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While coronavirus cases in Cancún rise, so do travel bookings

Visitors pose for photos on the beach at the Grand Oasis Cancún resort on March 19, 2021 in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Picture: Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

Visitors pose for photos on the beach at the Grand Oasis Cancún resort on March 19, 2021 in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Picture: Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

Published May 16, 2021


By Natalie B. Compton

Throughout the pandemic, Mexico has remained one of the most popular travel destinations for Americans. According to flight-booking data from Skyscanner, at the heart of that interest is Cancún, which regularly ranks as a top destination.

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Its main airport, Cancún International, reported more than 692,000 passenger arrivals in March - exceeding its March 2019 traffic by 5%.

But as interest in Cancún stays strong, the city and surrounding regions of the state, Quintana Roo, have reinstated coronavirus restrictions in response to a recent rise in cases.

On May 3, Governor Carlos Joaquín moved Quintana Roo from medium-risk yellow to high-risk orange on the state government's four-tier Traffic Light Monitoring System, matching its standing on the federal stoplight map, Mexico News Daily reported.

That adjustment means businesses such as bars and nightclubs are closed; restaurants, hotels, theme parks are limited to 50% capacity and places such as beaches, parks, movie theaters and salons are limited to 30% capacity.

In a tweet, the governor announced that he plans to keep the state's northern and southern regions orange from May 10 to 16 while warning of the possibility of regressing further to red should coronavirus cases continue to climb.

Last week, he said that in the municipality of Benito Juárez, where Cancún is located, coronavirus cases increased 65%.

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Joaquín also tweeted that the spike in Benito Juárez is the highest graph spike in its history since the pandemic began.

Meanwhile, tourism interest shows no sign of waning.

Hotels in Quintana Roo - where tourism accounts for 87% of the state's gross domestic product, state Tourism Secretary Marisol Vanegas Pérez told NBC News - are reporting an influx of advance bookings for summer 2021.

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Hope Smith, a California-based travel adviser and owner of the Virtuoso agency Born To Travel, said that uptick may be because vaccinated people are feeling more comfortable both travelling and booking ahead, or that people are realizing summer travel availability is becoming more limited.

Before travelling to Mexico, Smith said, it is vital for Americans to understand that it will not be the same as a pre-pandemic visit and that the coronavirus situation is constantly changing.

"It may not be the same as when you were there last year," Smith said. "Be prepared for that because those expectations may not be met."

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For now, travellers are required to fill out paperwork before or on arrival to Mexico and provide a negative coronavirus result to return to the United States regardless of vaccination status.

Many hotels that cater to foreign guests are providing testing on the property, sometimes complimentary, but travellers may also need to pay anywhere between $50 and $300 (703,93 to R4 225,86)

for a test either at a hotel or at a separate testing site, Smith said.

Should travellers test positive for the coronavirus before their return flight to the United States, they will need to stay in Mexico until they test negative.

To overcome a traveller's anxiety about paying for an additional two-week quarantine stay, some properties in Mexico and elsewhere, such as Palace Resorts and Le Blanc Spa Resorts, are offering to pay for some or all of that extra time.

At this time, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department continue to urge Americans not to visit Mexico for tourism.

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