HIDALGO, Texas (Border Report) — As a way to boost the local economy while border travel restrictions remain, the South Texas border city of Laredo is soliciting Mexican nationals to fly in for COVID-19 vaccinations, and then hoping they’ll stay awhile to shop and explore.

During a visit with a congressional delegation to the Rio Grande Valley on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat whose hometown is Laredo, announced that the city has been engaged in a tourism campaign to attract Mexicans who need coronavirus shots.

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz

“Laredo is allowing foreign tourists vaccinations,” Cuellar said. “You can fly from Mexico City, come in and they check it out with the state, so they are doing that.”

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz confirmed to Border Report that the campaign has been ongoing for about three weeks. And he said that the three weekly direct flights from Mexico City to Laredo “are packed.”

“We’re actively promoting visitors and people from Mexico City and Mexico to fly in — since our bridges are closed to non-essentials and the only way they can get in is through our airport. So anyone coming from Mexico through our airport can get vaccinated,” Saenz said.

The city checked with state officials prior to launching the travel campaign.

Saenz said they encourage Mexicans to make pre-arrangements and schedule a vaccination prior to arriving.

Shots are being offered in shopping centers, at grocery stores and pharmacies and many clinics in town, he said.

He said about 80% of Laradoans have already had at least one vaccine, nearly 90% of all seniors are fully inoculated, and they have plenty of vaccinations.

The campaign is going so well that Saenz said once Title 42 travel restrictions are opened and land-border travel resumes, they hope to attract residents from northern border towns in Mexico to come for coronavirus shots, as well.

“Once the bridges open hopefully we can invite and promote more tourism to come to our city and receive the vaccine and spend some time with us and hopefully do some shopping as well,” Saenz said.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com