A resort employee wearing a face mask against the spread of the novel coronavirus, cleans sun lounge chairs by a pool in Cancun, Quintana Roo state, Mexico, on March 28, 2020.
Elizabeth Ruiz | AFP | Getty Images
Margarita? Beach lounger? Nasal swab?
Beach resorts and small hotels alike throughout Mexico and the Caribbean are racing to ensure guests have access to Covid tests as new travel requirements take effect.
Starting Tuesday, the U.S. government will require travelers over age 2, including U.S. citizens, to show proof of a recent, negative Covid-19 test result before boarding flights to the United States.
The pandemic has already devastated travel demand, particularly for international trips. Mexico had remained a relative bright spot for vacations abroad, partially because it lacks the testing or quarantine requirements that some other destinations have implemented, but the new rules have hurt bookings.
“There’s no doubt, the test requirement is a short-term negative,” United Airlines chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella said during a quarterly call Thursday. “But as these tests get out there and that … reopens borders not only to Mexico but around the world, we think that’s a good medium- and long-term change and will prompt more and more demand.”
United on Monday unveiled a new platform that provides travelers testing requirements for their destinations, local testing sites and a portal to upload their test results that would be required to fly.
“We are going to work really, really hard to make sure it’s really, really easy to travel with United even with the new testing requirements,” United chief customer officer Toby Enqvist said on last week’s call.
Marriott International said many of its hotels in Mexico and the Caribbean offer testing onsite and it’s working to expand access to tests because of the new U.S. rules. For example, its JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort and Spa in San Jose del Cabo offers antigen Covid tests at the Mexican resort for about $33. Guests have to make an appointment ahead of time, and tests are subject to availability.
Hilton Worldwide Holdings also said several of its resorts in Latin America and the Caribbean are offering Covid tests or access to tests. Its Canopy hotel in Cancun doesn’t offer tests at the property but it’s providing free transportation for guests to be tested at facilities in the city.
Last week, Spanish hotel chain Melia Hotels International said 10 beach hotels in Mexico and the Dominican Republic will provide free, onsite Covid antigen tests for guests whose countries require it before returning home.
For some smaller hotels, providing access to tests is a matter of survival.
Grant Olson, who handles guest services at the eight-room Rivera del Rio boutique hotel in Puerto Vallarta and sister property Garlands del Rio, spent the last few weeks working with local doctors to make sure travelers can take tests promptly at the hotel if needed.
“We just thought as a hotel it was easier for the guests not to have to worry and hoping there will be some people who continue to travel,” Olson said. The hotels offer PCR tests for about $160 and antigen tests for around $65.
The hotel has lowered some of its rates to try to attract travelers, with suites that would normally go for $200 a night available for less than $70, Olson said.
“We’re just trying to keep the rooms filled and keep the staff paid,” he said.