In the course of my trip I met two tour guides who complained about the disappearance of visitors from the U.S. (No. Not from kidnapping.) I met one U.S. tourist down there — an elderly Californian at Paquime. Leafing through their visitor register, I did notice another gringo visiting ten days or so prior to my arrival. At Mata Ortiz, we were hounded by people aggressively pursuing us to buy some exquisite pottery at fire-sale (pardon the pun) prices.
One of the tour guides suggested U.S. tourism was 1% of previous levels. Another suggested a less radical cut. I did a little digging to see if I could find some evidence for what has really happened over the past few years.
Mexican tourism data is now available through a system called Cedoc Virtu@l. I grabbed some data for foreign and domestic arrivals at hotels in Nuevo Casas Grandes (and reported by SECTUR’s DataTur system) and information of total foreign tourist flows to Mexico, which is reported by Banco de Mexico.
The data suggest the trend in foreign arrivals at Nuevo Casas Grandes hotels is highly correlated with the overall trend in foreign visitors to Mexico, with a correlation coefficient of 95. While they may be correlated, the decline in NCG foreign visitors has been more pronounced, with an annual decline of 17.7% since 2006. In contrast, foreign visitors to all of Mexico (the green line) declined at an annual rate of 4.5%.
With all of the negative publicity about violence along the frontier, this should come as no surprise. Many people near Nuevo Casas Grandes admitted there were problems with violence three years ago — violence which has largely disappeared. The data suggest the world has yet to get out to the rest of the world.
The decline in domestic visitors to Nuevo Casas Grandes since 2008 has been less pronounced. In fact, domestic arrivals at NCG hotels since 2006 have increased at an annualized rate of 0.7%.