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TORONTO — The Mexican Caribbean, which started its gradual reopening to tourists on June 8, has approximately 30% of hotel rooms now open and anticipates seeing this increase to 45% by June 15.
In its first ever virtual conference yesterday, the Quintana Roo Tourism Board, which represents 12 destinations including Cancun, Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen, detailed its reopening plans in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as its newly launched Clean & Safe Check Certification program.
The region’s gradual reopening is being regulated according to a “traffic light system,” says Dario Flota, Director of the Quintana Roo Tourism Board. Featuring four stages, or colours, the system is reassessed every Thursday and monitors the readiness of various sectors as they transition to a full reopening.
Currently, the northern region of Quintana Roo is in the Orange phase, meaning that most sectors are operating at 30%. These include hotel rooms, restaurants, amusement and water parks, transportation, golf courses, car rentals, tour guides and water activities. Sectors are expected to operate at 45% capacity by next week ahead of their transition to the Yellow phase, at which point they will reach 60%.
By July 1, 75% of all hotels in the Mexican Caribbean are expected to reopen.
According to Flota, the southern region of Quintana Roo is still lagging behind and is currently in the Red phase, where sectors are operating at just 15% capacity.
Beaches, nightlife/casinos and groups & conventions all remain closed for now.
In light of the gradual reopening, the region is also seeing the return of airlines, including Air Canada, which announced Cancun as part of its June schedule. Flota adds that more Canadian airlines are expected to resume service in July.
Both the Cancun and Cozumel International Airports have introduced safety protocols, including permanent temperature checks for all passengers, monitoring of social distancing measures, the installation of protective screens on counters, sanitization and deep cleaning of areas, and a traveller questionnaire to help identify risk factors.
When asked whether airports in the region will enforce mandatory quarantines for visitors like other destinations, Flota said: “No, not by the Mexican government. This will only be for people who present symptoms and test positive. If they do, they must stay at the same hotel with their family. And if they need a hospital, several options are available locally.”
The region’s cruise industry, which accounted for over 7 million visitors in 2019, is also on its way to recovery, with various cruise lines announcing return dates. The following cruise lines are expected to return to the Mexican Caribbean: Holland America (July 1); Disney Cruise Line (July 28); MSC (July 31); Celebrity (Aug. 1); Royal Caribbean (Aug. 1); NCL (Aug. 1); Viking (Sept. 1); Carnival (Sept. 1); Virgin Voyages (Oct. 16); and Princess (end of summer).
According to government officials, Quintana Roo was one of the first regions in Mexico to see a decline in COVID-19 cases, which prompted the start of its reopening. From the start of the pandemic in March, the region has seen a total of 2,329 cases.
To help mitigate the spread of the virus and ensure the health and safety of returning visitors, the Clean & Safe Check Certification program, which launched May 18, “covers all links in the chain for tourists,” says Flota. It’s already seen great success, he adds, with over 5,000 companies applying to be certified.
With health protocols in place, Cancun also has the distinction of being one of the first five destinations to be recognized with WTTC’s Global Safety Stamp.
A new campaign has been launched to entice travellers to book their next vacation. Titled ‘Mexican Caribbean, The Best of Two Worlds,’ the campaign showcases the authenticity of the region and its various experiences, and positions all 12 Mexican Caribbean destinations under one brand umbrella. A new landing page, launched in October 2019 and now fully operational, can be viewed at www.mexicancaribbean.travel.