It was reported last week, that for the first half of 2017, the number of travelers from Mexico to the United States fell by 9.1 percent, equivalent to 852 thousand fewer people, compared to the same period of a year before. As detailed by the Mexican trade news site, REPORTUR, this is the first contraction for the similar period since 2013, when there was a 0.8 percent decrease, Banco de México balance of payments data show.
Does the decline in visitation have anything to do with President Donald Trump, who was inaugurated in January and has just completed seven months in office? Perhaps. The most recent Pew Research Center survey last month recorded that a record low number of Mexicans—just five percent—approve of Trump, and that he seems to be dragging down their approval of the United States as well.
“Over the past decade, U.S. presidents have gotten mixed or negative reviews in Mexico, but at 5 percent, Trump registers the lowest confidence rating of any U.S. leader in Mexico since Pew Research Center began surveying there,” the Pew Research Center said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the new data showed that Mexicans generally liked former President Obama and gave the U.S. equally high approval ratings. When President Barack Obama left office, the favorability rating from Mexicans toward the United States was 66 percent. It has been cut by more than half to 30 percent.
Weak Peso has also had an Impact: While none of the industry experts cited in REPORTUR discount the impact of President Trump on travel to the U.S. by Mexicans, they point to the continued weakness of the peso vs. the U.S. dollar. Even though the peso grew stronger against the dollar by some 15 percent during the first half of 2017, it is still down about 35 percent from what it was three years ago.
Some of the consequences of the decline in the number of visitors from Mexico are already apparent. Some will be felt later.
For instance, lift capacity has already declined with carriers closing some routes. The Mexican business and finance newspaper, El Financiero, reported that at least six routes that are no longer operating between the two countries as a result of weak passenger demand. According to data from the Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics, among these are Torreon-Houston, Toluca-Florida, Mexico-San Diego, Mexico-Tampa, Morelia-Chicago and Durango-Houston.
“Lines like Interjet, Volaris, mainly the Mexican ones, were affected, the same agencies also stopped to capture less income,” said Armando Bojórquez, president of Confederation of Latin American Tourism Associations.
Enrique Beltranena, CEO of Volaris—it is the relatively new low-cost carrier that has made significant inroads into the U.S. over the past three years—said last March that due to uncertainty generated by Trump, they would reduce frequencies on the Dallas-Monterrey, Fort Lauderdale-California, Guadalajara-Fort Lauderdale-Mexico and Oakland-Tijuana routes. As a result, Volaris has reported a 30.1 percent annual reduction in its shares on the Mexican Stock Exchange.
Finally, should the decline in visitors from Mexico continue at the same pace (-9.1 percent) through the rest of 2017, It would mean a year-on-year loss in traffic of 1.7 million visitors—or about 2.3 percent of the total of all international travelers who visited the United States last year.