How businesses are preparing to profit from the Mayan “end of the world”

There’s no business like end-of-the-world business.
There’s no business like end-of-the-world business.
Image: AP Photo/Matt Rourke
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The end of the world is very probably not upon us. But the end of a 5125-year Mayan calendar cycle on December 21 has got people everywhere from China to Russia stocking up on candles in the belief that Doomsday is coming.

NASA reminds us this is nonsense, saying on its website:

Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012. This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period but then—just as your calendar begins again on January 1—another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar.

Such boring sensible stuff notwithstanding, here are a few ideas for how to see in the non-apocalypse, brought to you by entrepreneurs the world over.

And by the way: If Quartz turns out to have been too skeptical, please accept our apologies in advance. We won’t be around to issue a correction.

1) Take an apocalypse-themed trip.  Ideas abound for Doomsday mini-breaks. This French village believes it will be the only place left standing on December 21. Hotels and restaurants in Cancún, Mexico’s party town, have been inviting guests to eat and drink like the end of the world was upon them for much of this year.

For people whose holiday needs stretch beyond margaritas and unlimited buffets, Lonely Planet has a good itinerary for a more cultural Mayan themed trip, taking in the ancient Guatemalan city of Tikal. Maybe also visit the tiny Mexican village of “Xul”, the heartland of the ancient Maya, where some residents believe apocalypse is upon us. Expedia is offering some Doomsday discounts in this part of the world. Pinterest is loaded up with ideas for where to go. And hotels near a supposedly mystic mountain in Serbia are besieged with booking requests. There is also the chance to attend this world music festival held at a variety of Mayan sites while donating to non-profits and listening to “top spiritual leaders”.

2) Buy some stocks. Investors often over-react to fear, driving stocks down to bargain-basement prices and pushing the valuations of safe haven assets such as US Treasuries up way too high.

Now, to be fair, it’s not really the Mayan calendar that is stoking up fright in the markets right now. There are real financial armageddon scenarios to be scared about, such as the fiscal cliff, the European crisis and China’s potential economic paralysis. Quartz has already argued it could be time to load up on shares. Forbes suggests these three companies will benefit from panic. Investment bible Barron’s also has advice for making the most of the fear factor (paywall).

3) Have a party. It is nearly Christmas, after all. So why not ditch the traditional Santa hats and mistletoe for a end-of-the-world theme. Hand out flashlights and Milky Way Martinis (hat tip once again to Pinterest). Make a playlist. REM’s “Its the End of the World as We Know It  (And I Feel Fine)” is a surefire hit. Here are some more. Bars worldwide are holding theme nights, unsurprisingly.

4) Eat Mexican food—or as close as you can get. Americans probably do not need to be told where to go for tacos, but for visitors to New York, here is Time Out’s list of best places to eat them. (Quartz takes no responsibility for this list; we recognize that tacos inspire emotional debate.) London has an up-and-coming Mexican food scene. Hong Kong residents can also get tacos, but most offerings lack flair so visitors should probably make a deliberately huge geographical error and visit the quite decent Tango Argentinian Steakhouse instead. People in Sydney like Mexican chain Guzmán Y Gómez for its authenticity. In Singapore, while Mexican food is not exactly abundant, the Carnivore Brazilian Churrascaría steak and barbecue chain is usually packed to the rafters. TGI Fridays thinks people would have their fake-last-meal there. We pass no judgment.

5) Stay home and read about other failed apocalypse predictions. The Jehovah’s Witness movement used to say that people alive in 1914 would see the end of the world during their lifetimes. They quietly dropped that from their doctrine in the mid 1990s. Last year, British betting firm Ladbrokes offered odds of 666,666/1 that a US movement known as “The Rapture” was right about its prediction the world would end on May 21, 2011. Of course, any winners would not have been around to cash in on the bet. And here is a list of other historical Doomsday fails.