Americans enjoy unrestricted travel to few destinations during the pandemic, but not all Americans are traveling for leisure, and some plan to stay a while.
Americans Escaping to Mexico’s Open Arms
While the entire world is not closed to Americans many nations are; Mexico is one of the few that remains open. Americans like it because it is close, comfortable, and welcoming. It’s no secret that many Americans are escaping major cities, especially those with stringent lockdown measures, for a little rest and relaxation. Florida is experiencing some of the highest demand relative to 2020 traffic.
Mexico doesn’t require a COVID-19 test nor proof of a vaccine, largely unavailable to the traveling population anyway. That doesn’t mean Mexico doesn’t have any restrictions – they do. Like the US, the country is a collection of Mexican states each of which is free to impose its own regulations in the interest of public health.
In Baja California Sur, home to Los Cabos and Cabo San Lucas, hotel workers are given free COVID-19 tests, restaurants are limited to 50% capacity, masks are to be worn indoors, and temperatures are taken upon entry. Puerto Vallarta, also a Pacific Ocean-side hotspot has been a busy tourist destination too.
In the state of Quintana Roo (home to Tulum, Cancun, and Cozumel), tourism remains down vs 2019, but is markedly up with respect to the rest of the world. The Caribbean Sea side of Mexico has seen hundreds of thousands of tourists despite Mexico holding the fourth most deaths outpaced by just Brazil, India, and the US.
However, COVID-19 cases are far more likely to be fatal in Mexico with a total mortality rate of 8.8% vs. the relatively low 1.71% and falling in the United States.
It’s Not All Leisure
It’s not all margaritas and flip flops, however. One of the busiest areas of the country is Mexico City, the largest city in North America. The metropolitan area has experienced a 50% decline over 2019 visitor numbers when 100,000 visited the city in November last year. However, in April, visitors had fallen to just 4,000, so it’s 50,000 visitors is indeed substantial.
One reason that visitors are coming to Mexico City is to work remotely. Escaping the restrictions of some US states, remote workers can go about their lives in a freer manner and some never plan to return.
While the Department of State warns Americans to avoid visiting the developing country as it battles the virus, more and more appear to be flouting those recommendations in favor of a Mexican lifestyle. And they can do so easily, not just because of the limited entry requirements, but also because of the generous stay allowances. Americans can visit Mexico on a tourist visa for up to six months consecutively making one of the easiest for which to relocate.
It’s fair to note some irony in the fact that Mexicans (and Central Americans more broadly) who have wanted to work in America but faced resistance may impose the same resistance on Americans coming to Mexico for a better work-life.
Some Mexicans also have concerns about the ability of hospitals to cope with an influx of new people should the coronavirus crisis extend longer. Foreigners could also bring new strains that, while not more deadly, may be more contagious such as the recent strain found in the UK.
For what it’s worth, cases in Colorado and California who tested positive for the new strain did not have a history of recent travel.
Visiting Mexico is one thing, moving there is rather another. However, avoiding the cold northern winter in the US for the sunny shores of the Gulf of Mexico could have wider implications. Companies the world over have realized that the location of the employee matters little to the output of their work.
Remote workers were once seen as a marginal portion of the population but now acceptance has increased. Businesses can save money on real estate and expensive offices making a shift that seems natural, resources can be allocated to other aspects of the business.
This will also have long term implications even after COVID is a distant memory. Instead of recruiting employees locally, and hiring the best available at the time a company needs them in an area for which they are needed, the whole world is available as a talent pool. People living in areas of Mexico regardless of nationality can work for US companies, and likewise the other way around.
Employees can choose where they want to live and where they want to work as separate life choices. The US-Mexico remote worker shift may pave the way for more countries to adopt more generous visitation allowances or remote worker visas. Similarly, the US may ease restrictions on foreign workers as part of reciprocal agreements to benefit US workers and companies as well.
According to LinkedIn, 20% of jobs will go remote, opening up the world and diversity.
Americans are increasingly winding up in Mexico and it’s not solely for leisure purposes. Some workers are finding that Mexico is open for business and that it may be the best place for them to wait out the pandemic and its restrictions back home. I believe that it will lead to further remote work options for Americans and perhaps for other countries as well.
What do you think? Will more Americans stay in Mexico longer? Will companies embrace remote work? Will the US reach agreements with other countries to ease cross-border work arrangements?