Mexico has seen an increase in tourism during the coronavirus pandemic, as it remains one of the most consistent and convenient vacation options for Americans outside the U.S. Our correspondent Angelika Pokovba, a new resident of Tulum, breaks it all down for us. Is it actually safe to travel to Mexico for a vacation right now while coronavirus restrictions are still in place? Here’s what you need to know about safe luxury vacation travel to Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic, while coronavirus restrictions are still in place.
is it safe to travel to Mexico for vacation right now?
As some countries continue with strict pandemic travel regulations and others revisit their coronavirus protocols yet again, Mexico is becoming an increasingly appealing option for travelers. Some visitors are even opting to settle there on a long-term basis.
And we’re not just talking about retirees!
Mexico has always been a popular destination: agreeable climate, ancestral history, reasonable prices, and a short flight away from most major American cities. But now all of those enticements are even more appealing. In fact, I’m among the new wave of immigrants! Having become “stuck” in Tulum back in March 2020, I chose to move here full-time in August 2020.
And I’m far from alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the country’s tourism. But not in the way you might think. Tourism is actually up. WAY up.[white_box]
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why is Mexico is a hot travel destination despite coronavirus?
The Quintana Roo region (where Cancun and Tulum are located) saw a 23 percent increase in American tourism in 2020 over the prior year. These numbers are forecast to increase by another 65% in 2021. The New York Times reports that 50,000 tourists arrived in Mexico City in November, despite the fact that it was in the red zone at the time, meaning that practically all businesses were closed. That’s almost double the rate of tourism in 2019.
But is all of this tourism actually a good idea? Like, is it actually safe?
We asked several experts about the health guidelines and safety protocols involved in travel to Mexico right now, and the considered answer is “yes.”[white_box]
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Despite rising infection rates, Mexico is open for business
For starters, Mexico’s COVID-19 numbers are not to be brushed off. The country has suffered over 1.6 million cases. And it continues to see an increase in daily reported cases, with the latest numbers reaching close to 20,000 new cases a day.
While the country takes its regulations quite seriously – with some regions closed and strict measures enforced – Mexico is one of the only countries in the world where a negative CPR test is not required for entry.
Meaning that anyone who is able to travel under other circumstances can travel to Mexico. Hence the over 100 flights that land daily in Cancun International Airport from points of origin in America.
Commercial airline safety protocols have tightened
Airlines including Delta, JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines are blocking middle seats to secure safe social distancing. Sanitary regulations, enforced mask-wearing, and new air-circulation technologies are fostering a safer environment for air travel.
Other measures you can take if flying commercial include sitting only with other family (or “pod”) members; skipping the in-flight food and drink; and keeping your mask on at all times.
Private Airport Transfers are a good idea
Once you land, if you can, book a private transfer from the airport to your lodging destination. For example, one tour operator in Tulum has rigorous measures in place. “All of our therapists, private chefs, drivers, tour guides, etc. are tested beforehand and then they make sure to wear masks for the duration,” says Concierge Service Todo Tulum owner Carissa Rose. “They’ll offer hand sanitizer upon entrance and will focus on keeping everyone comfortable and safe.” Make sure your airport transport provider is following all of the globally-accepted public safety practices.[white_box]
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On-Site Testing is prevalent at the 5-star hotels
Enforcing social distancing and limiting the numbers of guests are now common practice across practically all the luxury hotels in Mexico. Ranging from the Four Seasons in Mexico City, to Azulik in Uh May, and the Hotel Sin Nombre in Oaxaca, every property is on high alert.
Some resorts are even offering on-site COVID-19 testing. For example, at Puerto Vallarta luxury boutique property Villa Premiere, guests can purchase a PCR test on-site for $152. Playa Hotels & Resorts (including Hyatt Ziva, Hyatt Zilara, Panama Jack, Hilton, Jewel Resorts, Jewel Grande and Sanctuary brands) are also featuring on-site testing. Smaller boutique hotels like Amansala are offering on-call doctor services and testing options, too.
