Travel industry leaders in Mexico say that a weak Mexican peso will benefit U.S. tourists. // © 2016 iStock
Feature image (above): The costs of tourism-related activities, such as food, entertainment and transportation, have been dropping. // © 2016 iStock
The U.S. dollar has been especially strong in recent months. It also buys more Mexican pesos than in the past. But does that mean that now is the perfect time to travel to Mexico?
According to most industry insiders I spoke with, the ability to get great deals from the exchange rate varies, based largely upon whether prices are quoted in dollars or pesos. But most say there are some amazing opportunities.
“While no one can predict how the exchange rate will fluctuate moving forward, at nearly 19 pesos to the dollar currently, 2016 is an ideal time to visit Mexico,” said Christopher Calabrese, vice president and general manager of CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort and JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa, who reports an uptick in bookings this year. “I don’t think all Americans are aware of these trends — so it’s great to get the word out that Cancun is an especially accessible and affordable destination this year.”
One of the biggest selling points, Calabrese says, is that the dollar will buy almost twice as much as it did a few years ago.
“While visitors won’t necessarily see lower room rates, since those are already priced in dollars, they’ll see significant savings at local restaurants, bars, shops and any business based on the local currency,” he said. “One area where travelers can save big is public transportation once they’re in Cancun. Taxi prices are lower, and bus fares are only about 50 cents right now.”
Zachary Rabinor, CEO of Journey Mexico, agrees.
“Mexico is definitely enjoying the exchange rate trend, with on-the-ground costs plummeting for food, entertainment, transportation and more,” he said. “Hotels typically peg their pricing more to the U.S. dollar, so there is not as much benefit, but there are some notable exceptions in Mexico City and the Colonial Silver Cities — Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Patzcuaro and Morelia.”
Indeed, Rabinor says that travelers can find some of the most attractive deals in “the more off-the-beaten-path destinations where there has been less ‘dollarization,’ which allows for the greatest advantage of the strong dollar vis a vis the weakening Mexican peso.”
Dario Flota, CEO of the Riviera Maya Tourism Board, agrees that the biggest savings are realized after arrival.
“Most of the rates for airfare and hotel packages are set in U.S. dollars, so basically, we don’t see the exchange rate affecting U.S. travelers,” he said. “However, Mexico’s destinations are now more attractive than ever for U.S. visitors. Dining, shopping, local transportation and many other services are priced in pesos, so our tourists get much more for their money.”
The advantage is felt most when dining or shopping in local spots, says Carl Emberson, vice president of operations at Mayakoba, a resort development in the Riviera Maya.
“Most of the room rates are in dollars already, so the favorable exchange rate encourages more exploration of the destination,” he said.
When it comes to hotel rates, Rabinor says that caution is needed.
“One thing that travelers should look at is that sometimes hotel prices are quoted in U.S. dollars, then converted at an unfavorable exchange rate at the time of checkout,” he said. “Pesos are then again converted back into dollars by the credit card holder’s bank.”
The current exchange rate could actually make European-plan hotels more attractive, according to Calabrese.
“Those staying at all-inclusives are less likely to benefit, since food and beverages are already priced into the room night cost, and in U.S. dollars,” he said. “Because our resorts run on the European pricing model, for the most part, our guests benefit from savings at our food and beverage outlets, on recreational activities and at restaurants located outside the property, as they appeal to local clientele and need to maintain reasonable pricing in local currency.”