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The travel industry is eagerly awaiting the continued rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. But how will increased vaccination affect the travel industry in Mexico, and how long will it take for the positive effect to kick in?
“The vaccine is vital to the recovery of Mexico’s and the world’s tourism industry,” said Zachary Rabinor, founder, president and CEO of Journey Mexico, an upscale tour operator. “The vaccine will restore confidence in most people, allowing them to feel safe when traveling.”
Richard Zarkin, public relations manager for the Riviera Nayarit Conventions and Visitors Bureau, agreed about the vaccine’s importance.
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“Psychologically, once people get vaccinated, they’ll feel more comfortable traveling,” Zarkin said, adding that he expects airlines to increase their Mexico-bound service as the vaccine is more widely distributed. “Flights are going to jump.”
Granted, recovery may be slower than tourism officials would like. According to a 2021 poll by Yahoo Finance and The Harris Poll, only 28%of Americans plan to travel out of state within three months of getting vaccinated, with 50% planning out-of-state travel within six months of receiving the vaccine. An earlier survey by travel insurance provider Generali Global Assistance found that 54% of U.S. travelers would feel comfortable traveling internationally six months after receiving a vaccine.
Travel advisors should serve as timely, transparent and unbiased sources of information about the real time conditions surrounding their clients’ travel.
Nevertheless, Rabinor predicts that Mexico is well-positioned for rapid tourism growth.
“Many people are looking forward to a long-awaited vacation as soon as they feel it is safe to travel,” he said. “We expect a release in the big buildup of latent demand or a ‘boom’ in business as soon as travelers get vaccinated and confidence in traveling returns. We anticipate that people will stick to more familiar, accessible and closer-to-home destinations for their first trips. Mexico will be high on that list for Americans and Canadians.”
We anticipate that people will stick to more familiar, accessible and closer-to-home destinations for their first trips. Mexico will be high on that list for Americans and Canadians.
Ben Carothers, flight coordinator at Global Air Ambulance, a company that transports medical patients between the U.S. and Mexico, agrees that vaccinations are the most crucial element for substantial tourism recovery.
“Americans' confidence about resuming normal life, including returning to traveling within Mexico, will be tied to evidence of [the vaccine’s] effectiveness,” he said. “Those figures should emerge within the next few months. As U.S. citizens begin to be immunized, they will once again feel comfortable traveling and vacationing in Mexico. By the end of 2021, we will be well on the way to seeing a full recovery of travel.”
By the end of 2021, we will be well on the way to seeing a full recovery of travel.
Destinations Look AheadMexico is home to a variety of tourism-dependent vacation destinations, and local officials are eager to see the positive effects of the vaccine, both on health and the economy.
“The vaccine is a key component of a whole health strategy and is a key factor in the economic recovery of our state and globally,” said Dario Flota Ocampo, director of the Quintana Roo Tourism Board, which represents Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Cozumel and other destinations in the Mexican Caribbean. “We expect the tourism sector worldwide to recover swiftly as more people get tested and vaccinated, allowing for greater mobility.”
Education and communication are especially important in constantly evolving situations like this, according to both Zarkin and Ocampo, whose organizations both maintain robust websites that are regularly updated with information about tests, vaccines and COVID-19 safety protocols.
“We have direct and constant communication with travel agents, airlines, tour operators and the entire industry in general,” Ocampo said, “through virtual meetings, webinars, the Action Network weekly newsletter and statements, and via our social platforms and website.”
The Vaccination Process in MexicoTravel to Mexico will likely increase as more U.S. travelers are vaccinated, of course, but it’s just as important for local populations to receive the vaccine. Like the U.S., Mexico is following a staged approach to vaccination, and the nation is better positioned to carry it out than many others, according to Ocampo.
“Mexico was the first country in Latin America to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and we have been receiving vaccine shipments regularly,” he said. “The vaccination program in Quintana Roo started on Jan. 13 in six municipalities simultaneously, and the plan is to run it year round.”
As in the U.S., medical personnel and higher-risk groups are among the first to receive the vaccine in Mexico, with the general, under-age-40 population slated to be vaccinated between June 2021 and March 2022, according to Rabinor.
“The vaccination process in Mexico will be slower, according to the plan outlined by Mexican authorities,” he said. “However, people who have been vaccinated will have more confidence in travel, regardless of the vaccination process in the destination, since they will be already protected. In addition, Mexico has done an excellent job in implementing safety protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, which will continue. Travelers have already been traveling to Mexico throughout the pandemic and have returned home to share their experience of the strong safety protocol implementation, which, together with vaccines, will make people feel more confident moving forward.”
Until everyone is vaccinated, Rabinor stressed the need for travel advisors — and others — to stay on message.
“Travel advisors should serve as timely, transparent and unbiased sources of information about the real time conditions surrounding their clients’ travel,” he said. “Disseminating information around the simple protocols of wearing masks, social distancing, using sanitizing gel and washing hands, as well as avoiding crowded places, close contact settings and confined and enclosed spaces is everyone’s job, not just travel professionals.”