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Arriba, Arriba: Why Swine Flu Means Mexico NOW

Monday, May 4th, 2009

This probably won’t come as a surprise to any regular CT reader.

We have canceled our CT Annual Meeting, scheduled for August 7 -22 in Northeastern Iceland.

We were planning to take advantage of Iceland’s financial meltdown – we were seduced by the crippled krona, tempted by our love for glaciers, geysers, Vikings, and cheap air fares. We were getting very excited about a week of biking the fjords of Northeast Iceland (a rarely visited pocket of the country), followed by a few days of fly fishing near Akureyri, two-days of camping in Myvatn, the Yellowstone of Iceland, and a night of madness in Reykjavik.

But that’s so two weeks ago.

As soon as Lael Powell Rushing emailed us with the April 25 wire story “Mexico Races to Stop Deadly Flu,” we unanimously agreed.

Iceland can wait.

Lesson #1 of Contrarian Travel

Follow the Pandemic

For those of you, unfamiliar with this, please see Lael Powell Rushing’s seminal case study — SARS, circa 2003, and The Motherlode of Contrarian Travel. (If it’s not archived, we’ll bug LPR to post it)

Obviously, as soon as the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization started raising the “P” word, not to mention that half-cocked remark by Vice President Biden…. the Mexican tourist industry was in serious trouble.

This is sad news, for sure, if you’re the manager of Senor Frogs in Cancun. If you work in the Zona Rosa in Mexico City. If you own a t-shirt shop near the place where the Cunard ship docks in Cozumel.

But this is obviously great news for the CT community.

Mexico will be cheaper, emptier, friendlier.

In brief, and this may sound impolitic, the swine flu — rather the perceived fear of H1N1 - will keep out the riff raff.

Here’s just a sampling of what’s happening to Mexico’s $13 billion tourism industry as of Cinco de Mayo…

The Christian Science Monitor “Mexico Tourism Braces for Swine Flu Showdown.” The Washington Post “US Travel Alert for Mexico: No Help to Tourism.” Advertising Age “Swine Flu Endangers Health of Mexican Tourism Industry.” MSNBC “Swine Flu Reshapes Mexican Tourism.”

Last week, MSNBC reported that the Mayor of Acapulco told tourists to go home.
That was, repeat, last week.

Already, the initial hysteria that swine flu=global pandemic of Stephen King-like level is beginning to subside.

We’ve already heard reports that Cancun hotel owners are literally begging for tourists.
SO… in sum, all of us at the CT agree: as much as we hunger for eternal sum, and a nice hike around a landscape pocked with boiling mudpots… we can’t waste this chance.

Lesson #2 of Contrarian Travel:

Always be prepared to audible

Yep. This is the time for Mexico. There may never be another swine flu.
So last week, we dispatched our first responder to start searching for Swine Flu Opportunities. How is H1N1 impacting Mexico?

A report from Max Grinnell, the Urbanologist, is pasted below. As you’ll see, the news is not great yet. Yet. It’s very early. (As most CTers remember from the SARS outbreak of 2003, it takes time before the full benefits of pandemic hysteria fully manifest themselves.)
The Urbanologist’s Report, May 1, 2009

Grinnell spent about 30 minutes searching two of the most popular travel search engines: Orbitz and Expedia, for cheap deals to Acapulco from Chicago and Boston.

1. Acapulco – from Boston.

A quick search on a long Memorial Day weekend (May 21-26) yielded prices in the $630 range (hotel and air) from Boston for the solo traveler. The Urbanologist has seen better deals. Last May he scored a 6-day trip to Barbados for $620, including airfare and a peaceful guest house with innumerable hammocks here:’s conclusion: “We aren’t in the land of pandemic prices yet. “

2. Cabo San Lucas – from Boston or Chicago.

Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of Baja.. What better place to get one’s mind off the World Health Organization, sanitary face masks, wide-spread school closures, and a 30 percent drop in your 401(K) …

The Urbanologis, a Baja enthusiast, adds of Cabo. “Nice breezes in them parts and you can channel your inner Izaak Walton by chartering a boat and seeing your way clear to bagging a dorado or a mountable marlin.”

After some searching on Orbitz and Expedia, the Urbanologist found some six night type packages from Boston or Chicago priced at around $700.

Again, this is not the pandemic pricing we’re looking for. But Grinnell pleased on what he found is thinking about going for it. “Not a bad way to spend a few days, and if you look quick, you might see Sammy Hagar when you’re down there.”


Lael Powell Rushing will take a look at the H1N1’s impact on Mexico City and – one of our favorite places on the planet – Oaxaca. Rob Jordan will take a look at eating and drinking opportunities in border towns - from Tijuana to Juarez to Mexicali.

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