I have a secret to tell you: I've been to Mexico in the past month. While to my friends and family and on my social media I have been adamant about limiting travel and staying put until the U.S. truly flattens the Covid-19 curve, the truth is I managed to get on a plane and get outside the country. But let me assure you that it was purely for business. Well, okay ... perhaps there was a bit of pleasure, too.
Though Mexico has reopened travel to U.S. travelers -- one of the only countries in the world to do so -- I had been doing my best to avoid traveling there, because I firmly believe that while the U.S. is still a high-risk country, we should not be moving across borders. Still, as someone who writes about Mexico, I felt it was my responsibility to know exactly what is going on so that I can be honest in my reporting. So I hopped a flight from New York to Cancun to visit a few hotels in and around the Hotel Zone. Here is what I found:
The rumors are true. Cancun's airport is spotless. Infrared temperature checks screen passengers without being noticeable. Immigration lines are fast, and all employees wear masks.
I flew with American Airlines, and passengers were required to wear masks at all times for the duration of the flight. There was no in-flight service, but passengers were given a bag with water, cookies and sanitizing wipes. The plane flew from New York via Miami, and the first leg was completely packed. The leg from Miami to Cancun was practically empty.
I had the opportunity to visit three hotels in Cancun. The first two were members of Grupo Posadas' La Coleccion, while the third was the new Fives Oceanfront. Back when I visited, Cancun was in the Orange phase of the traffic light reopening system, meaning resorts were operating at 30% capacity. As of Sept. 7, Quintana Roo's tourist destinations have moved into the Yellow phase, meaning hotel and tourist capacity has been increased to 60%.
At the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach, the resort was flawless. Acrylic partitions have been placed at reception, staff is fully masked, and guests are even handed a small welcome bag with sanitizer and a mask. There are temperature screenings for guests, as well. I was fortunate enough to tour the back of the house, where staff was in full PPE even out of the eye of guests, and they were subject to even more rigorous temperature screenings and sanitization protocols. Room service is delivered and placed outside the room, and housekeeping is scheduled for when guests plan to not be in the room. The entire experience felt incredibly safe, and because of the size of the resort, even though there was 30% occupancy, I felt like I had the place to myself.
I then moved on to the Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun, which is a resort known for its fun, vibrant atmosphere that is great for couples and groups. The adults-only resort is also part of the Grupo Posadas family, so staff is equally diligent about health and safety as they were at the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach. The pool area and public spaces have been rearranged for social distancing, the gym is open by appointment only, and similarly, guests are handed sanitizer and a mask upon arrival. It is recommended that guests wear masks in public spaces, though this was not enforced. The Live Aqua Beach Resort still manages to maintain its energetic vibe, and aside from the heightened protocols, it feels basically like business as usual at this fan favorite beach resort.
The Fives Oceanfront in Puerto Morelos is modern and chic, with a decidedly barefoot bohemian vibe. The 94-room beachfront resort is all about fantastic food, luxuriously styled rooms and high-end service. As at the other resorts, luggage is sanitized upon arrival and hand sanitizing stations are available practically everywhere. The difference, however, is that guests are not required to wear masks, and very few of them actually were masked at any point. The staff, however, remains completely covered.
For me personally, the overall takeaway from my clandestine fact-finding mission is that Cancun's tourism industry is, for the most part, prepared. It has kept promises and has dedicated itself to being safe, clean and trustworthy.
The area that may be concerning to potential travelers is that guests are not required to adhere to the same guidelines, especially in terms of wearing face coverings. Some travelers may not have a preference over this, but out of respect to the employees who are working tirelessly to welcome travelers back to their homeland, wearing a mask while in public spaces seems like a small price to pay.