The slowdown in covid-19 infections and sociocultural dynamics, among other factors, have driven Mexicans to Los Angeles to such a level that the Californian city hopes to break a new visitor record for 2023, when it expects 1.8 million compatriots visit the city, which would exceed the previous record, of 1.7 million travelers in 2019.
The expected flow for next year would also translate into significant spending, around $625 million , explains Adam Burke, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. Behind these numbers there is a dynamic marked by the recovery of international tourism, but also by the ties that the inhabitants of the City share with Mexico.
“For several years, Mexico has been the number one international market for Los Angeles, and it is also the one that recovers the fastest,” he says in an interview with Expansión .
“45% of Angelenos identify as Hispanic, so when we talk about promoting it, there are a lot of people who spend time in both countries; It’s not so much promoting the destination as maintaining those bonds of friendship and sharing what’s new in Los Angeles. There is no full recovery of the Los Angeles economy without Mexico ,” he adds.
From Mexico, the recovery of travelers to Los Angeles has resulted in two of the 10 largest international routes in the country being to the Californian city, from Guadalajara and Mexico City .
Although demand for flights between Mexico and Los Angeles has picked up, it has not fully recovered. Justin Erbacci, CEO of Los Angeles World Airports, explains that to date there are 30 daily flights to 16 Mexican destinations. While the number of cities is similar to before the pandemic, frequencies have not fully recovered, although additional capacity is there through the construction of more terminals at Los Angeles Airport , which already has nine terminals and is going for two more.
“We recently opened Terminal 3 with Delta Air Lines , which is where Aeroméxico also operates,” he says.
Part of the fact that the destination has not yet fully recovered has to do with the long waiting periods to process a visa to enter the United States, acknowledges Burke. Although efforts have been made to streamline this process – with the possibility of renewing visas that have expired in the previous three years and through remote interviews from Washington DC – this has not been enough.
“These waiting times are probably the biggest impediment to a full international recovery,” he says.
In addition to this, the downgrading of Mexican air safety to Category 2 , carried out by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) , is perceived as the other challenge by preventing Mexican airlines from opening more routes or adding frequencies to the United States.
“It is difficult to say how many flights are not happening because of it, but I know that all Mexican airlines want to fly more, they ask us to intervene to contribute to the change in the safety category,” says Erbracci. “Many have new planes and are excited to add them to their flights to Los Angeles, and with it, also be more profitable.”