What You Need to Know for Travel to Cancun This Summer

There was no need for a massive advertising blitz.

Cancun has reopened to tourists.

And tourists know it.

“I’ve been stuck in New York City in my apartment for three months, so I decided that (being) on the beach somewhere open was probably a good call,” web designer Sam Leon, 31, told Reuters News Service after arriving in Cancun on Saturday.

Thinking about following the same philosophy? Well, here’s what you need to know when traveling to the Cancun and Riviera Maya area this summer.

For better or worse, since the area reopened June 8, it has been devoid of fellow tourists. There are 17 hotel-resorts on the beach already open, but the influx is – and was expected to be – slow. Each hotel had to set a capacity far lower than what it can hold. The area expects to be at 73 percent capacity by July 1.

“The most important thing right now is to revive the state’s economy, but we have to be careful with the health of our people,” Carlos Joaquin, governor of Quintana Roo state (which includes Cancun), said last week.

The area is in a four-phase plan. At the moment, restaurants, hotels, theme parks and golf courses can operate at 30 percent capacity. The beaches are closed, as are nightclubs and casinos. If Mexico can get through one weekly phase without COVID-19 cases rising, it will move into the next phase, which would put capacity at 60 percent.

So a full recovery for Mexico’s tourism sector – which represents 8.7 percent of gross domestic product and employs 4.5 million people – is not expected for a while. But already the anecdotal evidence of the resort area’s popularity is there. When flights from the United States and Canada to Cancun began again, they doubled in a week as the tourist hotspot reopened for business.

According to Riviera Maya News, flights to the airport increased from 30 at the beginning of last week to 62 as of Friday, June 12, including both national and international airlines such as American, United, Sun Country and Air Canada. Flights originated from New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Chicago, Houston, Toronto, Miami and Dallas.

Darío Flota Ocampo, general director of the Tourism Promotion Council of Quintana Roo, said flights are still a long way from arriving full, but the increase in the number of flights is evidence that airlines see the potential for recovery.

“Although hotel occupancy is very low, the reality is that they were waiting for the reopening,” he said. “We are going to see in the next 15 days the reinstallation of many airlines between the United States and Cancun. Some flights to Cozumel are also starting and a gradual increase in the occupation of hotels and reactivation of different tourist products will begin to normalize.”

When the first excited tourists arrived at the Moon Palace beach resort near Cancun last week, however, “The customers all took off their masks as soon as they came into the hotel,” Gibran Chapur, vice president of Palace Resorts, told USA Today. “You can’t be all covered up when you are on vacation, thinking you have to be in reclusion. If you wanted to do that, you would have stayed home.”

As expected, there are restrictions. Passengers won’t be allowed to sit up front with taxi drivers; buffets will no longer exist and, at least at Palace resorts, the hotels will probably do away with physical menus at restaurants. Instead, patrons will snap a picture of the QR code at the restaurant, and the menu will pop up on their smartphones.

“Menus are probably the dirtiest things in a hotel. Everybody touches them,” Chapur says.

Mexico recently launched its ‘Mexican Caribbean Clean & Safe Check Certification’ for hospitality service providers—everything from hotels and resorts, spas, water parks, golf courses and food and beverage establishments to travel agencies, tour operators and transportation outfits—to prove that they’ve brought their health and safety protocols and practices up to par for effectively combatting the spread of COVID-19.

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