Los Cabos, since reopening to tourists last year after a brief shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is expecting to double its pleasure in air seats arriving from Canada.
Since launching a COVID-19 safety program called Los Cabos With Care, which has helped the destination earn a variety of safety accolades, Canadian airlines have been zeroing in on this popular, seafront municipality located on the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula.
Before COVID, biodiverse Los Cabos, which encompasses desert, ocean and mountains, was typically served by three major Canadian carriers – Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing – who flew Canadians from Western Canada and Ontario into San José del Cabo International Airport, the region’s main gateway.
Adding to these services, Los Cabos will soon welcome back low-cost carrier Swoop in November (serving Edmonton and Toronto), followed by Quebec-based OWG in March 2022 and “conversations are happening” with Flair Airlines said Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board, addressing travel advisors at a luncheon on Oct. 18 held at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel.
“As demand increases, there will be more capacity,” Esponda told PAX at the event. “I think we will have double the number of seats from what we traditionally had.”
Playing it safe
It’s a good time to ramp-up service as global travel restrictions, influenced by rising vaccination numbers, begin to ease.
Having a “safety first” attitude has been Los Cabos’ approach ever since it reopened for tourism in June of 2020.
The destination's reboot has been guided by three principles: to protect and support locals, embrace partnerships and make decisions that are rooted in data.
And when it came time to reopen, "there was a lot of debate,” over what to do, and how to do it, Esponda told PAX.
Something had to happen either way. The economic survival of Los Cabos depended on it.
“Our only economic activity is tourism,” Esponda explained. “Nothing else. It was, ‘We either reopen or die.’”
With that, a five-phase plan was unveiled and local restrictions were lifted, allowing for limited capacity in venues, which had to close by 10 p.m.
The rules have evolved since then: hotels, restaurants and activities in Los Cabos, set against the angelic-blue waters of the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Ocean, are now all open for tourism.
Los Cabos is currently in Stage 1 (green) of Baja California Sur’s colour-coded classification system, which allows for non-essential activity, as well as recreational and social activities to operate at capped capacities.
Los Cabos' approach to health and safety has earned the destination several recognitions – a “Travel Safety Stamp” granted by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), for one, and a Sharecare health security verification.
(The region was the world’s first “VERIFIED” destination, which signifies that hotels are following globally-recognized safety standards).
Guidance from Mexico’s “Clean Point” measures and globalized Intertek Cristal were also utilized.
“We want to position Los Cabos as the best and safest option for anyone looking to travel,” Esponda said.
Roughly 70 per cent of the population is vaccinated and Los Cabos does not require travellers to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter.
There are, however, health requirements travellers must follow to enter, such as a Health Declaration Form. (Learn more about "arrivals and departures protocols" here).
PCR prices have decreased
Many hotels in Los Cabos offer on-site antigen testing (free of charge, in most cases) and for Canadians, PCR tests are available for an extra charge at either a lab or at the hotel.
The reduced cost of PCR testing in Los Cabos is worth highlighting – when the pandemic was first declared last year, labs and hospitals were charging astronomical fees for tests. At one point, tests were costing upwards of $500 USD each!
Labs, initially, felt like they could charge whatever they wanted, Esponda explained.
It wasn’t until a contract was negotiated with the state government to supply tests to hotels, at a break-even cost, that prices, everywhere, began to decrease.
The fee for a PCR test in Los Cabos, now, runs anywhere between $115 to $200 USD (the Los Cabos Tourism Board has posted a list of lab locations here).
Some labs may even offer discounts on PCR tests through tour operators, Esponda said.
The market, so far, is responding well.
Last September, Los Cabos was “very busy,” Esponda said, as tourists (mostly Americans and Mexicans) returned, setting a new record in arrivals during what is ordinarily a slow month.
Los Cabos has two towns: Cabo San Lucas (where buzzing nightlife, the marina and “El Arco,” a famous archway in the sea cliffs, are found) and San José del Cabo (a cobblestone-street town with colonial buildings, shops, galleries and plazas).
There’s a 33 km-long “Tourist Corridor” where glitzy beachfront resorts and golf courses are located.
You can also visit the laid-back beaches of East Cape, east of San José del Cabo, along the pristine Sea of Cortez, where surfing and snorkelling rules and driving a 4x4 is recommended for navigating the backcountry roads.
“We’re very spread out”
Los Cabos, while packed with outdoor activities, from scuba diving to fishing to sailing to hiking to ATVing, is not a big place.
The destination has some 18,000 rooms across 85 hotels, where visitors will find, on average, 200 rooms max.
“We’re very spread out,” Esponda said. “We have the largest coastline in Mexico with the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez all combined.”
Not a single billboard blocks the ocean view in Los Cabos either. And buildings have height restrictions (no more than six storeys).
Then there’s the marine animals you’ll see (30 per cent of the world’s marine mammals are in the Sea of Cortez). Humpback whales, blue whales, orcas and great whales are all part of this underwater community.
Through December and January, hundreds of whales migrate to the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez to calve, making February the best time for whale watching.
Sustainability is valued also – 42 per cent of the Baja California Sur are protected areas, providing sanctuaries to sea lions, turtles and other species.
There are 22 “Blue Flag” beaches in the area. (This is an environment certification that tells you a beach or marina is managed sustainably).
Not every beach in Los Cabos is swimmable (some stretches are unsafe due to rough surf, rip currents and undertow).
But there are still several sandy spots to take a dip. The protected waters of bays and coves, including Medano Beach in Cabo San Lucas and Lovers Beach near El Arco, are recommended by the tourism board.
(Click here for more on Los Cabos' beaches).
Wellness market “has doubled”
While Los Cabos is home to many luxurious hotels and spas, the destination’s wellness scene is more than just pedicures and massages.
The number of people visiting Los Cabos for wellness purposes “has doubled” in recent years, Esponda said.
In addition to visiting spas, tourists are arriving to do yoga, pursue athletic training, to detox or to participate in cooking classes "to eat healthier and use organic ingredients,” Esponda said.
Some, now, are even arriving to heal their immune system after suffering from COVID-19, Esponda said.
“People are looking to get more in-depth with their mind, body and soul,” Esponda said, speaking on the latest trend.
While Los Cabos may be known as a luxury destination, there are options for all budgets, Esponda emphasized.
Yes, there are several high-end properties – but there’s also “luxury in staying at a three-star and receiving five-star service,” he said. “That’s where we really excel.”
And for every outdoor activity and wellness experience offered in Los Cabos, there are revenue-generating opportunities for travel advisors.
“All services are commissionable,” Esponda said. “We are making it open for all advisors to really qualify the experience of their clients."