Coronavirus
Beachwear in times of Covid. Beachwear in times of Covid.

Winter is coming but will there be a southward migration this year?

Pack your bags and go, or hunker down and stay put?

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The votes are in and the verdict is loud and clear: 66% of Mexico News Daily readers believe that most travelers will feel it’s too soon to vacation in Mexico compared to 26% who think that a fair number of visitors will make the journey.

Just 8% of readers think “it should be a good season, all things considered” in response to the October 5th MND Poll which asked, “Will the tourists come this winter or will it be too soon for most travelers?”

Before they dig out the sunscreen and pack their bags, there’s a substantial list of things for vacationers to consider: the continued spread of coronavirus everywhere; Mexico’s lack of or sub-standard health care and infrastructure; what the real Covid-19 case numbers might be where they’re going; will their health insurance  cover Covid-19 care; and the fact that many are in the increased risk category because of their age.

That’s a lot of not-fun planning for some time in the sun. Or is it?

The poll question attracted over 1,300 votes and 34 comments. One of those was Laura, a Oaxaca resident for 20 years who went back to the U.S. when the pandemic began.

mnd poll

“We’re all dealing with the question of how much risk is acceptable; we know the consequences. I’ve been floating the idea of returning to Oaxaca in January, but as each month passes, I push the time farther out.”

Whether tourist, snowbird or residente permanente, it seems we’re all considering and reconsidering our travel plans this season.

“Very scary times!” wrote Alberta. “When you consider the age of snowbirds, myself included, we are at most risk. As much as we’ll miss our time in the Baja, we’ll respect the health of everyone and stay home in Canada.”

“We would be celebrating our 10th year in Mazatlán and dearly love this city and her people, but I have family at home that I need to think of,” shared Shirley. “Too soon. Too risky.”

Mexico is actively courting tourists, offering attractive incentives that go beyond low prices on airfare and hotel stays. Despite the pandemic, Mexico has a shockingly easy entry process for airline travelers: no quarantine upon arrival, no online forms for contact tracing and no Covid-19 testing requirements before traveling or upon arrival.

Nonetheless, for snowbird Sharron this will be the first time in 26 years she hasn’t gone to Mexico for the winter because she can’t get health insurance that covers Covid. Winn canceled a trip with extended family for Christmas because it still felt “too risky.”

Enjoying the beach despite the coronavirus.
Enjoying the beach despite the coronavirus.

“It’s very disappointing,” added Winn. “This new reality is stark in its power to humble us all.”

That may be the thing we wish we could forget: this pandemic is affecting travel everywhere — not just to Mexico — for the foreseeable future.

“I don’t think we really know yet when it will be safe to move about the world,” mused Adriane in response to a Oaxaca blog. “I know people who have been flying, but you never know. Abundance of caution is how I see it.”    

Nonetheless, some readers are going anyway. Expat Facebook pages all over Mexico are filled with posts from those who’ve just arrived for a vacation looking for things to do and returning snowbirds happy to be back.

“We will be there and we can’t wait!” wrote Celestial on the MND Poll page. “So tired all of the BS in the States. It’s time to get away and spend time with all our friends in San José.”

Russ, who’ll go to Mexico in December, may stay permanently this trip. “I have a great place to be as isolated as I choose,” he wrote. “Life is short. I will die there, sooner or later.”

grim reaper lifeguard
A lifeguard goes for levity.

Those living in Mexico full-time shared their worries and concerns about visitors, especially for holidays like Day of the Dead, Christmas and Carnaval that traditionally attract thousands of out-of-towners, whether nationals or foreigners.

“Tourists are roaming the streets and the villages; restaurants are open,” wrote Kalisa on a Oaxaca blog. “Oaxaca is back to orange [on the government’s stoplight risk map] but it has no meaning. Tourists and many locals simply are tired of masks and rules.”

“Thinking of or have plans to visit Oaxaca this Día de los Muertos, or have friends in that category?” Alvin Starkman, owner of Oaxaca Mezcal Educational Tours, offered a caution to readers in a local blog.  “Know that for the city, there will be no cemetery visits, no parades, no cultural events or altar displays, no culinary events, no costume contests, etc., etc., etc. Stay home and come next year (assuming it’s more or less behind us by then).”

In Mazatlán, the maskless mayor has begun scheduling public events like a recent folklorico performance with a live band and more than 50 dancers encouraging bystanders to join in. And the Sinaloa governor has announced that Carnaval 2021 — a week-long event that brings tens of thousands of tourists from around the world — will go ahead as usual. “People know how to act, what to do,” he said. “This kind of event is OK.”

While the stoplight risk map offers a broad guide to conditions state by state, it doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s happening on the ground. Writing on a Puerto Vallarta Facebook page, Christine recounted her visit to Sayulita on a recent weekend.

“We didn’t even get out of the car,” she wrote. “It was completely packed and not a single mask, no distancing whatsoever. I’m not exaggerating when I say packed with zero masks — we specifically tried to find ONE just to say we did. Nope.”

airport travelers
To go or not to go?

John, writing on the same Facebook page, said coming to Mexico now is “a roll of the dice.”

“It’s not yourself you need to consider, but more so who’s cooking your food, cleaning your room, serving your drink, driving your taxi or bus and who you’re standing beside in the queue,” he wrote. “And then, what will you do if you do catch Covid-19 far from home?”

From Mexico City — with the country’s consistently highest number of Covid cases — a reader shared the reality of everyday life.

“I remain in profound cuarentena, only shopping in chain stores with strict rules, thermometer checks, distancing marks and mask rules,” wrote Patrick. “It all takes the bloom off the rose.”

In the face of a cold, grey winter, and an ongoing case of “Covid Fatigue,” who wouldn’t want to be back in warm, sunny Mexico? We’re tired of being quarantined, tired of this “new normal,” tired of masks and worry and the stress around all of it. Yet the pandemic remains real, and is the main reason so many are choosing not to travel this season.

“NOTHING HAS CHANGED,” Patrick continued. “And nothing will change for the next two to three years. A return to normalcy is not even on the horizon. Hunker down and wear your mask. This virus is still amok. It has not only taken the silly bloom off the complicit roses, but it also has taken the bloom out of millions of human lives.”

“I normally spend winters in Mexico, but I’m not a fan of Russian Roulette,” said Paul. “I can survive one season in Canada.”

Lisa, who has a home in San Miguel de Allende but is in the U.S. for now, is keeping a positive outlook despite it all.

“This time of year, I always feel such a strong, palpable urge to head southward,” she wrote on an expat blog. “Stay safe everyone! We WILL return!”

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