JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — The state of Chihuahua is relaunching its tourism industry with a marketing campaign focusing on health and safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
It involves auditing sanitation, procedural and training protocols at 50 private and public facilities catering to visitors, and issuing those that pass a “Safe and Healthy” certificate.
“Tourism has been one of the hardest hit industries during this pandemic,” said Economic Development and Innovation Secretary Alejandra de la Vega. “We are working with tourism service providers so they take a leadership role in applying health and safety protocols that will give (visitors) the reassurances they are looking for.”
Earlier this week, the state announced a marketing campaign for the Desert and Sierra Tarahumara tourism routes, the first focusing on the dunes of Samalayuca and the Native American ruins near Casas Grandes, the second on lakes, waterfalls, and Indigenous towns in Western Chihuahua.
The push comes even as Mexico struggles to get a grip on COVID-19. As of Thursday, almost 72,000 people have died in Mexico since the start of the pandemic while 680,931 had caught the virus. Chihuahua has recorded 13,743 cases and 1,374 deaths, with almost half the cases and most of the fatalities taking place in Juarez.
But health officials say deaths have fallen off and the infection rate is plateauing. And Chihuahua, which borders Texas and New Mexico, is under intense pressure from merchants, laid-off workers and church-goers to lift restrictions on businesses and public venues even as new cases surface. The state reported 63 new infections and three new fatalities just on Thursday.
De la Vega said the goal of “Safe and Healthy” is to reassure visitors that their risk of catching COVID-19 or any other viruses is low from the moment they get off an airplane, take a taxi to their hotel and go to sleep in their rooms.
The audits eventually will include medical services providers, which are one of the top destinations for U.S. visitors, particularly in border cities like Juarez, but have seen their customer base plummet since mid-March.
A Juarez Chamber of Commerce official told Border Report last month fear of the coronavirus and lengthy waits to cross the border brought about by international travel restrictions have led to a drop of 90% in customers at doctors’ and dental services offices catering to U.S. visitors.
The first facilities audited were Juarez International Airport and the Chihuahua City Airport. Forty-six hotels in Juarez, Chihuahua City and the Copper Canyon region will be audited next, as will the Paso del Norte Center in Juarez and Expo Chihuahua in the state capital, De la Vega said in a teleconference Thusday.