TORONTO — Nothing is certain when it comes to travel and the pandemic, but if the current momentum holds up, Los Cabos could finish 2021 with more visitors than it had in 2019.
Los Cabos broke even with 2019’s numbers by March 2021, and by May the numbers were going up, up, up, to the point that the upscale Mexico destination is now seeing double-digit growth.
Arrivals in September 2021 were 40% ahead of 2019. “We got more visitors in September than in March, which is unheard of,” says Rodrigo Esponda, Managing Director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board.
And already in October 2021, arrivals are 20% ahead.
While year-to-date visitor numbers are still down 7% compared to 2019, by year’s end Los Cabos expects to finish with positive growth.
“We have been very lucky,” said Esponda in an interview with Travelweek yesterday.
Luck, and hard work in quickly confirming and implementing Los Cabos’ COVID-19 health and safety protocols have kept the destination open for well over a year now.
Los Cabos resorts, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and more are currently operating at 80% capacity, as dictated by the destination’s traffic light system. The destination has an 85% vaccination rate. Another 3,000 hotel employees are getting their second doses this week, says Esponda.
Mexico requires no test results, no proof of vaccination and no quarantine for international visitors.
Fuelled by the U.S. market, arriving not just from traditional source markets on the West Coast but from further east as well, Los Cabos’ international visitation has been very strong ever since the destination reopened in June 2020.
Asked if Los Cabos has seen many Canadians yet, Esponda said “little by little, more Canadians are coming”, especially since mid-September when WestJet resumed its flights out of Calgary.
In addition to WestJet’s Calgary service, for this coming fall and winter Air Canada, Swoop and Sunwing will also be flying to Los Cabos, all from Toronto.
And upstart carrier OWG, which up until now had been focused solely on Cuba, recently announced flights from Montreal to Los Cabos starting in March 2022.
Esponda said Flair may be coming onboard with Los Cabos flights too.
So lift from Canada certainly isn’t a problem. And while the federal government’s travel advisory is still holding back the majority of Canadians from travelling anywhere, Los Cabos is very much a fail-safe proposition for Canadian vacationers looking for a beautiful, and safe, getaway spot.
Prices have held steady, and that’s saying something for pandemic-era travel. But Los Cabos has always catered to the upscale and luxury markets, and many travellers are eager to spend their pandemic savings. “Luxury hotels were the first to reopen, and luxury clients were the first to come back,” says Esponda. “We did not do a price strategy. In our case the priority has always been safety. And the market preferred safety.”
U.S. travellers have been flocking to Los Cabos not just for its high-end travel experience, but also because the destination prioritized implementation of antigen testing on-site at the hotels. It’s a strong selling point and Esponda hopes to win back Canadian travellers with similar convenience with PCR testing.
Unlike antigen tests, however, PCR tests are done in labs and clinics, and the costs are higher. Esponda says Los Cabos’ site, at visitloscabos.travel, includes a list of PCR testing sites along with prices and locations.