Mexico gets back to business By Michelle Baran & Johanna Jainchill / May 21, 2009 Share 1 -- A swine flu case studyA swine flu pandemic with global consequences could cause gross domestic product losses of $2.2 trillion to the tourism economy, if the flu makes a stronger comeback in late 2009 and lasts into 2010, according to research conducted this month by Oxford Economics for the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).A more contained, SARS-type outbreak with limited impact could cause a lesser impact of $25 billion, WTTC said. In the pandemic scenario, WTTC said that inbound tourism spending would plummet 60 percentage points, or $620 billion. Domestic tourism also would be affected. WTTC said a global swine flu pandemic could disrupt the industry for about six months.Some good news: The resulting drop in travel demand would likely be short-lived, WTTC said. "The aim for the industry and policymakers would be to ensure that no lasting damage is done, so that firms are able to take advantage of recovery when it comes," said WTTC. Travel companies with ties to Mexico have moved swiftly to begin rebuilding their business, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) modified its H1N1 swine flu travel alert a week ago.The CDC downgraded its recommendation against nonessential travel to Mexico to a "travel health precaution," saying, among other things, that "the risk of severe disease from novel H1N1 virus infection now appears to be less severe than originally thought."The CDC recommended that travelers visiting Mexico take steps to protect themselves from getting the flu and suggested that travelers deemed "high risk for complications from any form of influenza" talk with their doctor and consider postponing travel to Mexico. Apple Vacations extended what it dubbed its "Biggest-ever Mexico Sale," with prices reduced up to 70%, through May 28.Only a few days after the alert was removed, Apple reported that Mexico sales were rebounding. "New sales are gaining more and more momentum," stated Tim Mullen, senior vice president of Apple Vacations. "Our prices are definitely getting attention. Now that the CDC has removed the travel warning, consumers will be comfortable traveling to Mexico again."The Mexico Tourism Board vowed to launch a marketing campaign soon after the travel alert was lifted. And already, the Riviera Maya Destination Marketing Office has launched a "Hola Riviera Maya" campaign to "to reactivate the flow of national and foreign tourists to Mexico’s Riviera Maya." The campaign will be predominantly featured on a new website, Holariverieramaya.com, the content of which will be distributed using social networking sites such at Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. According to Javier Aranda, director of the Riviera Maya Destination Marketing Office, the campaign will continue until visitor levels return to normal. Elements of the campaign include testimonials from tourists currently enjoying the destination. Within hours of the change in language, both Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International said they would resume calls to Mexican ports, as early as this weekend. Royal Caribbean said it would resume calls to Mexico starting with its Caribbean-based ships, which were to begin calling in Cozumel on sailings departing on or after May 24. The Mariner of the Seas will continue its modified Pacific Northwest itinerary out of Los Angeles through its June 14 departure.Carnival said that once all its voyages with modified itineraries had been completed, most of which were scheduled through June 15, its ships would revert to their original routes.Gerry Cahill, president of Carnival Cruise Lines, said the line was returning to Mexico "after careful evaluation and consultation with the CDC" and pointed out that cruise ports had not been affected by the flu. While applauding the decision, CLIA said it would continue to use enhanced health-screening protocols, under which all passengers scheduled to board CLIA member lines’ ships are required to complete a health questionnaire. Investors were relieved, as well: Both Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd. shares shot up when the companies announced their return to Mexico. Micky Arison, CEO of Carnival Corp., had been a vocal proponent of lifting the CDC alert, saying that the effect of the alert on Mexico’s economy was "very serious."