Sign Up for Our Monthly Mexico Newsletter
As one of the few international destinations that’s currently open for U.S. travelers, Mexico is well positioned for growth. To capitalize on that potential, tour operators are revamping their product to offer more safety, comfort and health-conscious booking options.
Apple Vacations and Funjet Vacations, for example, have introduced TripTrust, a program to recognize hotels and resorts that follow industry-wide guidelines for health and cleanliness.
Intrepid Travel, meanwhile, has Safe Travels protocols in place, based on recommendations from the World Travel & Tourism Council. The company has also introduced a new flexible booking policy that allows penalty-free changes — including date changes and even itinerary switches 21 days before the scheduled departure.
In Cancun, travelers can find new options with Headout, which recently launched a product line that includes day tips to Tulum and Coba. All of the offerings are part of the company’s new Safe Experiences initiative, which requires safety protocols such as minimal-touch services, face mask mandates, crowd control, deep cleaning practices and staff that’s trained according to guidelines of the World Health Organization.
Similarly focused on sanitation and hygiene is G Adventures, which recently rolled out its Travel with Confidence program. In addition, the company now offers the opportunity to “book your bubble,” with private versions of existing itineraries for eight or more people traveling together, as well as customized itineraries for smaller groups.
While we’ve seen a lot of activity around protocols and reopening, which is very understandable as people’s incomes and livelihoods depend on this, we are not willing to sign up for risky or high-stress travel.
As an added incentive, G Adventures is offering a 50% discount for the eighth person in groups of eight, or a free spot for the 12th person in larger private groups. Itineraries that are eligible for the discount include the 12-day Mayan Encounter, which runs from Antigua, Guatemala, to Mexico’s Playa del Carmen, and the 14-day Classic Mexico Adventure, which travels from Mexico City to Playa del Carmen.
The Importance of InitiativesCreating a healthy and safe travel environment is crucial for the industry’s recovery, according to Zachary Rabinor, president of Journey Mexico, the luxury travel specialist. “As a proud regional member of the World Travel & Tourism Council, Journey Mexico volunteered to actively participate in the working group that helped to design the organization’s protocols for tour operators,” he said. “We’re hopeful and confident that industry-wide collaboration in the design, implementation and adherence to globally accepted standards is a vital step in the industry’s recovery.”
In terms of traveler preferences, Rabinor said he has noticed a strong interest in experiences including private villa rentals, yachting in the Sea of Cortez and wellness-oriented luxury hotels. Features such as private transportation and fast-track airport services are also trending, he said.
RELATED: 3 Smart Strategies for a Socially Distant Vacation in Mexico
Communicating the right message to travelers and travel advisors is important, Rabinor says.
We must not be seen to be pushing or promoting travel; rather, we’re here to provide real time, transparent, honest and timely information on the destination.
“The key in marketing now is using the appropriate tone,” he said. “We must not be seen to be pushing or promoting travel; rather, we’re here to provide real time, transparent, honest and timely information on the destination. We are of course happy to assist in organizing and booking travel for those who feel safe traveling.”
Recognizing current realities has also been essential for Stephanie Schneiderman, owner of Tia Stephanie Tours, which has temporarily suspended its tour programs.
Frankly, I don’t see the end of this year, 2020, nor the beginning of 2021 as viable for our programs at this time,” she said. “While we’ve seen a lot of activity around protocols and reopening, which is very understandable as people’s incomes and livelihoods depend on this, we are not willing to sign up for risky or high-stress travel.”
Now, the company is focused on selling tours further in the future.
“We were able to take a back seat and begin to review the long-term panorama,” Schneiderman said. “With this in mind, we have focused our energy in two places: the longer horizon and developing and selling group travel programs for the fall of 2021. We currently have pre-sold our Culture and Cuisine of Oaxaca group departures for October, November and December 2021, and an exciting travel program, Following the Threads of Frida Kahlo, scheduled for October and November departures.”
Tia Stephanie’s second focus has a decidedly benevolent goal: to help the local communities of textile artisans that its tours visit, even when the tours aren’t happening.
At the end of June, we initiated a weekly Tuesday Textile Tianguis, lasting six weeks, that we are very proud to say has generated about $40,000 in direct sales to the artisans,” she said.