Post-Holiday Infections Slow Progress But Could Mean Fewer Crowds, Cheaper Rates in Future
The toll of the post-holiday Omicron surge in Mexico has taken hold in Cancun, slowing travel considerably after months of consistent growth. What started as a record-breaking period, slated to continue, may not be as successful as hoped. But it could spell cheaper rates in the near future.
Cancun has enjoyed a record-breaking few months, with December, in particular, being especially busy for the seaside resort town. Millions flocked from across the world to enjoy the Mexican Caribbean, and the local economy thrived as it did.
But the massive surge over the final two weeks of December and the first week of January have caused severe issues in the tourism industry.
In December, the Cancun international airport saw record-breaking numbers, hitting over 500 operations daily for 26 days and as many as 648 at its best. Prices rose and crowds grew, with Cancun being registered as one of the most expensive places in the world to celebrate New Year. But an equally record-breaking surge in COVID infections saw many flights canceled and a return to a yellow epidemiological traffic light designation. Just this week, the airport saw under 500 for the first time in weeks.
Cancun’s success was partly due to Mexico’s loose entry restrictions, making it an attractive destination for millions of tourists with pent-up demand across the globe. But with such high numbers and minimal restrictions, the infection curve was bound to steepen.
Tourists still intent on arriving in Cancun have a weighty decision to make. The new epidemiological designation means that hotel, restaurant, and attraction capacities are significantly reduced, while bars and cantinas are forced to close. The experience in the town could be drastically different than what was anticipated.
The potential positive for future travelers is a less crowded experience. The masses of people flowing through the region over Christmas left beaches, bars, and hotels packed. In an odd twist, the higher infection rate may make it possible to avoid other people when there as the volume of people drops.
Expect flight prices and hotel rates to drop significantly as carriers and brands attempt to salvage any losses going forward. The mid-January period usually sees some discounts as travel companies try to lure customers away from the dreary weather further North, but with many potential guests now wary of traveling to a destination with such high rates, keeping a lookout for some rock-bottom deals could pay huge dividends for those willing to take the risk.
The risk is high, not just for contracting Omicron, but for being faced with cancellations or travel issues. Many of the airport’s problems have stemmed from mass staff shortages. Delta announced just yesterday that 8,000 members of their staff had been sidelined in January and December – a huge factor in the airline chaos over the winter period. Similarly, Aeromexico reported about ten percent of their staff were unable to work after testing positive.
Some hotels are offering isolation assurance, but often only for their higher-end customers. In this case, if a customer tests positive while on their vacation, the hotel will offer a self-isolation suite, where they still receive food and drinks in a comfortable setting. But still, it’s not exactly the luxury they would be hoping for.
Trepidation has set in for many, although plenty of others are not fazed, and hotels are seeing cancellations or postponements. Other events like music festivals, concerts, and group trips have already been canceled. Those that are going ahead are not all being as lenient with those who have changed their minds, and are not offering refunds despite paying huge amounts of money months before the current crisis.
As with any destination currently, travel is a decision that must be weighed out fully by the individual. The potential financial losses could be significant, and all travelers are strongly recommended to have travel insurance, to keep on top of any restrictions and infection rates, and to ensure they have contingency plans in a worst-case scenario.
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