Mexico's Reopening To Tourists… Kinda. Here's What You Need To Know.

Jun 01, 2020

By Meagan Drillinger

Whether it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, or just a moment, Mexico announced it will be reopening to tourists on June 1. Across the US, cooped-up beach-lovers rejoiced. But don’t be throwing your oversized flamingo floaty into a suitcase just yet. You may be seeing “June 1” in the headlines, but your dream Mexico escape is still a ways out. 

You'd forgive Mexico for being anxious to get the gears turning. According to The Washington Post, tourism makes up 17% of its economy. Eighty percent of Los Cabos’ tourism, for example, comes from the United States, the Los Cabos Tourism Board told us. COVID-19's impact on tourism has massively compounded the economic blow delivered to this country. 

But what will travel to Mexico look like exactly, as the world continues to navigate the coronavirus pandemic? That June 1 date marks the earliest stages for reopening Mexico’s hotels and resorts -- but by and large, they're opening for locals and domestic travelers. What does that mean for Americans, and how will these measures affect that dream Mexico vacation you put on hold? Here's what you need to know.  

When can Americans travel to Mexico?

Well, it’s complicated (are you surprised?). Many countries closed their borders because of the coronavirus, but Mexico is technically not one of them. "There have been no restrictions to air travel to Mexico, at a destination or government level," clarifies Zach Rabinor, CEO of Puerto Vallarta-based luxury travel group Journey Mexico

Flights to the country are few and far between, but there’s nothing stopping you from going (besides, you know, ethics, and the inconvenience of everything being closed when you get there). 

Traveling by car is a different story; right now, the ground border is closed to non-essential travel through at least June 22. Your tequila crawl in Tijuana or your annual road trip to Rasarito will have to wait until then. I repeat, non-essential ground border travel is a no-go until at least June 22

MORE:  This writer flew through 4 countries at the height of the pandemic

So what exactly is opening in Mexico this month?

Mexico’s states are reopening in phases, much like the United States. Some states started opening businesses, services, and public spaces to locals as early as May 14, and others are using June 1 as a target date. These states include Baja California, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Estado de Mexico, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, and Sonora.

In these early stages, the most touristy places appear to be the best bets: Hotels and resorts based in Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, and Riviera Maya are all implementing aggressive protocols to help ensure safety of guests. 
But make no mistake: The sun has set on the traditional resort experience, for now. Even in tourist hotspots, your options for things to do outside the resort walls will be restricted. 

Which destinations in Mexico are still off limits?

Mexico City and other big metropolitan cities in Mexico do not have defined dates for ending lockdown yet. These dense, highly impacted areas are not the ideal place to visit, unless your preferred vacation involves staying in an Airbnb and maybe getting UberEats. Their return to normalcy will occur in stages as the situation is monitored. This goes for Nayarit, Campeche, Colima, Michoacan, Morelos, Puebla, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatan, and Zacatecas.

Which is to say, the non-touristy, "real" Mexico experience remains on hold indefinitely. In these early phases, getting even close to a legit vacation experience means hitting up an all-inclusive resort-type experience. And even then, you're looking at a very different vacation than before. 

MORE:  When those beaches do open up, these are the ones to hit

How will the resort experience in Mexico change, and what are destinations doing to ensure safety?

Hotels in Mexico will be slowly phasing in amenities, but taking extreme measures to ensure safety. 

For example, Cancun/Los Cabos-centered Palace Resorts and Le Blanc Spa Resorts are launching a hyper-vigilant program that includes temperature checks for staff, sanitized uniforms, online check-ins, floor markers to ensure social distancing, luggage sanitization upon arrival, and personal hygiene kits in all guest rooms. Public facilities will have a maximum capacity, all swim-up bars will be closed, and buffets will be removed from restaurants. 

Other resort chains, like Mazatlan-based El Cid ResortsGrupo Posadas (with 180 hotels and resorts across Mexico), Pueblo Bonito Golf & Spa Resorts in Los Cabos, RIU Hotels, and others are implementing similar protocols, with slight variations. For example, some are keeping their buffets, but requiring guests to wear gloves and posting staff servers at each station.

Across the board, hotel guests in Mexico can expect much lower occupancy, far less interaction with staff and guests, and highly monitored sanitary conditions, whether at a sprawling all-inclusive chain or a boho-chic boutique.

What does all this mean for tourism in the long-term?

The Los Cabos Tourism Board revealed a five-phase reopening plan that will ladder up through the beginning of early 2021. Phase I is all about implementing new health and safety standards for hotels. In July, Phase II seeks the reopening of the airport's international terminal, paving the way for tourists to slowly trickle in from around the world, with the end goal being 60% of its air capacity restored come early 2021. 

Puerto Vallarta (in the state of Jalisco) started "Phase 0" of its recovery as of May 18, which is all about staging for a safer return to economic activity. That means beaches, public spaces, shopping malls, bars, and nightclubs are closed for now. Restaurants and cafes that meet hygiene standards may operate at 50% capacity. Many hotels are set to reopen starting June 1, with the new health guidelines in place as Phase 1 begins. 

Other destinations are waiting to see how things play out before they implement policies. For example, Quintana Roo's government is not committing to a June 1 start date, though they are suggesting that a cautious reopening is still possible for early June. Tourism Minister Marisol Vanegas Perez told Mexico News Daily, a news source in Mexico, that reopening too early could lead to disastrous public health situations. Right now hotels that are deciding to open in early June are doing so voluntarily, and not out of obligation. 

For travelers who do head to Cancun in June, they should not expect to be sweating it out at Coco Bongo, spelunking in cenotes, or splashing around at beach clubs. We’ve still got a ways to go before that -- which is honestly fine, seeing as the CDC is still pretty damn adamant about staying home. 

OK, do I need to quarantine if I go to Mexico?

You are only required to quarantine in Mexico if you are exhibiting symptoms, and you will be checked. 

What about when I get back?

Again, you do not “need” to quarantine when you return, but it really would be the right thing to do. That said, you don't need to quarantine at all if you’d rather just wait it out until everything is safe. 

The post about “Mexico's Reopening To Tourists… Kinda. Here's What You Need To Know." first appeared on the Thrillist website.

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