By LINSEY STONCHUS
As the number of would-be travelers rises, summer destinations are finally seeing some return to normalcy.
Mexico and the Caribbean, in particular, are witnessing a spike in activity, especially considering their lighter restrictions compared to Europe and other regions. This, and the limitations of cruises, has expanded the locale’s overall pool of potential travelers.
“We are seeing some weeks where we are outperforming 2019 sales, which is uplifting,” said Andrea Wright, vice president of travel industry sales at Playa Hotels & Resorts.
“While our resorts are still held to limited occupancy requirements, I’m thrilled to say we are selling out close to those numbers,” she said.
Cancun is performing best among the properties at Playa.
The Playa property in the city gained an early head start by reopening faster than other locations and it continues to lead the way, along with a sister location in Riviera Maya.
Despite the current success of travel in Mexico, the country came to the same halt as the rest of the world in March 2020.
Reopening began in June, but it was not until the fourth quarter of 2020 that Ms. Wright felt as though these destinations were making a true comeback.
A rise in cases this past January resulted in a brief period of similar caution as the year prior, temporarily slowing the newfound momentum.
Fortunately, this was quickly recovered, with a prompt update of COVID protocols in adherence to local law.
This reinstated trust among travelers, along with elevating numbers of those vaccinated, contributed to an impressive early spring in Cancun.
“March and April 2021 were the busiest months since the beginning of the pandemic,” Ms. Wright said.
A powerful signifier of the rising demand can be found in the resulting prices.
“The days of discounted packages and airfare are gone,” Ms. Wright said. “Dates are selling out fast.”
Dive right in
Cancun’s draw has long been threefold, with its proximity to glistening beaches, historical sites and vibrant dining and nightlife scenes.
Travelers often find time for a day trip to the nearby Mayan Ruins, or else exploring turquoise waters at Playa Tortugas.
Diving, too, is a popular local recreation, best enjoyed via a tour from MUSA, an underwater museum that is a wondrous combination of environmental conservation and art, showcasing more than 500 structures within the ocean’s depths.
Looking towards downtown, waterfront restaurant RosaNegra Cancun is highly rated for its Latin American concept menu, enhanced by its percussion show and views of fireworks.
Meanwhile, the buzzy Chicabal Sunset Club is ideal for those seeking to resume an exciting social life. The beach club is widely considered the local “the new kid on the block” and features yacht service, gastronomy, luxurious cabanas and music.
Despite Cancun’s early reopening and greater travel flexibility, skeptical travelers will be relieved to know that some restrictions still apply – local laws limit hotels to 50-75 percent capacity.
Additionally, luxury resorts and hotels have been pioneers in COVID safety. Hospitality brands from Playa to Wynn Resorts have offered on-site testing.
In the event of worst-case, Playa offers “Extended Stay Protection” to its guests for a small fee. Should they should test positive prior to traveling home, guests will receive free accommodation during their quarantine period.
“We are in constant contact with local government officials and global health organizations, including the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to maintain the highest standards of safety,” Ms. Wright said.
“The scale of the global efforts to contain the disease is immense, and we are keeping a watchful eye on the rapid global updates related to travel,” she said.
Beyond pricing, another vote of confidence demonstrated by Playa is the opening of two new resorts this summer.
In time for summer travel, Playa opened its adults-only, boutique resort Yucatan Playa del Carmen in May.
The resort is located in downtown Playa Del Carmen, nearby the notable Fifth Avenue entertainment district, perfect for those itching to return to nightlife.
For those more family-oriented, Playa will be opening its all-ages, luxury hotel Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun later this summer.
Ms. Wright describes what she is looking forward to most as travel continues its return.
“I’m excited to see the faces of our incredible teams as they welcome guests,” she said. “We pride ourselves on service from the heart, and we need our guests with us to deliver that.”