Americans are eager to relax on the Mexican coast. Mexico is eager to welcome international visitors back to their beaches. How can we do both safely?
Options are slim these days for Americans wanting an exotic beach vacation to socially-distance themselves from the realities of 2020. Countries around the world are leery about opening their borders to U.S. travelers. The one main exception to that is our neighbor to the south. Mexico is waiting with open arms for Americans to return to their beaches. Commercial flights between the two counties never stopped, hotels reopened in June after a short closure period, and Mexico is one of the few countries that does not have a mandated quarantine once international travelers arrive.
So how exactly do you take a safe vacation to Mexico in the time of coronavirus?
Start with carefully planning your trip. Each region in Mexico is reopening tourism at different rates depending on the number of local cases and hospitalizations in the region. Research the number of coronavirus cases in the area you plan to visit.
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When deciding on a hotel, make sure they have the Safe Travel Global Safety & Hygiene Stamp. The World Travel and Tourism Council created the stamp to ensure regional destinations and individual hotels comply with globally-standardized hygiene and sanitation standards, which includes requirements like mandating masks, creating social distancing regulations, and encouraging good hygiene. Cancun was the first destination in the Americas to receive the stamp.
Hotels like the Marriott Cancun Resort are weaving new regulations in with traditionally popular activities. Karaoke at their famous Champions Sports Bar is open again, but singers must wear masks, groups are limited to two people, and the microphone is sanitized between every group.
“Our hotel gave us temperature checks every time we got a meal or returned back to the hotel from excursions,” said Katie Davies, an American who visited Cancun in July. “They also limited bookings and made sure guests socially distanced when in close proximity.”
One of the safest places to be during the pandemic is outdoors. The COVID-19 virus is spread primarily from person to person through respiratory droplets released into the air when talking, coughing, or sneezing. According to the Mayo Clinic, when a person is outside, fresh air is constantly moving, helping to disperse those droplets making it less likely for someone to breathe in enough of them to become infected.
With idyllic weather, long stretches of near-empty beaches, open-air restaurants, and outdoor excursions, Mexico is a perfect destination for those looking to spend time outdoors in any circumstances. These days with visitation at historically low levels, it is easy to naturally socially distance from other travelers.
“Most guests are looking to explore the outdoors since they’ve been stuck at home for the past few months,” said Soraya Castillon, director of marketing at W Punta de Mita. “We’re seeing many people inquire about experiences surrounded by nature and the ocean, however, we are seeing a few who are hesitant to leave the property and explore the destination.”
Both coasts are lined with all-inclusive resorts. Sticking to a beach resort might be the perfect choice for those who want to be as cautious as possible.
“More and more guests are likely to stay on-property instead of venturing to the surrounding areas,” said Cristina Hernandez, the marketing manager at Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa. Hernandez had found her guests who are interested in leaving the resort are more interested in private excursions.
“We felt like it was a good idea to stick as close to the resort as possible because of the virus,” Davies said. “Except for a small group excursion to the rainforest, we spent all our time at the resort.”
Travelers interested in even more isolation can rent individual villas or homes in several of the beachside tourist locations.
While Mexico is ready for tourists, tourism has been slow to return. Occupancy rates for the Mexico Grand Hotels in Cabo San Lucas on the country’s Pacific coast were 80% before the pandemic. Today it’s at 20%.
Tourism is faring a bit better on the country’s other coast in Quintana Roo. To avoid overcrowding when the hotels first opened, the local government limited capacity at 30% until September 7. Today it’s capped at 60%.
Before the increase in capacity, the Marriott Collection Hotels were virtually full and the hotel is hoping to reach the increase in occupancy in upcoming months, said Christopher Calabrese, the vice president of the Marriott Cancun Collection.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises against traveling to areas where transmission levels are high. Currently, the CDC recommends avoiding all non-essential travel to 99% of the world including Mexico. Be sure to check their latest travel guidelines before booking a trip.
It is not mandatory, but scheduling a rapid COVID-19 test just before departure will ensure you are not bringing the virus along with you on your travels. Every step along the way to prevent the spread of coronavirus will help us get back to that coveted time when coronavirus is a distant memory. Until then, mask up, keep your distance, and travel safely.