Meagan Drillinger
Meagan Drillinger

While other resort destinations in Mexico are preparing to reopen hotels this week, the state of Yucatan will not open its doors to tourism until the numbers reflect that the risk of Covid-19 has been drastically lowered.

"We're being very careful in Yucatan," said Michelle Fridman, secretary of tourism for the state of Yucatan. "We are receiving so much pressure from other states and the industry in terms of when we are opening. I understand the urgency to reopen to tourism, but if we don't do this right we're risking so many other things."

Yucatan, home to destinations such as colonial Merida and Valladolid, beaches such as Progreso, ruins such as the famed Chichen Itza and Uxmal, and dozens of cenotes, will be reopening in four steps. The current step, like many other destinations in Mexico, is to restructure health protocols. The State of Yucatan Ministry of Tourism is following a directive from Gov. Mauricio Vila Dosal to develop the Biosecurity Risk Prevention Certification, a program that ensures healthy environments for visitors and locals. The new certification takes into account new training, analysis, validation of implemented procedures, and online training.

The second step will be to preserve the tourist offerings in the destination through programs created for companies and hotels so that they can survive the crisis. The third step will be reopening the state, and the final step will be the economic recovery. There are no hard dates in mind for each step. It will depend on the health risks and numbers achieved.

"I would say we are ready for reopening, but we won't until our governor, through many studies we've been doing, considers this as responsible and safe," Fridman added. "We're ready and we're offering training for touristic companies, but we will be careful in terms of the reopening date."

Yucatan has been cautious from the beginning. It implemented social distancing measures around the third week of March, right around the time that Tianguis Turistico was scheduled to be held in Merida. The federal government of Mexico declared a national health emergency on March 30.

Yucatan has announced that Tianguis Turistico will still happen in Merida, but not until March. "We want to rebuild ourselves and let the rest of the destinations rebuild themselves in order to have a successful Tianguis," Fridman said. Still, a digital version of Tianguis will kick off in September. "We didn't want to wait that long to reopen negotiations," said Fridman. "We can have appointments and negotiations [online] in September, and then have the Tianguis Turistico in 2021."

Once it is safe to travel again, cruisers can look forward to a strong cruise product in the Yucatan, which has been developing for the last few years. From 2015 to 2019, the Port of Progreso increased its reception of cruise ships with the arrival of 30 additional ships, representing a 47.8% growth of annual passengers received.

Progreso continues its port improvement plan, with a $2.4 million investment for the improvements of the tourist area. Construction is expected to resume at the Port of Progreso soon, with the completion later this year of exhibition areas, a restaurant and beach club. A new malecon will be constructed, as well.

"We're measuring [reopening] in terms of capacity to attend to sick people," Fridman said. "We do have a huge capacity now. We are doing well. People are really well behaved in Yucatan. That makes me confident that we will be able to reopen soon. We will be in conditions to reopen safely and responsibly for locals, the domestic market and international tourists."

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