“Buen Fin” Causes 15K Rush To Border, Major Delays
This past weekend in Chetumal - and all over Mexico - retail stores observed what's known as "Buen Fin". It's sort of like the Mexican version of Black Friday - where there are once a year sales and deals at participating stores. So, naturally, Saturday being a holiday and all, many Belizeans made their run for the border to cash in on those deals. But…the thousands who travelled on Sunday ran into a major traffic jam - before they even got to the border. Traffic on the Belize side was backed up for miles, and for hours - some travellers report being stuck for over two hours. These pictures show the lines as far back as four mile Lagoon, and that's before they even got to the border, or cleared immigration on the Mexican side. Indeed, it was an interminable wait for the eager shoppers - and the Immigration Department says its because they are short staffed and had to deal with double the rush of weekend travellers. Director of Immigration Diana Locke confirmed to us that fifteen thousand persons passed through the border this weekend when usually the weekend crowd is seven to eight thousand. What's more, the Department need seven or eight more immigration officers to manage the regular crowd, and, on top of all that, they are implementing a drive thru system for Belizeans, and that too was part of the slowdown. She says the new officers are currently in training and it will still be a while before they are brought on stream, so there may be a recurrence of delays with the Christmas rush.
And while the shoppers may complain, the Free Zone businesses are bitterly angry. They say business owners and workers couldn't get into the zone until midday because of the delays. The Immigration Director says Free Zone traffic accounts for three thousand of that crowd of fifteen thousand. The Free Zone business interests want their own line, so that they can bypass the Chetumal shoppers.
Millions Of Dollars Spent Across The Border Over The Weekend
If we didn’t know any better, the images of long lines of vehicles heading to the northern border could appear like some kind of mass exile from Belize. But there was no human repatriation going on; what there was is BUEN FIN – an entire weekend when Mexican businesses offer hard-to-beat promotions to their customers. Those promotions were apparently significant enough to attract Belizeans by the thousands to the neighbouring city of Chetumal to make use of the deals.
According to Immigration officials, some 15,000 Belizeans crossed the border, with some 12,000 heading directly to Chetumal to shop. That’s a major figure considering that 7,000 is what normally crosses the border on a normal basis.
But while the numbers are shocking, the images of lines of cars to the border were the longest we’ve seen. Nearly four miles of cars, with Belizeans having to wait over two hours for their turn to cross the border and enter Chetumal.
We are told a number of factors caused the delay; including a new system of immigration points that have been established which now sees Belizeans being able to stamp their passports without having to exit their vehicles. But without proper announcement to Belizeans, the result was chaotic. Still, Belizeans just couldn’t resist Buen Fin.
There is also an economic impact that is bad news for Belize. If every Belizean spends an average of $200 in Chetumal, we’re speaking of a total of $2.4 million dollars of revenue drained out of Belize. That’s significant considering the economic troubles our country is facing. The local business community attempted to stem the Buen Fin tide with its own version of Black Friday last Friday, but early reports of the impact indicate nothing close to those long lines of Belizeans flocking to Chetumal.