Mexico is preparing for a slow but sure return to health for its tourism industry two weeks after the country was hit by swine flu, Mexico Tourism Board director for Europe Manuel Diaz Cebrian has said.

“In the first week there was uncertainty, but now we know [the virus] is not as bad,” said Diaz Cebrian.

He went on to point out that as tragic as the 29 confirmed deaths in Mexico were, in a country with a population of 22 million the figure had to be kept in perspective.

As reported in Travel Weekly, plans for a major marketing campaign in the country were put on hold when the swine flu outbreak struck.

If, as is hoped, charter flights recommence this month, the Tourism Board will think about launching the campaign, although it remains realistic about the effects of the outbreak on the industry for the rest of the year.

“Eventually the charters will be back, around the May 12-14 and then we can begin to give positive signals,” said Diaz Cebrian. “We understand it will not be a good summer but the spring has been the worst ever.”

Meanwhile, independent UK operators appear to have weathered the Mexican outbreak, said AITO spokesman Ian Bradley.

“The ones I have spoken to have had very few cancellations. Most have switched to new destinations such as Latin America – Galapagos, Argentina, Ecuador – basically people don’t want to give up their holidays,” said Bradley.

Cosmos head of product Sara Gelder said the number of its customers who were affected was minimal. “Fortunately, when this started the numbers were relatively small, but in the summer – May to October – we would have had full planes out of Gatwick and Manchester,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mexico has been congratulated for its handling of the crisis by the World Health Organisation. WHO representative Philippe Lamy said the world could learn from the lessons of Mexico’s experience during the outbreak.

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