Foreign visitors benefit from the looser restrictions in tourist areas while some cities are experiencing the worst time of the epidemic
Mexico became the third most visited country in the world in 2020. This climb, from the seventh to the third position in the ranking of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), is a direct consequence of the global crisis of the coronavirus. It is a temporary position, warned the Mexican Secretary of Tourism, Miguel Torruco, caused by the drastic fall in tourists in giants like the United States and Spain. However, it shows that the country, which has lost 44.3% of visitors last year, has weathered the pothole better than others. In total, 25.1 million tourists arrived in Mexico in 2020, compared to 45 million in 2019, according to UNWTO. Among them, there are many young people who come to spend the holidays, but also to reconnect with their partners or to work. Despite the widespread impression that there are fewer restrictions than in other countries,
Álex Raduan arrived in Mexico City from Paris on December 14. This photographer was already living in the French capital far from his family and due to the covid restrictions in Europe, he could not meet for Christmas. After weighing several options for Latin America, he decided on Mexico. Here a country has been found with two scenarios in the face of the pandemic: Mexico City and the coastal areas. “I saw very severe the measures in the city, even in some aspects more violent than those in Paris. People with double masks and masks, the mandatory temperature and gel taking when entering the establishments … That does not happen there, ”he says by phone from Mazunte, in Oaxaca. However, he acknowledges that where he is now the restrictions are very relaxed. The heat and the open-air lower our guard. “You get to the beach and there are few masks.”
In recent months, while the contagion curve grew unstoppable throughout the country, images of crowded beaches have accumulated. In Tulum, in the State of Quintana Roo, an art and music festival was held for five days with more than 200 people. And only the controversy over a possible outbreak of covid in the area forced the cancellation of the next macro-event in the city, which had a duration of 16 days. According to the Cancun municipal tourism director, Frank López Reyes, in these first days of 2021, the record of tourists in recent months in the capital has been broken and hotel occupancy is close to 60%. Even singer Dua Lipa has been spotted on the Caribbean beaches this vacation.
Meanwhile, in another of the country’s tourist arteries, Acapulco, the Government decided to close the beaches for two weeks to avoid crowds and stop contagion. Mexico already exceeded one and a half million cases of covid-19 and 133,000 deaths, after five days in a row this week with more than 1,000 daily deaths.
Before landing, Raduan did not know what measures the government of Andrés Manuel López had taken against the covid, but he was clear that, while other countries could close their borders if the situation worsened, he was going to be able to enter Mexico, which has not prevented air traffic at any time during the pandemic. It arrived with a negative PCR to avoid problems, although unlike other countries, such as Colombia, Brazil, or Argentina, it is not mandatory to enter. The photographer defends that it is possible to do responsible tourism in the country. Avoid places with many people, try not to mix, and stay in open spaces where a safe distance can be maintained. American Lauren Schloss adds: travel alone with your bubble group and in private accommodations, such as Airbnb, instead of hotels.
This South Carolina teacher is one of 4.3 million Americans who flew into Mexico in 2020. The 30-year-old girl arrived in October to work at a Montessori school in La Condesa, in Mexico City. Due to the pandemic, he has not yet met his classmates or his students in person. Although teaching online complicates her job, she admits that she feels much more relaxed here than in Mount Pleasant, where she lived with her parents. “They are more at risk, so I was taking care of myself much more, also at the beginning of the pandemic, the situation was stronger, I was very closed and almost all my connection was online,” he says about his quarantine in the United States. Here she feels more comfortable with the situation: “The world is more used to the virus and I can go to the park, eat on a terrace or go to the house of my closest friends.”
Scholls, who is also a volunteer for the NGO Mutual Help – which has been in charge of distributing food pantries during the pandemic – also appreciates that the management of the pandemic in Mexico is not polarized as in the United States, where President Donald Trump has constantly tried to take the weight off the disease. “There is a difference between Republicans who don’t believe in the virus and Democrats who ask to stay home,” he says. “In addition, I think that culturally in the US there is more fear and it is judged more socially. Here masks are used and the measurements are heard, but there is not so much tension. I feel better in Mexico ”, he concludes.
Couples separated for months
Another reason for venturing into a foreign country in the middle of a pandemic is reunions. Thousands of couples in Mexico were separated when the crisis broke out. One of them was that of Nina Smidht, a 36-year-old Dutch woman, who had met her Mexican boyfriend on a vacation before everything was blown up. After months without seeing each other, he finally managed to enter Mexico at the end of September. Here, due to his relatives at risk, he has maintained a contact group of just six people. “I feel safer here than in the Netherlands. Here there is more space to walk and avoid crowds, everyone wears face masks, ”he now tells by phone in Cuernavaca, from where he teleworks for an NGO for children and adolescents without resources, a project he would also like to start in Mexico.
“I think Mexico managed the pandemic better, because in Holland, during the summer there was total freedom, which later had consequences, and not here,” he says. “I think that in the Netherlands we are more arrogant with the disease because we are more spoiled by the help that the government provides. Here a lot of people have to keep going to work, they can’t stay at home, ”he says.
The same impression has Raquel Medrano, who arrived in September from Madrid, also to meet again with her partner, Miguel, who has lived in Mexico for a year: “Here it is not feasible to make restrictions as strong as those in Spain because many live from day to day and the Government does not help ”. “But I feel that people are more aware, it is not mandatory to wear a mask on the street and everyone in the city wears it, in Spain, it was necessary to impose fines.” This 27-year-old economist hopes to find a job that will allow her to stay in the country. “I think there may be more opportunities here than in Spain. I hope that the pandemic is no longer a hindrance ”.