As Mexico's most-visited tourism destination, Cancun attracts travellers from around the world with its silky sand, enticing hotels and memorable activities. Now, this beachfront paradise is on the upswing, as new health protocols have helped to place the city back on travellers' wish lists.
"Cancun was the first destination in the American continent to receive the Global Safety Stamp, approved by the World Travel and Tourism Council," notes Dario Flota Ocampo, CEO of the Quintana Roo Tourism Board, which handles tourism promotion for the state where Cancun is located. The international recognition, Flota explained, is the result of the Mexican Caribbean Clean & Safe Check Certification, a state program that has helped more than 7,000 companies in the region to protect visitors and local residents alike. "This certification program, available for all the companies in the tourism industry, aims to maintain the highest sanitary measures for the prevention and containment of COVID-19."
Even with all the new protocols, Cancun maintains the inviting qualities that first made it a vacation hotspot in the 1970s, according to Flota. "This year, Cancun celebrated its 50th anniversary, and the Cancun experience maintains the iconic, welcoming atmosphere it has had for 50 years, now with stricter health protocols that emphasize the health of individuals before all else," he says. "From the airport to checking in at the hotel, to restaurants, tours and every aspect of the vacation experience, travellers will notice social distancing, mask usage and constant sanitation, while still experiencing classic Mexican Caribbean hospitality."
Mexico's legendary warm welcome for Canadians is indeed a big draw for Cancun, but that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why they keep coming back. Situated on the northeastern coast of the Yucatan peninsula, the vacation spot is perfectly located for those looking to satisfy a variety of cravings. Its soft sandy beaches and warm, clear Caribbean waters are perfect for swimming, sunbathing and water sports. Meanwhile, the range of waterfront hotels in the city's famed Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera) ensures there's something for every taste and budget, from intimate boutique hotels to adults-only resorts and luxurious five-star accommodations.
Vacationers can easily craft their own idea of paradise in Cancun. Some might opt to spend their entire visit withinthe grounds of the city's amenity-packed all-inclusive resorts, relaxing and sipping margaritas by the pool or indulging in a massage at the hotel spa. Others can take advantage of the excellent shopping and highly rated dining venues all a quick walk or taxi ride away. The restaurant scene has evolved significantly in the last decade. It's getting rave reviews for its diversity, including places like Du Mexique, which combines French and Mayan flavours, and Puerto Madero, featuring Argentinian cuisine. Another big selling point is that so many eateries have views of the sea, ideal for watching spectacular sunsets.
Those who venture further will find plenty of exciting attractions and activities nearby. Anyone interested in the region's rich Mayan heritage should consider a visit to one or more of the archaeological ruins that dot the peninsula. Chichén Itzá, a UNESCO World Heritage Site representing about 1,000 years of history, makes for a fascinating day trip. With fewer tourists around these days, exploring the world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Site is a joy since you won't have to dodge large groups, giving you time to soak up what a truly amazing place it is. Photographers and history lovers should book an excursion to Tulum for its picturesque scenery, including dramatic seaside ruins. If you don't want to wander too far from your resort, the Hotel Zone has its own Mayan museum (Museo Maya) and pre-Hispanic ruins that showcase the fascinating story of the people who lived in Quintana Roo long before it was a tourism hotspot. Quintana Roo's dramatically beautiful geography is another source of exciting activities—whether it's snorkelling and sailing in the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea, zip-lining and exploring lush ecological parks or diving into the cenotes — giant sinkholes ideal for swimming. In Cancun, the possibilities seem endless. And now, new limits on the number of guests permitted at resorts and attractions mean you can avoid crowds and enjoy more personalized service. Another bonus: Special promotions and discounts on holiday packages available now offer great value. It's no wonder that Canadians continue to put Cancun high up on their list of favourite sun destinations.
Cancun has taken on a quieter, more relaxed vibe as businesses operate at reduced capacity. In addition to hotels being less than two-thirds full, restaurants have limited seating to allow for easy social distancing, and many venues – including bars and nightclubs – take advantage of the year-round warm climate to offer ample outdoor seating.
Shoppers in Cancun can be assured that their safety is a priority among retailers. Upscale malls, like La Isla, have enacted hygiene protocols including capacity limits, temperature checks and hand-sanitizing stations.
Most attractions are open in and around the city, but they also operate at 60 per cent capacity and follow strict protocols. Among the Quintana Roo attractions taking extra steps is Rio Secreto, the ecological park set along a subterranean river in the nearby Riviera Maya. Staff members sanitize gear, including wetsuits and life vests immediately after each use. Garrafón, the natural reef park on Isla Mujeres, now requires visitors to wear face masks, fill out a health questionnaire and bring their own towels to reduce the use of shared items. Grupo Xcaret, which owns a variety of attractions including Xcaret and Xel-Há ecological parks, has also been active in developing hygiene protocols.
These efforts among hoteliers and attractions are having a positive effect. As of press time, the state of Quintana Roo was in the yellow phase – just one step away from a green phase that allows all businesses to fully reopen, based on the federal government's "traffic light" system that ranks pandemic status in each Mexican state. Currently, hotels, restaurants, beaches and attractions in Cancun are operating at 60 per cent capacity.
Between the attention paid to visitors' health and safety, attractively priced vacation packages and smaller crowds, Cancun is ready to welcome back Canadians to its sunny shores.
Content courtesy of Ensemble Travel Group