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It is a Fandemic Time to Travel: Travel During a Pandemic

You know the old saying, “hindsight is 20/20.” Urban dictionary defines the phrase as “to describe the fact that it is easy for one to be knowledgeable about an event after it has happened.” It further explains the meaning as such: An individual has a realization about the event that should have been obvious all along, yet they didn't catch on because they were acting in the heat of the moment. Powerful words to say the least.

You might be asking yourself what this has to do with travel. 2020 has provided a series of what seem like insurmountable challenges for tourism and the travel industry. A year that started out with so much promise was brought to its knees by a virus that to this day we are still trying to understand. Now almost eight months into the pandemic, what does that mean for tourism and the travel industry?

As a travel professional, the safety of my clients is paramount. Is it safe for them to travel? What steps are being taken to keep them safe during their travels? One week after Hurricane Delta passed through the Riviera Maya and Cancun, I traveled there with my wife and in-laws to find out for myself.

Our journey started at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport with direct flights to Cancun on Sun Country. Upon arriving at the airport, we were greeted with hand sanitizer stations all over the terminal, masked employees, TSA Agents, and airport staff, and dots telling me where I needed to stand so I could properly social distance. Many of the shops at the terminal were closed due to the pandemic. The biggest change I noticed at the airport was the lack of travelers. As we got to our gate, I noticed the airport had put signs up encouraging social distancing including dots marking which seats you should not sit in.

Since we were traveling to Cancun, there were a few other things of note. Prior to leaving, we needed to complete an online health questionnaire which we had to present to customs in Mexico. Mexico is currently one of the few places that did not require a negative COVID test or a quarantine period to be able to travel there. This made traveling to the Riviera Maya extremely easy with the lack of red tape and hoops to jump through.

As the time drew nearer for our flight to board, the gate agents advised all travelers that due to the pandemic snack and beverage service had been suspended and the suggested getting those items from the shops prior to boarding. As we began to board, Sun Country, like most airlines, began boarding from the back of the plane forward. This helped to limit the number of passengers encountering other passengers. All passengers were required to wear masks for the entire flight unless consuming food or beverages. The lack of service on the flight really did not matter, it just meant I could sleep or watch my show uninterrupted.

As we arrived in Cancun, I observed the same precautions being taken as I did in Minnesota. The one thing different at the airport was the area near customs had a thermal scanner set up to check everyone’s temperature as they walked by. This was a very non-intrusive process and many probably had no idea it was there.

After leaving the airport and finding our shuttle, it was off to the resort. Our shuttle had markings indicating which seats were not to be used to promote social distancing and all passengers were required to wear masks. As we drove to the resort, we had an opportunity to witness the damage caused by Hurricane Delta. We observed trees down and some missing billboards, but the area was largely intact, and services seemed to be unaffected.

Upon arriving at the resort, we were met by employees wearing masks and handing out antibacterial wipes with tongs. They took our bags and sanitized them completely. Prior to entering the resort, we had to use hand sanitizer, step through a foot bath for our shoes, have our temperature taken, and complete a health questionnaire. This procedure was followed every time you returned to the property. Once on the property we were taken to the Preferred Club Lounge for our check in process. We were also able to enjoy a cool beverage and a snack while we waited. Once we completed check in, it was off to explore.

As we wondered around the resort, several things stood out to me. We noticed hand sanitizer everywhere including the elevators. Each restaurant had a foot bath for your shoes, there was signage everywhere to encourage social distancing, and all staff wore masks. We saw staff cleaning high touch point areas frequently and washed down pool side loungers and umbrellas each night. The resort had signs posted all over recommending guests wear masks, however they were not required. Our rooms were completely sanitized with high touch point items sanitized and sealed in heat sealed packages, including the TV remotes, soaps, cups, and glasses. Due to government regulations, the resort could only be at 60% occupancy. During our time there, the resort was at less then 60% which made for a more intimate feel with plenty of room to spread out.

Later in the week, we spoke with our shuttle driver before we went on our Jungle Buggy Excursion. As we drove to the ranch, we discussed the impact the pandemic has had on the region. He advised that while his government knows how serious the pandemic is, they also knew that shutting everything down for a long period of time was going to have catastrophic consequences to their economy. Around 85 percent of their economy was derived from the tourism and travel industry. As the conversation went on, it was clear that the Mexican people understood the importance of learning to live with the virus, not running and hiding from it.

After completing our excursion, we stopped at the small port town of Puerto Morelos and spoke with a local tour guide. We asked about the impact of the hurricane that just went through. He advised that they were spared, but what stood out the most was what he had to say after the hurricane moved through. He advised that everyone, no matter what walk of life was out helping to restore power and services to the area. He said that within a few days, life had returned to normal, or what normal is these days. As we walked around the town, we noticed all the staff in the small shops were wearing masks and hand sanitizer was again located throughout the area.

These are just some of my experiences during our recent travel to Mexico. I found that while travel looks slightly different then it used to with foot baths (By the way, my shoes have never been cleaner), hand sanitizers, and face masks our ability to safely travel has never been better. Those who work in the travel industry know the importance of safety and are doing everything possible to keep guests safe.

The travel industry is resilient and having only been in it for just over a year I have seen the strength and determination in those whose livelihood depend on it. Despite what some might portray, travel has never been safer. I titled this post, “It’s a Fandemic Time to Travel”, because after eight months of this pandemic, now is a fantastic time to start traveling safely. The world is opening and countries like Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and Costa Rica are ready with arms wide open and masks on, awaiting your safe return.

At the beginning of this post, we defined what “hindsight is 20/20” means. Now I pose the questions to you. Will you look back at what 2020 could have been or will you look forward to what 2020 can be?

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