A busy spring break could undermine Cancún’s economic recovery

Spring breakers have already begun to arrive in Cancun. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Authorities brace for an onslaught of spring breakers in Cancún. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Cancún and the Mayan Riviera have had a relatively slow year due to COVID-19 but beaches, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs are far from empty. 

Even the largest nightclubs with a capacity for thousands of partygoers have reopened in time for spring break in Cancún and Playa del Carmen.

The most conservative estimates indicate tens of thousands of young partiers have come and are still arriving. In the United States, most colleges and universities schedule it between March 9 and April 21 — a long stretch of time to worry about.

On Cancún’s hotel zone, women in scantly clad outfits eagerly try to sell tickets for all-inclusive bars, while smiling tour operators offer up day trips to attractions such as Chichén Itzá and Cozumel. 

“This past year has been a nightmare for us all. Lots of folks here and in other countries have been vaccinated, and there are more vaccines on the way. We want people to know that it is perfectly safe for them to come and party in Cancún,” said a woman handing out fliers for the Coco-Bongo club. 

Earlier: People in Mexico flock to the beach over long weekend

Despite the optimism in the tourism and hospitality industry, COVID-19 is by no means under control in Cancún. Recently, a group of 143 Argentinian tourists was compelled to enter quarantine in several hotels, after many of them tested positive for COVID-19. Some countries are warning their citizens not to travel to destinations such as Cancún or Florida out of fear that they will return infected and contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in their local communities.

Contact tracing and statistical analysis models suggest that if social distancing and sanitary guidelines are adequately met, people on beaches are unlikely to become infected with COVID-19. However, the same cannot be said of packed restaurants and bars popular with spring breakers.  

Spring breakers arrive on Cancún’s beaches. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Hotels in Cancún and the Riviera Maya have been operating at 60% capacity for over two weeks. The doubling of allowed occupancy was justified by authorities who cited Quintana Roo’s yellow status on the national epidemiological traffic light.

Except when at the beach, most tourists in Cancún are fairly good about wearing face masks. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Protection for locals is coming slowly. As of March 20, Quintana Roo’s health authority had applied 48,387 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to residents 60 and over, a fraction of its 1.85-million population. None of those vaccinations have been administered in Cancún.

Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.