Meagan Drillinger
Meagan Drillinger

It started with a few municipalities in three states. Areas of Quintana Roo, Oaxaca and Veracruz began taking strict measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 by banning the entry of all tourists and nonlocal vehicles. Then it moved to the beaches. The federal government of Mexico declared beach tourism nonessential and closed the country's beaches.

Los Cabos has taken the strictest measures of all: The entire destination has been shuttered to tourism until April 30.

"We decided the way to really control everything is the suspension of all nonessential activity," said Rodrigo Esponda, managing director for the Los Cabos Tourism Board. "This means hotels are closed, bars, casinos, beaches -- everything is completely closed."

Like many other places in Mexico, Los Cabos lives and breathes tourism, so these drastic measures came ahead of any federal mandate in order to ensure that tourism can be up and running as quickly as possible.

The decision came from the state level at a meeting with all the associations for the destination, such as the Chamber of Commerce, government, hotel and restaurant associations and timeshare associations. "Everything was coordinated at all levels to make sure the destination is safe," Esponda said.

As of April 3, Los Cabos had 13 confirmed cases of the virus, with the first being discovered on March 21.

As for the rest of Mexico, there are two polar opposite opinions when it comes to how the government is handling coronavirus. According to an April 3 Reuters report, there are 1,688 coronavirus cases in Mexico. Some argue that Mexico will not experience the explosive numbers that the U.S. is seeing, while others argue that Mexico's numbers are so low because of inadequate access to testing. Others argue that Mexico is used to handling pandemics (like H1N1 in 2009), and should be trusted to handle the situation the way it sees fit. 

Mexico's president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has been less aggressive than other international leaders when it comes to implementing restrictions to stop the spread. Much of Mexico lives day to day, so some argue that enacting restrictions prematurely would cripple the economy, of which tourism makes up about 8% of the GDP. But what all of this means for the long term remains to be seen.

"I think what we want and what we need and what everyone understands is that we need to be aligned to our markets," Esponda said. "The spread of the virus has been going in different ways in different destinations around the world. The way we are acting, what we are trying to do, is precisely to contain and to be ready whenever the market is ready. If we continue applying all the safety and health measures, we'll be successful to reopen and offer a safe and secure environment."

In terms of providing assistance to locals who depend on tourism, Los Cabos' hospitality industry is ensuring their employees are taken care of.

"There is an agreement with the business sector and the private sector that hotels will maintain their employees fully," said Esponda. "The owners of the hotels have maintained that employees [will be taken care of] even if hotels are closed. They are investing in what is the most important asset that they have, which is the people."

There has not been a credible reason for why cases in Mexico are not exploding the same way they are in other parts of the world. But what is clear is that cases are steadily growing, and individual destinations are taking security measures upon themselves, combined with lack of tourism, which is doing it for them. In Cozumel, for example, cruises have halted all planned stops, according to the Los Angeles Times. Certain hotels in Puerto Vallarta are reporting 0% occupancy. As of March 24, Mexico's deputy health minister implemented social distancing measures, keeping people 5 feet apart. Events are limited to less than 100 people. 

"Mexico is entering the epidemic a month later," deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell told Reuters. He added that it is best to "not take the measures too early but reserve them for the exact moment of the inflection point, which is the change in the curve in the number of daily cases."

For now, Los Cabos, on the other hand, remains completely closed to tourism and all nonessential activity.

"Nobody can decide and can guess what is going to happen in other parts of the country," said Esponda. "What we can control is what we are doing here in the destination. The better we apply these measures and the better the community supports these measures, the better we can open soon for clients to come."


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