Travel Journal #18
Across the world, businesses are slowly starting to wake up from the coronavirus hibernation, beginning the long process of reopening. This will be a challenging time for everyone, but those in the tourist and hospitality industries will be hit harder than others. We’re currently living on Cozumel, a popular tourist destination just off the coast of the Riviera Maya. We’ve seen the effects of the shutdowns first hand and are curious to see how they open up tourism again.
Were are not experts in viruses, so we will leave the question of “should they” to more qualified people. We have seen the question asked frequently on message boards of the last few weeks; is Cozumel open yet? Many people have been excited to go on vacation again, especially after hearing reports that tourism was supposed to re-open on June 1st in Mexico. This was an overly optimistic target, originally from the Hotel Association and not the government. It ended up being pushed back to June 8th.
That was last week.
Tourist activities are slowly resuming. If you’re expecting Cozumel to be “business as usual”, we can promise you will be disappointed.
As of right now, things are now allowed to be open, but that doesn’t mean that they are. This will be a challenging process and we are only at the very beginning. It has now been about 10 days since the lockdown was lifted, so we wanted to share some of our own observations for anyone thinking of planning a trip.
Welcome back to Cozumel!
On Cozumel, June 8th was the first day that people were allowed to leave the house for non-essential activities. The responsibility of enforcing the “stay at home” initiatives was transfered from the Federal Government to the state governments.
Most of Quintana Roo (including Cancun, Cozumel and Tulum) is now in “orange”, which means many businesses are allowed to open up to about 30% of their capacity and will slowly increase.
- Red – 15% (for some) and essential business only
- Orange – 30%
- Yellow – 60%
- Green – 100%
Hotels are allowed to open and other tourist activities will be allowed, but at 30%. No one knows when it will move to yellow, but if we had to guess, we might suggest a month (early/mid July).
To celebrate the lifting of lockdown, we decided to go for a drive along the west side of the island. We can report that as of Monday (June 8th), people were allowed to go back to work. It looked like a lot of staff meetings and clean-up going on at several places.
There was a police roadblock preventing us from driving towards the south/east side of the island. This is where we turned around. It was the most exhilarating drive of 2020! This recovery will obviously be part of a long process process, but we can report that Cozumel is slowly coming back to life.
Diving is allowed but Beaches are closed. Yes there is still a curfew.
If you want the TLDR, the answer is yes (mostly) and curfew is going to be 9pm as of tomorrow!
As of right now, all public beaches are closed but beach clubs are allowed to open up slowly. Starting this week, we have heard that the beach clubs are now allowing people to go swimming. We will try to go snorkeling on the island sometime this week. There is a very credible rumour that the curfew will be moved from 7pm to 9pm, which means we can finally go back to watching the sunsets!
We’ve now wandered into town a few times, going for short walks along the Malecon over the last week. It made us both happy to see some places open for business. Many hotels are not opening for a few more months (some as late as October or November) and while many restaurants are only doing take out. There is a lot of uncertainty, but things are moving in the right direction.
During one of our walks, we noticed that two of the beach restaurants on the northern edge of Centro (Hemmingway and Monina) were now serving guests… As of right now, the rain is torrential, but if it lets up over the next few hours, we were planning to g0 for a drink somewhere on the waterfront tonight. Maybe we’re just looking for excused to leave the house, but we’ve been craving a margarita made by someone else. Tomorrow afternoon we are going to drive to Sky Reef for an afternoon beer, a snack and a dip in the water.
If the rumours are true, we might even be on the waterfront for sunset as early as tomorrow night.
Is Cozumel open yet?
As of today, the answer is yes, the island is a little bit open. In fact, it feels like we are about 30% open. It’s going to take a while for everyone to figure it out the new procedures and safety protocols, but tourists are being welcomed back.
For those of us who stayed on Cozumel, we have not been handed any inside information aside from official statements from the Government. We follow the Governor of Quintana Roo and the President of Cozumel who are sharing daily updates on facebook.
We have seen “the question” asked many times; is Cozumel Open yet? Many people on the local expat message boards have asked this question several times a week, and the responses are often sarcastic or nasty; “Stay home!!” or “Come back in 2021!!!”
We decided to come up with a nicer way explaining it. This was our response, the day before the lockdown lifted…
Our response on June 6th…
Is Cozumel open yet???
Those of us on the island ask ourselves the same question every day/week. The answer today? No, not yet… But it might be soon! Could it be June 8th? Maybe! It sounds very possible. We think it might be, but we just heard there was another increase of new cases, so maybe not. Are we tired of people asking? A little bit, but we get it. Cozumel is great. We stayed here for the same reasons that you want to come visit the island! Trust me when I say this, we want to go swimming / diving / snorkelling more than you do. We haven’t been to the beach either.
“They just don’t want more tourists on the island” is what they say about us. Some people maybe, but most people (especially the locals) want you back. You just might have to buy a locally made hand-crafted mask when your in public. Keep the people on the island (who have suffered more than you have) safe, so they don’t have to close again!
Then we can all enjoy the island together. We went for a walk into the Center today and it was eerie how quiet it was on a Saturday morning. This was the first time we had gone downtown in 10 weeks. We just wanted to make sure it was still there. It is.– Rob Sweatman / Travel Around the Galaxy
Reopening Tourism in Mexico
Two things are clear; people want to start coming back to Mexico and the people of Mexico want you to come visit. Seems like a perfect match! There are many new protocols that are being put in place to ensure the safety of people arriving.
What are the people who are arriving doing to ensure the safety of the locals?
Some have reported that the goal is to get the tourism industry back to 70% of previous levels by the end of 2020.
Unlike what some hotels might think – this was a pretty great publicity event – turning on tourism won’t be like flipping a switch from off to on. How will tourism recover from the pandemic? Since this is pretty uncharted territory, Mexico might end up being the case study. Both Puerto Vallarta and Cancun/Riviera Maya are actively seeking out tourists.
About 60% of the economy along the Riviera Maya and Cozumel is generated directly from tourism, and most other businesses rely on the indirect spread of this money in the community. This is why the local governments have basically ensured that tourism is considered an essential service.
The economy on Cozumel relies on tourists, especially cruise ships, which stopped arriving in March. The locals are hungry and the financial support from the government has been pretty weak overall. All they had to say was “Stay home”.
Now they’re saying “come back” and hoping that travelers will return to their favourite beach destinations in Mexico.