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.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019 at 4:46 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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