Cancún, Mexico (AFP) - Mexico is bracing for a "very powerful" impact from the collapse of British travel firm Thomas Cook, an official said Monday, as several hundred tourists gathered at the Cancun airport looking for a way home.
Britain sends more tourists to Mexico's Caribbean coast than any other European country, and more than any country in the world except the United States and Canada, according to Mexican tourism ministry figures.
And the majority of those Britons traveled through Thomas Cook, said Dario Flota, head of the tourism promotion board for the state of Quintana Roo, home to the turquoise waters and white-sand beaches of destinations such as Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
"The impact is going to be very powerful, and it will take some time to recover," Flota told Mexican radio network Formula.
The 178-year-old firm's bankruptcy will leave "very major unpaid bills" in the region, he added, but did not give a specific figure.
At the Cancun airport, more than 300 tourists affected by the firm's overnight closure anxiously tried to chart their paths home after Thomas Cook airline's two flights for the day were canceled, one to Manchester and the other to London.
Many were rebooked on a different flight to Manchester with the help of staff sent from the British embassy in Mexico City to facilitate logistics.
"We were supposed to fly to London, but now we're going to Manchester, so I'm going to miss my connecting flight to Ireland," said an affected traveler named Jordan, who did not give his last name.
"We need to get home," said another named Matt, who expressed disbelief at Thomas Cook's collapse. "It's a big, big travel company. They're everywhere," he said. "But at least we had a holiday. Some people won't."
The long lines at the airport included families traveling with children, students anxious to get home for classes and stressed-out employees who needed to return to work.
Last year, 590,000 British tourists visited Mexico, of whom 77 percent traveled to Cancun, according to the Mexican tourism ministry.