What is the worst thing that can happen to a place that’s about 99 percent dependent on US tourism?  One must be the outbreak of swine flu, and one of the worst affected places is the sun-drenched paradise of Cancun.  I got an email from the beleagured Cancun tourism board, declaring that the city, with its nearly 45,000 hotel rooms,  is ready for groups.

But Americans are scared, and usually they take quite a bit of time to get over fears of getting sick abroad. The only silver lining is that a similar outbreak a few years ago of the SARS disease went away pretty quickly, and tourism rebounded in Asia.  But in Mexico, it’s time to fight the good fight to get tourists to come back.

The Mexican health minister said that the country plans to lower public alerts, as some flights from the US are traveling almost empty, as our many hotel rooms. Continental Airlines reduced capacity to routes all over Mexico by 50% through the end of May.  But the government is reassuring visitors that even Mexico City, the epicenter of the outbreak, is safe, as long as people take standard precautions like washing their hands and avoiding previously ill people. One doctor went so far as to say that “if somebody offered me an all-expenses paid vacation to Cancun I’d absolutely go.

The exception?  The elderly or people with compromised immune systems. No word on whether the good doc would go if he had to actually pay.