Cozumel's shops and restaurants have been closing down due to the lack of tourists.

Tourism Falls Significantly in Cozumel Due To Overwhelming Media Coverage on Swine Flu

May 25, 2009
By Jennifer Larson

After endless negative stories in the media were cast down upon Mexico concerning the swine flu, millions of people all across the world were led to believe Mexico was a deathly destination. Flights, cruises and tourists cancelled all of their travel plans to Mexico; leaving Cozumel, Mexico's largest island off of the Yucatan Peninsula and second most popular cruise destination in the world, to be a deserted island. When a tug of war started between The Center for Disease Control and The World Health Organization over whether or not to lift the travel warning in Mexico, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and my parents were reluctant to let me travel to Cozumel with the international media class.

The swine flu or otherwise known as the H1N1 virus was translated by the media to the public as a deadly pandemic. Closely tied to the common flu, H1N1 got the reputation for being far more hazardous and deadly. With hopes of traveling to Cozumel several months prior to the H1N1 media outbreak our international media class was crushed when we found out we needed to brainstorm a plan B because our chances of continuing our arrangements to Cozumel were looking slim. Yet no cases had been found in Cozumel.

Finally, on Friday, May 15th each member of our class received a phone call from Christa Joy, who works at the university's international affairs office telling us that the CDC travel warning had been lifted and we were allowed to travel to Cozumel. With this news controversy arose in the Larson household; I wanted to go, and my parents thought otherwise. Even with the fall of the CDC's travel warning, my parents were still mesmerized by the information they had obtained from the media. My dad travels internationally for his company and because other countries were taking the information on the H1N1 virus and over-exploiting in order to sell newspapers, my parents found the information highly credible. In America and a majority of other countries the news is a reliable and factual source for international and domestic happenings and the people take the media very seriously. Luckily, my parents soon gave in and on Wednesday, May 20th I was on my way to Cozumel with dial soap, Clorox cleaning wipes and hand sanitizer at hand. 

After having traveled to Cozumel twice in high school I was interested to see how the island was holding up after they had suffered from a disastrous media storm. Much like I had imagined the island is currently a ghost town and the locals are desperate for consumers. Many of the shops and restaurants I had enjoyed in previous trips to the island had closed down because they were no longer able to afford to stay in business. It was really hard for me to see the island in such a desperate and economically unhealthy state. The power of the media has severely taken hold of Cozumel's economy. At a brunch we attended this morning, Aaron a local to the island explained to us that the government, "put all of their eggs in one tourist basket," and because the cruise ships have stopped visiting the island for the past couple of weeks, the island is suffering. The island will have its first cruise ship arrive on Tuesday, May 26 and locals are eager to see tourists pour in.

This experience alone has shown me the overwhelming power the media holds. Just with the coverage of the H1N1 virus the media has managed to overturn Cozumel's booming economy. Within just the first few days I have been on the island, it's incredible for me to see the direct effects of the media first hand.