Last year, we blamed the lack of reservations from April on to the H1N1 scare. I'm not sure what we can blame it on this year, but listening to the news gives me a pretty good idea of some possibilities.
The economy of many countries is bad, in some cases it is a crisis. Right here on the island it feels darn close to a crisis, I don't know how many are surviving. When we drive around, we see very few tourists. Restaurants are closing during non-peak hours and days. This month feels like September instead of May.
More and more locals are cruising the streets looking for scrap metal they can sell to the recycler. The other day we were broke and Miguel was able to scrape up about $10 by scavenging for scrap metal.
Other locals are going around with carts of kindling wood that they've gathered. Wood that can be used to cook food, saving on the cost of gas.
Cars, mopeds, and golf carts are for sale. In some cases much-needed methods of transportation are being sold off for the short-term need of cash.
Many properties are for sale - some beautiful homes owned by investors. The homes are not selling. Land is for sale - prime land along the shores. The land is not selling. Small plots of land and little concrete structures or even palapas have 'For Sale' signs posted throughout the colonias. And they are not selling.
Locals used to being employed in the construction business are forced to seek work outside of their skill set. Master bricklayers are taking jobs as painters, or assistants to workers in other trades. People are willing to take any kind of work they can find.
The other day we dropped by the dump to pass along a message to a friend of Miguel's. The men working there were in the process of sorting through all the bags of garbage, looking for anything salvageable or recyclable and putting it aside. The dump actually is a lot cleaner than it used to be, but I can't imagine having to open all those bags of garbage and sorting through them. Dirty work, but at least the men are working.
Surprisingly, there has not been an increase in people coming around asking for money; I last got hit up a few months ago by a family wandering through our colonia claiming they'd lost all their belongings in the fire in Guadalupana. No matter how bad your own situation looks, there are others much worse off than you.
I wonder if all the bad press Mexico has been getting over the drug violence is finally really hitting us hard and people are staying away. A few people I know back in Canada and the US have told me about the horrible stories they've read and seen on tv, not realizing that there are lots of places in Mexico that are as safe as their own place of residence.
I also think we have an over-supply of places to stay. We have a few new hotels, and those hotels have a lot of rooms. And more and more people are renting out all or part of their homes; tourists are going crazy trying to find the perfect place to stay amongst all the choices they have now. And the reality is that along with all the new hotels, there are an awful lot of very cute, comfortable places to stay here - places on the water, places in town, places in the colonias. There truly is something for everyone.
Recognizing that we are in low season, we have lowered the rent and are absorbing the cost of the air-conditioning in the units in an effort to stay competitive. But we can't compete with the big resorts and hotels that have partnered with airlines and travel sites to offer huge discounts to attract guests. Although many guests would probably not normally stay in those places, they can't turn down the savings. And in this economy, nobody can blame them.
This is a transition year for us, a year of working through the lack of employment income on my part and trying to minimize the withdrawals from taxable savings while we struggle through low season. The house needs painting, and there are other things that need attention. Maintenance - and no cash to 'maintain'. Next year will be better.
There is property in Oaxaca, property that can support us if we develop it as a business. Once again I am in awe of the patience of Mexicans - Miguel is talking about 10 or 15 years from now. My mind is on THIS year. He is probably closer to the reality though.
I have been pondering about writing this for a while, first thinking I should just keep my thoughts to myself. But today feels like the right time to write. We are broke, but looking around us, we're in good company, and we're still better off than many.