With its proximity to the U.S. and lack of pretravel Covid-19 tests and other entry requirements, Mexico took an early lead this year in tourism recovery. The CDC, however, recently warned travelers not to visit. Senior editor Jeri Clausing spoke with Los Cabos Tourism managing director Rodrigo Esponda and asked him whether the warning and a recent surge in cases globally have impacted his outlook for the year ahead.
Q: When we last spoke, you were very optimistic. And an October report from the flight booking tracking firm ForwardKeys showed Los Cabos was the only place in the world that at one point was even seeing an increase in flight bookings. How are things looking now?
A: We are having a steady recovery. In terms of international visitors, we closed October with 75% compared with last year. And we closed November with 65%. But in that number, we also had an increase in international visitors from October to November. We had a little more than 100,000 visitors throughout November. We believe that is a very positive trend that will continue through the end of the year. We expect to close the year with about 70% of visitors versus the previous year.
By the end of 2021, we expect to be completely recovered.
Q: The CDC recently warned against all travel to Mexico. Have you seen any slowdown from that?
A: We have not. As you know, the trend is that bookings are happening very short-term ... within a month or less. I think that explains why the CDC warning has not affected massive cancellations. When travelers are deciding in such a short time, it's because they want a sign of trust, a sign of confidence. That's where we are being able to properly communicate that it is safe to come to Los Cabos because of the protocols that we are implementing.
So far, we have not seen any correlation between the number of visitors and the number of cases. It has been super, super contained since August.
Q: I've been told your protocols are stricter than Cancun's and some other Mexico destinations.
A: That is correct. And we are much more contained in capacity. We are under 50% for maximum hotel capacity, and we just increased that. Cancun is allowing the biggest capacity, and other destinations are doing different things. But we prefer to do a much more careful approach. Because the way we see it, it's a different model. The destination of Los Cabos, what it is providing is value for the experience. That's why the average daily rate -- before Covid and today -- is three times what other destinations are charging. The level of safety that we are providing has to be here because of the type of client who is opting to come to Los Cabos in this difficult time.
Private aviation arrivals, international arrivals in private planes, have been growing 140%. So that number really describes the type of visitors that are coming to the destination.
The average length of stay is being extended by one day. We were six days on average. Now it is seven days. And the spending per visitor on others services besides hotel has increased 25%. So with this type of visitor we need to make sure what we offer the highest level of safety.
Q: Tell me a little more about your safety program.
A: We are the only destination that has the Intertek Cristal assurance program. They launched a new certification just for destinations. They come, they inspect, verify. We have a dashboard where we can monitor the correct implementation of the product. We are calling that program Los Cabos With Care.
Q: What are the biggest surprises, the biggest challenges you have seen this year?
A: I am pleasantly surprised at the level of public-private collaboration. Everybody is on board, at the table discussing strategies, working together, listening to the others. That is what has allowed us to move forward.
The biggest challenge that we have is to have consistency in strict implementation of the protocols. Because we need to keep that high, high level of consistency.