Traveling to Cancun During COVID-19
It had been 257 days since I stepped foot on a plane. For most of us in the meetings and incentive travel industry, that is unheard of but also speaks volumes regarding our current situation during the COVID-19 crisis. Also, like most of us in the industry, I’ve been waiting for the day when we can safely travel again. Luckily, Mexico is now open for business, and I officially took my first trip of the year. Cancun has always been one of my favorite beach escapes – it is an easy, 2 ½ hour flight from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and the resort offerings are unmatched by many other popular destinations.
Cancun International Airport’s COVID-19 Precautions
The United States is one of the primary tourism markets for Cancun, and they were eager to open for leisure and incentive group travel as soon as it was deemed safe. The Cancun International Airport proudly announced recently that daily arrivals are increasing by the day.
American Airlines is committed to social distancing, and masks are required. Instead of the usual beverage service, I was given a small bag with a snack, water, and antibacterial hand wipes as I made my way to my seat.
Upon my arrival at the Cancun airport, I was greeted by masked attendants and very small crowds. The usual long lines at Immigration were cut to almost zero, and the experience was quick – I was through the socially distanced line in less than 10 minutes. A thermal scanner takes everyone’s temperature as they make their way to baggage claim, and hand sanitizer stations are available everywhere you look. All employees of the airport were also wearing masks – Immigration officers, Duty-Free shop workers, luggage attendants, etc.
After my quick exit from the airport, I was met by an Amstar DMC representative – masked, of course, but still exuding the warm hospitality they always provide. All vehicles are thoroughly sanitized in-between each transfer, and signage is posted in each vehicle with COVID-19 safety precautions. My luggage was sanitized, and the bottoms of my shoes were sanitized before jumping in the van and being whisked off to my home in paradise for the next week.
Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun
AM Resorts offer something for everyone – with my favorite of their 8 brands being Secrets Resorts & Spas, which is a popular all-inclusive for incentive travel clients. Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun re-opened on July 14 with an allowable 30% occupancy and were completely prepared for arrivals that day. During my stay, the property was at about 20% occupancy – which shows that leisure travel is starting to increase.
My experience at Secrets was everything I’d expected it to be (fun in the sun) and more. The commitment to their CleanComplete Verification was evident at every turn. Knowing the resort was focused on my health and safety allowed me to relax fully during my trip.
My arrival experience was smooth. Luggage was collected to be sanitized prior to dropping in my room. During the check-in process, the Preferred Club employees greeted me – behind a mask and a plexiglass barrier – along with the usual welcome glass of champagne but this time with a side of sanitizer for my hands. Temperature checks are also made during check-in. There was a bit of a wait before I could access my room, but that was due to the new stringent room disinfection procedures. These procedures include the Cristal International Standards room cleaning process and sanitization and individual bagging of the amenities kit (which included my own personal-sized hand sanitizer), remote control, in-room tablet, and any extra pillows or blankets. My luggage was delivered quickly and included a sticker notifying me that it had been sanitized.
One of my favorite things to do on vacation, besides relaxing by the pool with a book, is to explore all the dining options available on-property. I was initially worried that there would be limited options due to the current restrictions in place, but Secrets made sure to provide as normal a dining experience as possible.
Each restaurant was open throughout my week there with heightened sanitization processes in place. Staff always wore masks, hand sanitizer stations were available throughout, shoe sanitization mats were required to be used at each restaurant entrance, and my temperature was checked each time before I was seated. Menus have also gone digital – so make sure you have a QR code scanner on your phone!
Buffets and bars were also a bit different – with social distancing stickers in place, no self-service, plexiglass barriers, and all chairs removed. But with the great service around the pool, chairs at the bar aren’t needed. I could lounge all day and never go without water or a beverage.
Optimization of the outdoor spaces for dining was also evident – providing more opportunity for distancing while also enjoying meals al fresco. The resort had a Mexican Dinner theme night on the lawn, and I was able to experience how a group dinner could work during our ‘new normal’. Temperatures were taken at the entrance to the lawn, and everyone had to sanitize their hands. Groups were led by a hostess (as opposed to seating themselves) to banquet rounds with reduced capacity. Six chairs were at each 72” round vs. the normal eight or ten. Action stations were set up, and attendants served guests. Hand sanitizer was also available at each table. The night concluded with an awesome Mariachi band performance, followed by a Mexican show.
Entertainment and Activities
Another great benefit of Secrets Resorts is their daily activities and entertainment. While at Maroma Beach, the activity calendar was still full – offering more socially distanced individual options, while still providing some favorites. Options included painting, bracelet making, yoga, Pilates, and water spin class. The property also had a wide array of individual entertainment options, including movie screenings on the lawn, yard games (like cornhole and ladders), a pickleball court, and miniature golf. Each night they also provided live music or a show outside, with small groupings of chairs (all distanced of course). I never had enough time in the day to take advantage of all the fun options!
A trip to the spa is something I always relish while on vacation. The Secrets Spa by Pevonia facilities were thoroughly sanitized, and the staff made sure to follow all guidelines. All towels, robes, and slippers were individually bagged and tagged as sanitized. Technicians are also required to wear masks during treatments. I still came out of my massage relaxed and refreshed, with none of the new protocols diminishing the experience.
Leisure travel is making a comeback – evident by the people I met while at Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun. The resort (and Mexico) are ready and willing to do what it takes to safely start welcoming guests back to their beautiful country.
Start Planning Now
Meetings and incentive travel will start back up before long, but the precautions created from coronavirus will be around for much longer. Knowing hotel partners and travel providers are fine-tuning their health and safety practices is encouraging to meeting planners and attendees alike! Brightspot recently released a series of webinars on what to expect after COVID-19 for incentive travel and meetings; have a look and see what can be done now to prepare for the impending return to form.