Despite scares of Zika, violence, and other threats, tourism into Mexico from the US remains strong, as travelers continue to visit the warm beaches and vibrant cities across the United State’s southern neighbor.

But our recent estimates project that the road appears to be turning into a one-way street. Despite two downward adjustments in trending data from the Department of Commerce since the US primaries began, travel into the United States from Mexico is down even more than expected: roughly -10% each month in year-over-year comparisons for 2017.

Many Americans may be surprised to learn that a healthy portion of tourist dollars spent in the United States traditionally come from Mexico. On an average month (Jan 2000 through Dec 2016) Mexican tourists were 20% of all US-bound tourists: second only to Canada. According the US Department of Commerce, Mexican tourists spent $18.7 billion in the United States in 2014, and that number was projected in late 2015 to continue climbing steadily through 2016 and 2017.

As the below graph shows, projected travel into the US from Mexico has fallen well below projections since the November elections:


Here is the data between January 2016 and May 2017 (2017 estimates):

Month Actual Tourist Totals Projections Difference
Jan-16          1,509,233          1,517,220               (7,987)
Feb-16          1,228,922          1,236,280               (7,358)
Mar-16          1,469,191          1,311,324             157,867
Apr-16          1,472,392          1,599,087           (126,695)
May-16          1,562,068          1,621,889             (59,821)
Jun-16          1,523,634          1,462,692               60,942
Jul-16          1,724,006          1,655,940               68,066
Aug-16          1,778,174          1,767,775               10,399
Sep-16          1,503,453          1,419,256               84,197
Oct-16          1,618,625          1,692,702             (74,077)
Nov-16          1,619,322          1,867,442           (248,120)
Dec-16          1,732,667          1,998,588           (265,921)
Jan-17          1,371,893          1,562,736           (190,843)
Feb-17          1,165,018          1,273,369           (108,351)
Mar-17          1,372,224          1,350,663               21,561
Apr-17          1,382,576          1,647,060           (264,484)
May-17          1,451,161          1,670,546           (219,385)

Following the election of President Trump, who continues to promote tough immigration policy and a massive wall aligning the border, tourism of Mexico’s citizens into the US immediately fell the month of his election, and continues to fall each month when compared with years previous. It now seems likely that the Trump administration’s positions are having an economic effect on routine tourism.

In a recent report by Tourism Economics, they suggest that this decline in tourism has cost the US over 1.1 billion dollars thus far, and predicts that this continued decline with cost over 1.6 billion dollars next year alone.

There isn’t much specific data as to why tourism from Mexico is on the decline, but there are plenty of anecdotal examples of Mexican citizens suggesting they want to wait until anti-Mexican sentiment decreases. In an interview with the LA Times this April, Rafael Sifuentes Barba suggests that the reason he’s cancelling his regular travel plans into the US is directly related to the anti-Mexico rhetoric he has seen overtake the media, and become more prominent over the last few months.

“I decided not to go until anti-Mexican sentiment decreases,” Barba stated.

The declining popularity of the US as a travel destination has increased overall domestic tourism inside Mexico as its citizens opt instead to stay in their own country for vacation. When visiting another country, the trending data suggests that they are now venturing south into Central and South America, as well as flying over the US into Canada for vacation.

We will be monitoring this trend closely in the coming months and will be working on new estimates for other Central and South American countries to determine if the trends follow the above as well. Many reports are suggesting that all tourism into the US has seen a slight decline, but as our report above shows, no greater shifts have yet occurred other than that from Mexico.