The owner of Pisces Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas e-mailed me the accompanying photo of her crew with the caption: "Come on down, everything is fine here, weather is fantastic and we are waiting to catch you some fish.”
Everything is not fine. The mega-resort community at the tip of Baja California is in dire straits, thanks to the same factors that affect tourism in all of Mexico: global recession, drug-related violence and the swine flu scare.
It doesn't matter that the latter two issues are localized in other areas. As far as many non-Mexicans are concerned, because of what they've seen on TV or read, the entire country has plague.
In Cabo, which was built initially around sportfishing, the main drag is all but deserted. Hotels are nearly empty. Cruise ships aren't coming. The number of flights have been reduced. Tracy Ehrenberg, longtime Pisces fleet owner and wife of a prominent politician, said the town is emptier than it was in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes and a subsequent devastating hurricane.
But tourist destinations throughout Mexico, as the worst of a flu-related heath crisis seems to have passed, are begging people to come back--and some are doing so imaginatively.
According to a story in the Latin American Herald Tribune, eight hotels in Cancun and the Riviera Maya are offering full refunds and free vacations for up to three years to anyone who contracts the swine flu virus during their vacation.
While there have been cases of the virus in Cancun, there have been none reported in Pacific coastal destinations such as Cabo San Lucas and the entire Los Cabos region; Zihuatanejo, Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan, according to Jose Angel Cordova, Mexico's health secretary.
In Cabo and throughout Baja California Sur's East Cape region, locals occasionally make fun of a swine flu issue that they believe was blown out of proportion by the media (see photo). But in reality, anyone who makes a living off visiting fishermen or other tourists is feeling a major pinch and knows this is no joke.
This will pass, however, and tourists will regain confidence and resume traveling to Mexico and elsewhere abroad; but when it will pass is anyone's guess.
-- Pete Thomas
Photos: Pisces Sportfishing crew in front of waterfront Cabo San Lucas office. Courtesy of Pisces. In second photo, East Cape anglers poke fun at the swine flu reports after catching, and masking, a large dorado. Courtesy of Mark Rayor