If your hotel is not providing this service, there are also options like CostaMed for quick PCR tests that usually come back in several hours, and almost always within one day.
Airbnb and luxury home rentals are booming in Mexico
Many affluent travelers are skipping the hotel and resort scene altogether and opting for a luxury home rental. Rose notes that in Tulum “the quality of sanitizing is a lot better at private properties, and a lot of these have certifications that all sanitation protocols are being followed. This makes guests really comfortable.” Most of her guests opt for this option.
“There is also obviously a lot less traffic in an Airbnb versus even a luxury hotel,” she explains, noting that many of her guests chose to come in groups and do not even leave their property. If it’s equipped with a pool and other amenities, there’s no reason to leave. In fact, in some places in Mexico this is actually the only option. Red zone regions have mandatory stay-at-home orders, and everything is closed anyway.[white_box]
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“Tropical Distancing” is the New Thing
Back in Tulum, Rose showed me a social distancing campaign from the nearby town of Bacalar. It encourages everyone to stay 13 pineapples apart. Forget “social distancing.” It is all about tropical distancing in Mexico!
Other places take a higher tech approach to keep people safely distanced. GITANO in Tulum offers QR-code ordering systems in all of its restaurants to limit unnecessary interaction. Most stores, restaurants, and other public establishments require masks and temperature checks. Many places also require the use of hand sanitizer.
Long-term residencies in Mexico are catching on
Blogger Anna Karsten has opted to give birth to her second baby in Mexico instead of a stateside home in Salt Lake City. She will be temporarily relocating her family of three – soon to be four – to Quintana Roo.
“The problem is actually Americans going to Mexico and not respecting anything — crowding, partying, etc.,” she explains. “You can be safe anywhere if you don’t do those things, but then again, you can catch COVID-19 by going to the doctor or hospital which is the same in the US.”
Distance learning is tough for parents and kids the world over, and many families are finding that home schooling is a lot easier in a natural paradise. There is a project underway to build a Green School in Tulum (a sister school to the original in Bali) by the fall semester. But in the meantime, unfettered access to nature and freedom have proven to be gold for families and their kids.
Andrea Duclos, blogger at @ohdeadrea chose to move with her daughter Marlowe Paloma to the Pacific Coast to the little town of Sayulita. Marlowe Paloma attends a sustainable school that doesn’t even have electricity, a stark comparison to her former school in America. Her mom believes that this change bodes well. It’s an important and potentially life-changing transition from high-tech living to the simple pleasures of a down-to-earth lifestyle.[white_box]
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Eco-tourism remains a lure in Mexico, too
Eco-tourism is naturally a socially-distant way to travel. Not surprisingly this has scored high on the list of reasons for vacation travel to Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are opting for more remote Mexican locations, like Azulik in Uh-May. Mazunte Oaxaca. Or even a guest house on the cliffs of Careyes.
There are still a few amusement parks open, like Xcaret, where masks and social distancing are enforced. But the primary options for where to spend a vacation in Mexico during COVID-19 are still predominantly in nature. Think hiking, exploring, swimming, snorkeling and more.
The bottom line
Travel everywhere has significantly changed since the COVID-19 pandemic began. And it is impossible to say definitively when it will return to “normal.” But for those eager to get out of their immediate surroundings, Mexico remains a tempting option. And while it sometimes gets a bad rap, if you plan ahead and take some sensible precautions, a wonderful escape to Mexico can be done safely.
is it safe to travel for a luxury vacation to Mexico during COVID-19?
That’s what you need to know about safe luxury vacation travel to Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic with coronavirus restrictions still in place. Wherever you choose to go (or not), dear reader, stay safe and strong.
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For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier Newsletter here. And see luxury in a new light.
Angelika Pokovba is a culture writer from New York City currently living in Mexico. She is deeply passionate about sustainability, loves fashion and its history, and hopes to become a nose (perfumer) one day, too.