Overtourism: As digital nomads flock to Mexico City, locals face rising rents

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With its vibrant nightlife, delicious cuisine and relaxed visa rules, Mexico City has become a hub for digital nomads and tourists.

But as rents and the cost of living soar, some locals are urging potential remote workers to stay away.

Last week, a collective of local activists – called “Observatorio 06000” – organized a “carnival” against gentrification.

“Housing yes! No evictions! protesters asked. “Mexicans wake up, they’re going to raise your rent!”

Anger rises as the number of visitors explodes. According to the popular remote worker website Nomad List, Mexico City is the fifth fastest growing remote work center in the world.

The ranking is based on the number of subscribers who register from Mexico City – a figure that has increased by 125% in 2021.

These visitors are “displacing” residents of the city center, carnival organizers have warned.

“Our homes are now home to digital nomads,” said a flyer from the event.

Why is Mexico City so popular with digital nomads?

Every year, millions of tourists descend on the Mexican capital. In 2019, the number of international visitors to hotels in the city exceeded 3.5 million.

Thanks to relaxed visa rules, many are deciding to stay. Mexico allows citizens of more than 70 countries to stay for up to six months without a visa. To renew the visa-free period, visitors only need to exit briefly the country.

After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was one of the only places to remain widely open to unvaccinated tourists. Since March, all COVID-related travel restrictions have been removed.

The price also attracts visitors. In a 2022 cost of living index According to the global database Numbeo, Mexico City ranks 378th out of 510 cities, with prices significantly lower than any US city.

Well-to-do foreigners – mostly from America – might be able to scrape together the rent for a studio in their home town. In Mexico City they can live in luxury.

Increased visitor numbers to Mexico City could contribute to rent inflation

For locals, it’s a different story.

The average monthly rent for a three-bedroom apartment in Mexico City is $1,147. That’s almost triple the average monthly salary in Mexico City, just $450 per month.

According to a study by the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), almost a third of residents of Mexico City have had to move during the pandemic. Most cited unaffordable rent as a contributing factor.

The number of court-sanctioned evictions in Mexico City has increased by around 27% between 2020 and 2021, reports local news source El Sol de México. This disastrous figure does not include informal rental agreements, the arrangement favored by most tenants in Mexico City.

“Those who celebrate the benefits of remote work too quickly should be more sensitive to the nuanced impacts of remote work on minorities and gentrification,” said Antonio M Bento, professor of public policy and economics at the University of California du South.

What do locals think of the influx of visitors?

Some residents of Mexico salute the influx of outside visitors, who stimulate the local economy by splashing their high levels of disposable income. Between January and April this year, international visitors spent US$851 million on hotels alone, according to tourism records.

But others warn that overtourism is destroy the culture of the city.

“They say that a very long time ago (before Airbnb) there was real life in this building,” reads a poster from the Observatorio Vecinal del Centro Histórico, an ironic reference to the family boom. reception of the city.

“Do they already charge rent in dollars here too?”

What can be done to help the people of Mexico City?

However, many activists do not hold individual digital nomads accountable. Instead, they’re calling for tougher rules protecting tenants from evictions.

“(The real problem is not) the fact that ‘people are coming from outside’,” tweeted activist Carla Escoffié.

“The problem is the absence of legislation on tenancy, the impunity of tenants, the absence of contracts and the fact that groups with purchasing power are privileged”.

Other expats try to respect the feelings of the locals. In 2019, a group of expats and locals created The Good Guest Collective.

“We are a group of friends (foreign and local to CDMX)…trying to help visitors be better guests,” reads the collective’s mission statement.

“It’s normal to arrive in a new country and not know the local standards that are most important to the communities there.

“Our goal is to help educate customers about these standards so they know how to be respectful when visiting CDMX.”

Local businesses are forced to make space for apartments

But despite these efforts, the human impact of digital nomad the influx is undeniable.

In February, a local family was forcibly evicted from the Torta sandwich business they had run for 54 years.

The commercial site – in the center of the popular Roma district – is being transformed into apartments.

“Fifty-four years of our life in this place, and that was the end,” Noemí Ortíz told Mexico News Daily.

“We can no longer move to Rome; we can’t afford to rent anywhere there,” she said.

“We don’t know what we will do. There are very few jobs for the elderly [like us].”

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