Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Americans Flocking To Mexico For Their Corona...,

WaPo  |  The beachside dance floor was packed. The pulse of electronic music throbbed. In the middle of the pandemic, in the crowd of maskless dancers, some tourists commented to each other: "Tulum is back."

“It felt like covid was over. The borders are open. The world is back to normal. Let’s just have fun,” said Alexandra Karpova, 31, a public relations executive who flew from New York to attend the November festival, called Art With Me, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya on the Caribbean coast.

 But in the days after the festival, dozens of attendees tested positive for the coronavirus. Some brought it back to the United States.

The incident prompted a question at the heart of Mexico’s economic recovery: Is the country — with among the highest coronavirus caseloads in the world — taking too many risks to re-energize its lucrative tourism sector?

 Remarkably, the number of American tourists visiting the state of Quintana Roo, where Tulum and Cancun are located, has increased by 23 percent compared with 2019. With Europe closed to most Americans, Mexico has successfully marketed itself as a desirable alternative. Roughly 100 flights from the United States are now landing in Quintana Roo every day.

Many tourists are coming to stay at coastal resorts, where masks are mandatory in public places. Others are going on scuba diving tours or taking kite surfing lessons. But Tulum’s global reputation as a party destination has not changed during the pandemic.

“There are parties almost every night,” said Maria Prusakova, 30, the founder of a public relations firm, who traveled to Tulum in July from San Francisco.

When the restaurants closed at 11 p.m., she said, the parties started at private villas. No one wore masks. Prusakova got sick at the same time as 12 of her friends. They all tested positive — in her case, only after she returned to San Francisco.

“I’m still so happy I went,” she said. “I was so glad to see people. The food was amazing.”

Prusakova is returning to Tulum for New Year’s Eve, when the city is typically packed with parties. This year, authorities say they won’t permit them. State officials say they are scanning social media to find any mention of large gatherings. Event organizers are quietly telling tourists that they will find a way to host parties.

“We need to find a way to create jobs. Otherwise, the situation will continue getting worse,” said Marisol Vanegas, the state secretary of tourism. “But we always prioritize public health.”