”

The Guerrero Secretary of Tourism Promotion reported that this past Sunday, hotel occupation was under 40%. The traditional zone reported 30% while Diamante came in at 44%, the high for the region. A survey made by the newspaper El Sur disclosed that the beaches were empty of tourists, and the restaurants virtually abandoned. Few vehicles could be seen on the usually busy corridors. At 10:00 am on Saturday morning, artisan markets and shops along the Costera had almost no customers. La Condesa, usually frenetic at night, was dead quiet.

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