Tourist destinations have had to transform themselves to regain the attention of travelers who are fearful of catching Covid-19.
Recovery of the Mexican tourism industry still seems far off, like a flash of light at the end of this dark tunnel called a pandemic. However, new strategies are already having positive effects on the reactivation of this sector.
This has involved a transformation that has never been seen before. Even when a vaccine emerges, Mexican tourism has already undergone changes that are here to stay.
This is the belief of three experts who, in an interview for Tec Review, explain how current circumstances have caused a 180-degree shift in how the national tourism industry operates.
The first of them is Rodrigo Esponda Cascajares, Director General of the Tourism Trust of Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, who says that from now on, travelers will seek much more personalized tourism with greater hygiene measures.
“People are becoming much more aware of their physical, mental, and spiritual health. There’s a demand for yoga, massage, and meditation classes. It’s a trend that will continue to accelerate because the level of risk from the virus is related to our level of health,” says this official.
According to Esponda Cascajares, the hotels in greatest demand in Los Cabos are those with rooms with some flexibility that allow families and groups of friends to be together without having to go out to places that are so crowded.
“Before, rooms were places where guests would only spend a limited amount of time and then they went out to the communal spaces of hotels or resorts. Now we are looking into how to make more experiences more personalized inside the rooms. There has been a demand for rooms with pools and spaces where guests can spend their time in a much safer way,” says Esponda.
On the coasts of Los Cabos, the rules have also changed in order to avoid large crowds of bathers.
“For the beaches specifically, we have a protocol that includes a capacity limit. We’re at a stage where only 40% of maximum capacity is allowed. If the beaches previously had a maximum capacity of 100 people, now only 40 can enter. In order to enter, visitors’ temperatures must be taken,” comments Esponda.
As a result, fewer active Covid-19 cases are currently being reported in Los Cabos compared with when the place was completely closed. “This allows us to reaffirm that the protocols are reducing infections,” says Esponda.
These strategies, according to this official, have resulted in Los Cabos having the fastest reactivation of tourism in the country, with 54% and 38% recovery in tourist influx from the domestic and international markets respectively, compared with 2019.
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The second expert is Guanajuato’s Minister of Tourism, Juan José Álvarez Brunel, who comments that the pandemic caused the number of travelers to the state to decrease to levels never before seen during March, April, and May. However, a rebound of up to 20% in business and recreational tourists has already been detected, attributable in part to the implementation of international health certifications.
“Our reactivation efforts have been recognized worldwide. For its Healthy Guanajuato seal, the state received the Safe Travel Seal by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), making us the first destination without a beach in Mexico to obtain it,” says the minister.
Another plan in Guanajuato is to strengthen virtual tourism, since the famous but crowded cultural events in San Miguel de Allende are prohibited by international health regulations.
“The Ministry of Culture and the Government of Guanajuato have transformed the 48th Annual International Cervantino Festival (FIC), to be held from October 14 to 18, to connect with new audiences through a virtual format. This will protect the safety of the public, the artists, and collaborators,” states Álvarez Brunel.
During these days, the public will be able to enjoy artistic presentations in digital formats, as well as conferences, workshops, and master classes. More than four decades after its creation, the FIC will seek to reach its audience online.
“The International Cervantino Festival will be broadcast on public television, social networks, the internet, and federal and local public digital media platforms. All the cultural content will also be available at festivalcervantino.gob.mx,” Álvarez explains.
The third specialist is City Express Hotels Director of Operations Alberto Granados Salazar, who says that domestic tourists are still showing reluctance to get on public transport, whether air or land, for fear of catching Covid-19.
“Trips in the car as a family unit, traveling distances of no more than three hours by road, are now more popular. This niche has always existed in Mexico and I think it will be an important market within the context of the new normal,” the director says.
According to Granados Salazar, the medical tourism market is already noteworthy in the current circumstances.
“In the United States, there is not only a health crisis, but also an economic one. For many of them, their medical insurance goes a lot further if they come to Mexico. Therefore, coming for medical treatments, particularly in the border region towards the Pacific side, is a common practice but one that has increased significantly as a result of the pandemic and the economic effects it has had,” explains Granados.
In the 147 City Express hotels located in Mexico, whose current average occupancy is 25%, a slow, patchy, but constant reactivation can be seen. Granados says that during the worst months of the pandemic, occupancy decreased to as little as 7%.
According to this executive, the oil corridor in the Gulf of Mexico has remained dynamic, as has the border between Baja California Norte and California. Ciudad Juárez, which borders West Texas, is showing a recovery in terms of guest arrivals.
“In the short term, we also expect the reactivation of the automotive corridor (in the Mexican Bajío). We see that there has been a growing demand for new cars in the American market over the last two months. Many services are adapting to this, including hotels,” says Granados.
Meanwhile, recovery in hotel occupancy has been slower in the financial areas of Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey, according to Granados. This is because there are no production plants there, and almost all the administrative work of the corporations is being done from home.
“I don’t see these corridors reactivating before January and I also believe that many companies are going to stick with the practice of working from home,” says this director.
Meanwhile, tourist reactivation in the south of the country, with the exception of the Riviera Maya, Mérida and the oil points, is the one that seems slowest according to Granados.