Tourists are being offered free holidays for three years if they catch swine flu on Mexico’s Caribbean coast in a bid to lure business back to the country.
The outbreak of the H1N1 virus has killed 63 people worldwide and sparked fears of a global pandemic – as well as seriously denting tourism to the region.
Officials have said that 25 hotels in and around Cancun have been forced to close due to the swine flu crisis.
And the FCO is still advising against all but essential travel to Mexico.
It emerged today that flight operators are extending the suspension of flights to the country.
Thomson and First Choice Holidays have axed all outbound flights to Cancun and Cozumel up to and including May 18 and Thomas Cook has cancelled holidays to Cancun up to and including May 22.
As a result of dwindling tourism, a group of three hotel chains located on Mexico’s Caribbean coast – Real Resorts, Dreams and Secrets, offering a total of 5,000 rooms – have made the bold move.
Fernando Garcia, director of Real Resorts said: ‘The ‘flu-free guarantee’ assures three years of free holidays to travellers who present flu symptoms eight days after returning from their trip.’
The pledge – which would also call on US authorities to lift a non-essential travel ban – hopes to restore confidence in Mexico as one of the world’s top tourist hotspots.
The Mexico Tourism Board has just announced an investment plan worth almost £58 million, which will include an international PR campaign.
President Felipe Calderón said: ‘The recovery plan is the start of the campaign to encourage travellers to return to Mexico.’
The government is considering ways of reducing taxes in the tourism sector – including a 50 per cent reduction in cruise taxes.