Star Hoteliers
Star Hoteliers

A year ago, if someone would have told the hoteliers in Cancun, Riviera Maya, or Tulum that their hotels would be practically unoccupied during the spring of 2020 due to an invisible pathogen, no one would have believed it. However, when this unprecedented scenario became a brutal reality, the executives of this industry set an example for other regions and industries on the road to recovery.

To André Gerondeau, chief operating officer of Meliá Hotels International, there were moments during the months of closure that were perfect opportunities to learn and improve. Eventually, those extra efforts paid off. "It wasn't that hard for us to adapt to this new service model. Melia is a very solid firm, and the capacity to learn that this crisis has given us in so many ways is very significant," he explained, referencing the changes the company implemented: new digital advancements and strict health and hygiene measures, together with a solid defense of their rates. "All of this leads to a long-run commitment to quality. And with the current development of COVID vaccines, in 2021 the confidence to travel will surely be restored."

In these unprecedented times of adversity, a collaborative spirit seized the Mexican Caribbean hoteliers. "The industry took it very seriously, and the way the authorities handled the situation was very disciplined and rigorous," commented Pascal Dupuis, general manager at Andaz Mayakoba, on the restrictions that were applied in early March. "The pandemic was a new challenge, but practically all the hotels acted coordinated and committed to the protocols."

The active participation of collaborators and employees was precisely one of the key factors on the way to reopening. Robert-Jan Woltering, general manager at Fairmont Mayakoba, agrees with this assessment, and his team has ensured the wellbeing and safety of everyone at the resort. "It is in these peculiar and uncertain times when we need to stand still and be grateful for the true values in life: family, health, and the comfort of having friends," he stated.

With the reopening, hoteliers also took on the responsibility of generating a sense of much- needed normality to visitors, while still ensuring their health and safety. "To feel normal again and to reconnect with nature...there were so many people that were in need of that," said Brendon Leach, CEO of Colibri Boutique Hotels in Tulum.

According to Jesus Sobrino, CEO of Palladium Hotel Group, the reintegration of the workforce allowed for the preservation of the entrepreneurial structure that sustains the state's economy. "We will leave the pandemic behind by being responsible, and a part of our responsibility was to stand up as soon as possible and recover jobs. Because here, tourism is like a fine rain that wets the whole economy," he said in an interview.

When asked what he would like to highlight how the industry faced the pandemic, Felix Navas Marques, general director of Spanish group Catalonia Hotels, pointed to recognizing the people's courage to face uncertainty. "We would like to be remembered as an industry that kept calm. We were brave and we opened the doors of our hotels before others did, but we were very prepared to do it."

Pablo Klimann, from RIU Hotels and Resorts in Cancun, is certain that teamwork and synergy between employees and executives have also been fundamental to getting back on track. "As hoteliers, we have been able to maintain the source of employment and the employees have responded to that by giving 200 percent of themselves in the solving of every challenge encountered. That makes us very proud and grateful," he stated.

Some of the changes the industry faced, such as improved and more extensive hygiene and cleaning standards, will be permanent. In the opinion of Ignacio Subias from Bahia Principe Hotels. "The pandemic has created a more demanding traveler more interested in learning and knowing in detail about protocols and operations—information that never before had been shared, simply because guests weren't interested in it."

All in all, the Mexican Caribbean has been a leading destination in the return to international touristic activities. As noted by Ramón Hernández, CEO of BlueBay Hotels, this is due to the region's connectivity and the confidence this has created among its visitors. "The Caribbean is a place where the energy changes; it can be felt in the sun and in the people's warmth. It has a vibe that can be found only here," he added. Gerardo Ortiz, General Manager at Chablé Maroma near Playa del Carmen, also agrees: "Long before the pandemic, guests were already looking to spiritually detoxify in a relaxed environment, but now they come with even more awareness of that."