Welcome to Playa del Carmen in the heart of the Riviera Maya near Cancun, Mexico. In 2019 Cancun International Airport received over 10 million visitors to this beautiful destination from around the world. Cancun, Mexico has ranked in the Top 10 annually for international tourist’ arrivals for most of the last decade.
In February of this year, everything changed as there was international news of a new coronavirus that originated in China and had begun to spread internationally. By March this new coronavirus, named Covid-19, was declared an international pandemic. One by one, countries from around the world began to report a rapid spread of the coronavirus and the number of infected people in their countries. At this time, Mexico declared a federal state of emergency and began taking protective measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. In the last week of March, the State Government of Quintana Roo announced the closure of resorts, restaurants, gyms, cinemas, the beach, amusement parks, and other non-essential businesses and activities. Tourism in Mexico came to a halt as countries announced closures of their borders and advised their citizens to not take any unnecessary travel outside of their respective countries.
Since then Mexico has been successful in “flattening the curve” and preventing an overwhelming spread of Covid-19 in the country. As of today in the State of Q. Roo where the Riviera Maya is located, there are 1,257 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 819 recovered, and 234 deaths (www.worldometers.info). The Mexican Federal Government, working in cooperation with the state and local governments, has announced a nationwide program called the “nueva normalidid” (the “new normal”). The program outlines Mexico’s plan of safety and sanitation protocols to be followed during the scaled back re-opening of Mexico’s economy beginning May 18th and continuing until June 1st.
To clarify, there are 2,448 municipalities in Mexico’s 32 States. On May 18th, the 269 “Municipios de la Esperanza” (Hope Municipalities) which have zero cases of Covid-19 infections will reopen completely. Between May 18th-May 31st Mexico will slowly reopen its economy allowing construction, manufacturing, and mining to begin operations. On June 1st the rest of the country will open based on coded-colored traffic light symbols- Red, Orange, Yellow, Green and the stay at home orders will be lifted. Here is what the color-coded light system means:
Red- Restricted opening of essential businesses such as the healthcare system, public works/security, construction, and mining operations.
Orange- healthcare system, public works/security, construction, mining, refineries, and parks.
Yellow- healthcare system, public works/security, construction, mining, refineries, parks, hotels/resorts, elderly permitted to access public businesses with care, public spaces with number-of-people limits in place.
Green- all previously before-mentioned plus theatres, cinemas, schools, and gyms.
On June 1st, the State of Q. Roo will begin a scaled back reopening of travel and tourism with new safety and sanitation protocols in place. Approximately 15 resorts will be re-opening their doors to travelers, along with the beach, and amusement parks Xcaret, Xel-Ha, & Xplor
I had the opportunity to speak with two of the Riviera Maya resort developers – El Cid Resorts (ECVC) and Sunset World Resorts – regarding their plans for reopening their resorts and vacation clubs. They expressed their sincere priority of providing safe and healthy vacations for their guests. Also, they expressed their concern for the safety and health of all of their employees who are eager to return to work.
I asked Curtis Knipe, EDVC ‘s VP sales and marketing, “Please describe to me your resort’s new Covid-19 Safety and Health Sanitation Protocols being put in place for re-opening in June 2020.”
Knipe: “El Cid has partnered up with world-renowned companies specialized in quality and hygienic process certification to bring forth ECVC’s extensive “Cleanliness & Care Program,” ensuring a safe and secure environment for both guests and employees.”
I asked if the resort will still provide ALL of the same services and amenities as pre-Covid-19 pandemic, such as all-inclusive plans, pools, buffets, and restaurants.
Knipe: “Services and amenities will be provided respecting all preventive measures and safety protocols. A limited capacity of guests and limited access in all service areas has been implemented, following safe physical distance policies.”
“What will be the protocols for employee safety and health before entering the resort? What PPE equipment will be provided to the resort employees? How often will the PPE be changed?” I asked.
Knipe: “El Cid Resorts’ HR department has enforced and added permanent protocols for employees that include the use of face masks and gloves, temperature check of all collaborators upon arrival, step-in mats installed to disinfect the soles of staff member shoes. Furthermore, a manual was created for employees regarding new protocols at work but also safety procedures to implement at home. There will also be designated lockers areas are available for employees to change into and out of uniforms.”
“I’m amazed and proud at the level of commitment and dedication El Cid Resorts has made to get ready for the “new normal” we all face. We are prepared and excited to receive our guests and vacation club members who can be assured they will be secure and well cared for.”
I asked the same questions of Corporate Brand & Communication Director, Sunset World Resorts Annie Arroyo, beginning by asking about their plans for safety protocols.
Arroyo: “We have developed and will introduce “The Sunset World Safe Stay Program,” which provides instructions, precautionary measures, and methods for the whole hotel to ensure protection, safe-distancing, reduction of physical touchpoints, and proper disinfection.”
I asked, “Will there a limit to the number of people in common areas (guest maximums)? If so, how will this be managed? Will there be social distancing measures in place? Please describe. How will check-in be managed to limit close contact between guests and employees? How will your transfer vehicles be outfitted to maintain safety and health? What digital/technology will be utilized to maintain safety and health during guest visits?”
Arroyo: “All resort areas will comply with the authorities’ mandated occupancy limits. Common areas will have limits and will be managed by reducing furniture layouts and clear signage through the hotel will give a visual cue. The check-In process has gone digital with a new, self-service Check-in App which allows the guest to check-in up to 48 hours before arrival. All printed materials are being transferred to digital media, relying heavily on our current Sunset World App which features in-depth, personalized hotel information and allows guests to order room service and pool service from the safety of their device. Restaurant menus will be replaced by sanitized, digital tablets. Transfer vehicles will have less occupancy and be deep cleaned between trips.”
“All employees will enter the hotels through a disinfection tunnel and will be provided with two masks and two latex gloves, for them to change it every four hours during their shift. Appropriate PPE will be worn by all employees based on their role and responsibilities and in adherence to state or local regulations and guidance. Employees will receive training on COVID-19 safety and sanitation protocols with more comprehensive training for our teams with frequent guest contact including Housekeeping, Food & Beverage, Public Area Department, Hotel Operations and Prevention. Handwashing and sanitation stations for employees are placed in strategic areas.”
Ms. Arroyo continued by stating, “While challenging, adapting to our new reality is not impossible. The creativity and emotion sparked by this challenge have been amazing to witness. It has been an honor to witness how the Sunset Family has rallied to the challenge with intense creativity and overwhelming positivity.”
Mexico and the rest of the world’s countries and tourist destinations we recreate themselves and come back stronger than ever before. Mexico and many other favorite travel destinations around the world are reopening and awaiting the opportunity to provide a world-class vacation and memories that will last a lifetime.
J. Michael Martinez is CEO of JMM Sales & Consulting, Ltd. and resides in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.