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Swine Flu - Unexpected Tourism Boom?

Rerouted cruise ships equals tourism dollars

If Mexico was on your travel horizon recently, we're betting you chose another path. Travel agents scrambled to rebook while cruise and air lines offered alternate routes and even full out refunds. The bonus? Other destinations were happy to roll out the red carpet.

Mexico Travel?Mexico Travel?In an effort to sidestep health issues without cancelling cruises, cruise lines rerouted ships to ports in the Caribbean but also San Francisco, Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia (Canada). Passengers were given the option of a full refund or a different cruise itinerary and onboard credits for a future cruise. What cruisers lost in sunshine, the alternate ports gained in millions of dollars of unexpected revenue.

San Francisco is enjoying 16 surprise stops, which brings 49,000 passengers. Each stop is expected to bring as much as $1 million dollars in sales (which translate to $500,000 revenue for the city).

"This is highly unusual - shocking, really - as the cruise lines set their sailing schedules 12 to 18 months in advance, and even minor changes are rare," said Michael Nerney, San Francisco's marketing manager.

Caribbean ports are also reaping substantial rewards. Bahamas Port Authority receives $15 for each passenger.

The CDC says only 10% of American visitors contracted the Swine flu ( H1N1) but they have not lifted their warning against non-essential to Mexico. The Swine Flu is just another hit to  the country's flagging tourism industry. Heightened drug violence and well-published tourist attacks have left many people skittish about traveling to the country.

Michael Crye, vice president of technology and regulatory affairs for the Cruise Lines International Association, called that restriction damaging and unnecessary. "You're probably at less risk going ahead with your destination than you would be in virtually any other public place."

But islands like St. Thomas are reaping the rewards and regaining some of their lost tourism dollars from this recession. "(The swine flu) is a good problem for us," said Edward Thomas, CEO of the West Indian Company Dock.

Is Mexico on your list of destinations to visit or avoid? Leave a comment below and read what others think.

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