Acapulco: Climate Change Hurts Tourism

Hurricane Otis slammed almost directly ashore near Acapulco, a center of Mexico’s tourism industry and the revenue it produces. Depending on the data, it was a Category 5 storm when it hit or perhaps with winds a small amount below that level. Regardless of category, the resort has been nearly ruined. The likelihood it will be repaired in the next few months is nil. The winter season draws US travelers at a point on the calendar that starts about a month from now. It is also a destination for Mexican vacationers, more importantly. 

As Axios pointed out, the ability to prepare for large storms has diminished. “Hurricane Otis’ explosive intensification leapt so quickly the National Hurricane Center skipped a storm category (Category 2) between advisories.” Although in a far different place, storms that flooded the Northeastern US a few weeks ago strengthened rapidly, and they were also described as intensifying quickly. This kind of climate threat has become widespread. 

Acapulco has no natural barriers against 165 miles an hour winds, and there is no chance the government can build them. The city may not be flattened again soon but will be menaced by large storms more powerful than in the past.

Acapulco is a city of 600,000. It has one of Mexico’s largest beaches. High crime rates have already eroded tourism. It has been named one of the “50 Most Dangerous Cities In the World” by USAToday. This has undercut the number of people who come to the resort from outside Mexico, but the number is not insignificant. It is also a port of call for many cruise ships.

Acapulco hotel occupancy rate has run just below 50% for the last decade, except for the two years affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a sign of the level of tourism the city needs to flourish. In all likelihood, most hotels in the city have been badly damaged or destroyed. 

It will take weeks, or perhaps months, to determine the financial extent of the damage. It will certainly be in the tens of billions of dollars. This will leave many companies with properties in the city to decide whether to rebuild or not. If most of these decide to leave what is left of the city, it will never recover. A part of Mexico’s tourism industry will be gone.

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