Archive for January, 2019

Boycott of Chichen Itza Could Result in Layoffs by Thousands

January 15th, 2019 by ejalbright

Chichen Itza, El Castillo
Imagine Chichen Itza with no tourists. (photo by Arian Zwegers)

In January the number of foreign tourists ramps up in Yucatan, especially in the frontier town of Valladolid, but yesterday according to one report the town experienced little tourist traffic.

If true, it could be a sign that a boycott of Yucatan state visitor destinations by travel agencies in the neighboring state of Quintana Roo is real, and if it persists, will result in thousands of people losing tourism-related jobs.

In late December, the Yucatan Legislature and new state governor more than doubled admittance fees on foreign tourists to all of the state’s tourist attractions: Chichen Itza (to more than 470 pesos or almost $25 USD), Ek Balam, Uxmal, et. al. The drastic price increase was set to take place Jan. 1, but in response to immediate pushback from tourism operators, was postponed to Feb. 1. In addition, the state agreed to honor any tickets purchased prior to Feb. 1 at the old price until April 30.

Both the price increase and then postponement were done without input from the groups that reportedly provide the largest number of foreign tourists to Yucatan attractions, the travel operators based in the tourist-rich Maya Riviera towns of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum. One association covering 70 operators, the Quintana Roo chapter of the Mexican Association of Travel Agencies, called for a boycott that began Monday. While its member agencies would honor tours to Yucatan sites it already had sold, it would not sell any new tours.

Demands by Tour Operators

“We asked for a six-month extension,” said Sergio Gonzalez Rubier, the president of the tourist association,” and that the price increase after that “be gradual, not overnight.”

However the association is not only demanding a slower increase in ticket prices, it also is demanding several long-promised reforms to the management of Chichen Itza specifically. For more than 15 years vendors have been allowed to sell trinkets inside the archaeological zone. Every day more than a 1,000 vendors flood the site, and for years the tourism operators have had to deal with the complaints from its customers.

“There is talk of a whole mafia in there, with which the custodians of INAH [the federal agency that oversees the ruins] collaborate, who allow them to be there by paying a fee.” Gonzalez Rubier told the Diario de Yucatan newspaper. “It is an impressive illicit business. We have denounced it for decades.”

The tourist operators will no longer tolerate the vendors, said González Rubier. The tourism operators want the state to create a plan, with measurable milestones linked to dates as to when the vendors will be removed from the archaeological zone.

González Rubiera also demanded the improvement of the facilities, of the restrooms, of ticket-selling booths, and other changes.”

The Bigger Threat

Unless its demands are met, the tourist organization is promising to not only continue the boycott, but to badmouth Chichen Itza and Yucatan locations to its customers. Any tourist who insists on going to Yucatan will be taken under warning of the problems that exist there, Gonzalez Rubieria reported told La Jornada.

Another tourist-operator organization, the Mexican Association of the Tourism Industry (AMIT), has not publicly committed to the boycott, but if the remarks by President Rosa Isela García Pantoja are any indication, it has the same complaints as the rival Mexican Association fo Travel Agencies. While these two organizations are rivals, it appears that they are in lockstep that not only is the increase in ticket prices “too much,” but also the time has come to correct the other deficiencies, especially those at Chichen Itza.

The government of Yucatan state has yet to make any official pronouncements regarding the boycott or the demands for reform. Stay tuned.

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State Doubles Chichen Admission Price

January 10th, 2019 by ejalbright


Source: blog, 2008-present.

The state of Yucatan nearly doubled the entrance fee to Chichen Itza beginning Jan. 1, 2019. Similar increases were applied to all the archaeological zones within the state borders in the northwest corner of the Yucatan Peninsula.

The entrance fee is actually two fees, one by the federal government and the other by the state of Yucatan. The federal fee has grown steadily over the past several decades. The state fee, which was instituted in the 1980s, in recent years has exploded. In the last ten years the state ticket fee has increased six-fold. Over the same period, the feds increased its portion by only 60 percent.

In the most recent increase, the state portion went from 189 pesos to 398 pesos. There appears to be some confusion among news sources about the federal ticket price, but most reliable reports state it increased from 70 pesos to 75. If correct, the overall ticket prices at Chichen jumped from 259 pesos to 473 pesos.

While there has never been a price increase as drastic as the latest, in 2010 the state boosted its portion of the entrance fee by 85 percent. That was the year Yucatan purchased the land in Chichen Itza’s main archaeological zone. The handling of the price increase was somewhat of a political debacle. The state announced the increase, but after pushback from tourism operators, agreed to postpone it more than a year. A few weeks later it abruptly changed its mind again and instituted the increase.

In the months following that price increase, the number of visitors to Chichen Itza dropped by half, however the Yucatan administration at the time claimed it had nothing to do with the price increase .

Similar to the 2010 increase, tourism operators have launched political pushback. The Mexican Association of Travel Agencies branch in the neighboring state of Quintana Roo, the travel destination of millions of foreign tourists, estimates its members have already sold more than a half million tours to Chichen Itza set for 2019. The sudden doubling of entrance fees means that tourism operators face losing as much as $137 million Mexican.

Unless some accommodation is made, the Association is threatening of boycott of Chichen Itza. The association estimates that almost two million visitors to Chichen Itza, the vast majority who visit the ancient city, originate from Quintana Roo destinations of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and others.

Michelle Fridman Hisrsch, the new Secretary of Tourism Development for the state of Yucatan, told La Jornada that talks are being held with various tourism representative organizations to find a way to minimize the impact of the increase on pre-sold tours.

Fridman Hirsch downplayed the impact of the increase because it is being charged to foreign tourists, not Mexican nationals. Fridman Hirsch defended the increase, stating that it was necessary and brings the fees to the level they should be. Fridman pointed out that of the “World Wonders,” a ticket to see Chichen Itza is the least expensive by far. In this, Fridman Hirsch is correct, as sites such as Petra and Machu Picchu charge the equivalent of $50 USD. Chichen is less than $25 USD after the increase.

However, the last giant price increase in 2010 used the Colisseum in Rome as its comparison. Today it costs 12 euros to enter, which is now less than half the cost to enter Chichen.

In more recent interviews and conversations with reporters, Fridman Hirsch has been walking away from the debate, claiming her agency, SEFOTUR, was not involved in the increase. She also said that, to her knowledge, there had been a study in advance of the price increase that defended the higher fee.

The reason behind the large increase is not a mystery. If the boycott fails to gain traction or foreigners are not scared off by the price incrase, Yucatan looks to have a big payday. A reporter at El Financiero did the math and estimated that revenue to the state could increase by $330 million (Mexican) every year assuming attendance figures in 2018 match this year. That doesn’t include additional revenue from other Maya sites such as Uxmal or Dzibulchaltun.

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