My mailbox overflows, questions come from all over the world, but mostly from the USA, about the reopening of the Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo, Mexico. People want to know if the resorts reopen after COVID19, and what to expect.
Mexico is still working its way out of the Pandemic
On the road to recovery from a total shutdown of tourism with a virus that is highly contagious and still going around, not only in Mexico but worldwide, Mexico is taking precautions to make sure both tourist and workers will be safe during the coming years ar the world waits for a vaccine.
Working with a colour code referred to as “Semaforo” (traffic light) All of Quintana Roo, that includes Cancun, Tulum, Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Riviera Maya and Playa del Carmen and every city from Chetumal (Belize Border) up to Holbox, is red.
Red meaning that only essential businesses start on June 1. From there, depending on how the virus is contained and the people behave, the State government in close guidance from the federal government will work its way to orange, yellow and green. Int he green, the contamination and spreading of the virus is low, all other colours have a severe risk of a new outbreak and a need for new isolation.
Yet the Tourism Semaforo places Playa del Carmen in Orange and tourism is starting up slowly.
June 8, 74 hotels will reopen. For local tourism. Most of these hotels are along the coastline between Cancun and Tulum.
Hotel chains named are:
All locations of these hotels will reopen but at a capacity of 25-30%. So minimum of bookings.
Instead of walking up to the front desk for check-in, you will first pass sanitary filters, where your temperature will be measured and you will be instructed on behaviour, hotel sanitisation policies and you have to sanitise before entering the hotel. This will make the check-in procedure longer, but you can imagine it is for your own safety, the safety of the workers and for those back home to whom you return afterwards.
These hotel chains include 10 hotels on Cozumel Island.
Smaller hotels ( around 173) and the location Holbox will reopen July 1
The Mexican Tourism Board works closely with the State government on this and is overseen by the Federal health department.
In the meantime, the names hotels are hiring staff and preparing for the visit of tourists, accepting a limited amount of bookings. They have to prepare the hotel to the new measurements, restaurant capacity will be different, buffet’s and self-service restaurants all will have a different setup. Be aware that the holiday you remembered from the past and you long to return to will not exist anymore.
Shops in tourist areas may remain closed.depending on which Semaforo they use for them. It is not announced yet when locations like 5th avenue will reopen. probable when the colour changes to orange. The way the colours of the Semaforo change depends on certain criteria. Economic, social, mobility, demand, safety. To name a few.
Did you know that Parque las Fundadores and the first half of 5th avenue is under construction?
Public transport needs to be adjusted and you will find sanitisation filters everywhere, even at the airport, terminals for ferries and busses and on highways before entering certain zones or cities.
Mexico is taking this very seriously and so should you
In a country where most people depend on a daily income and live day by day, the sacrifice of 8-9 weeks in isolation and lockdown has been a big one. I hope you remember that when you meet one of the first 10,000 workers that can restart working in hospitality on June 8 and that you will tip generously.
Most families are in debts over electricity bills and rent. And I have seen many that were evicted from their houses. Lesser and lesser lights shining in the quiet night from windows during the curfew from 7 pm till 5 am is a sign that many cannot afford to pay for electricity anymore.
The Semaforo’s are the gateway to the new normality a society where we keep distant, not make physical contact and where we clean and sanitize vigorously. Where we are honest about our state of health only to protect ourselves and others.
Please bear in mind that when you come to Quintana Roo a facemask is mandatory at all times when you are outside the resort. Inside the resort, you have to follow resort policies that fit the new normality.
Bookings through Airbnb
I have had many questions from people that want to book with Airbnb, it seems that owners are accepting bookings. Please be aware that Airbnb can cancel your booking at any time. Following the countries health policies. For me, using my brain, it seems only logical that Airbnb will resume the bookings for this area on Juli1 when all hotels are allowed to open.
Please keep in mind that alcohol sales and usage is limited, that there is a curfew, and that the beaches and parks are closed.
What to expect when arriving in Playa del Carmen?
Prepare for lots of sanitization checkpoints and health checks. At every port of entry or exit, at bus stops, highways and in the hotel lobby upon arrival. Expect your check in time to be longer. Expect airport cues to be larger, expect transport to be in smaller groups.
Wear a facemask it is mandatory in Quintana Roo. And expect a lot of regulations from your hotel as well.
Expect liters of antibacterial gel, expect a society outside your hotel that is still waking up and not re-opened yet.
Expect restaurants and shops to be gone, if you have been here before. You will not find the same Playa del Carmen you remembered. The city has changed under the suffering of total lockdown.
As I write this article, all of 10th Avenue to 5th is closed for traffic, shops are closed, restaurants are closed. 5th avenue is a ghost town, there is nothing, only police, army and guards. Other streets have roadblocks and all shops have a 1-person per household rule and face masks are mandatory.
We have a curfew and a liquor ban.
No beer available since all breweries are producing antibacterial gel.
How about the beaches?
The public beaches remain closed until we reach the colour yellow, that is still 3 steps away since we are in full red at the moment. Cancun and Playa del Carmen have high levels of sick people, yet the curve is flattening and expected to drop in the week to come. But all that is a strong as the weakest link. One huge birthday party can ruin it all, one beach party, one rooftop party. We are still in a very vulnerable state.
Hotel beaches will be open, but please note you might not be able or allowed to take extended beach walks.
How about tours and hot spots?
When I write this article it is announced that tourist hotspots and parks will open in a low capacity, this may cause waiting lines when tourism increases and the capacity is not allowed to move up due to higher population contamination.
How about the Sargasso?
Every year the area of Riviere Maya is heavily suffering from tonnes of sargasso. Although predictions for this year were that there would be less than the last 2 years, still there will be a lot. There is sargasso already, the sea barriers were put up earlier this week, the ships are out to sweep it up. And the workers are cleaning the beaches at the resorts that open. The other beaches I have no idea. I am not allowed near any of them.
I watch the beach up close May 31, and there is sargasso. Not as much as the previous years, but with an inland wind, I could see lots of brown sargasso mattresses float in the blue water. The sea barreires are being put in place and the cleaning crews are working hard to clean up the seaweed and make the beaches look pretty.
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*Disclaimer: Mexico is eager to restart tourism, from every 10 pesos earning for the State of Quintana Roo 5 come from tourism. And the sector provides so many job opportunities for people that now lost theirs due to COVID 19, rules may have changed since I wrote this article. Under no circumstances am I responsible for the booking and outcome of your travels to Quintana Roo.
Jeanette, a Dutch female nomad, started to travel the world at the age of 17. Walker of beaches, shell searcher and iPhone photographer. Writer and owner of two websites
Currently, she lives in Mexico.
She is an emigration coach and works online.