Why Hotel Covid-19 Tests In Mexico Almost Always Come Back Negative

If you manage a resort hotel in Mexico, most of your guests may be coming from the United States. They need a negative Covid-19 test to fly home. Making testing convenient has been key to attracting guest. Hotels in Mexico – whose business depended on it – made testing easy and often included with a room booking. As a result business has boomed.

But if you’re running a hotel, what test do you get for your guests? Hotels want tests that come back negative:

A highly sensitive test that will yield periodic false positives, or a not very sensitive test that won’t generate false positives and might even result in some false negatives? And say some of your guests truly will be Covid-positive — do you wish to keep them in their rooms for another week or two, with all the attendant risks, or do you wish to send them along their way?

You don’t even have to imagine that the hotel owners are entirely cynical. They themselves can’t judge the accuracy of the tests, so a service that yielded a fair number of Covid positives could be seen as “they make too many mistakes and won’t let our guests leave, we don’t want them.”

At first I wondered whether there’d be an incentive (extra nights of business) to provide positive tests. However a reputation for guests testing positive might scare away future guests. And many hotels in Mexico are operating at higher occupancy now than they were pre-pandemic. For much of the year it’s been one of the only international destinations Americans could conveniently travel.

American Airlines Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja joked with employees several weeks ago that Vice President Brian Znotis, who runs their schedule, had been traveling Mexico looking for airports American didn’t currently served, hoping to find paved runways. There’s so much demand for US-Mexico air travel that they can fill most any flight they offer.

Many travelers report receiving (negative) results much faster at hotels in Mexico than they do in the United States, for instance almost immediately upon being gently (barely) swabbed.

Some travelers who do somehow test positive report shopping for a negative test. In one case a reader of my blog admitted (bragged?) going for 5 tests before one came back negative.

There is no requirement for a negative test for a U.S. citizen to return across the land border – this is only a requirement for those traveling by air.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Currently in portugal
    Every hotel we checked in gives us a self test kit for 3 euros and you get the result in 2 minutes
    Unfortunately they are not accepting the CDC card

  2. @Doug: On US Embassy site (Portugal) it says EU Digital Certificates (from EU tourists) are accepted, but no mention of CDC cards from US tourists. Any idea why?

  3. What a big joke. I have an idea for the US: close the borders completely.

  4. Testing is a joke and a ploy to harm international air travel. It has nothing to do with safety but is pure health theatre.
    Especially since tens of thousands of infected illegals can simply climb over the border and enter the USA. No questions asked. Same story for infected Californians who can simply walk across the border from Tijuana to San Diego. No questions asked.

  5. A friend just came back from Jamaica and said the hotel told guests that if they got a positive test, they could just do it again until they got a negative result.

  6. @KimmieA
    Basically they say it’s easy to forge
    I was scolded by border agent entering portugal by air as he said I need pcr test
    I told him I have been in europe for a month and everybody accepted cdc card (iceland, denmark, sweden, italy, france and ireland) but portuguese law says only EU certificate is valid
    The joke is that I am traveling with my brother and family and they have printed copy with qr code from israel
    Hotel in coimbra yesterday tried to scan bar code and did not work so they had to do pcr test on the spot
    Hotel in porto today looked at it and told them its ok so they were spared the joy of the qtip up their noses
    Yesterday the hotel demanded an employee witness us doing the test
    Today they just told me to go and do it on my own
    Its all a circus

  7. @Doug,

    Health theatre indeed. Vaccinated individuals should not be subjected to any restrictions including testing. COVID is here to stay and will never go away. Better to learn to live with it than perpetuate the hysteria.

  8. Meh. I’m sure you can also throw some bribes to get a negative.

    Why aren’t we testing on domestic flights? Why not test to drive across if we’re really concerned about variants coming back in?

    Testing for vaxxed ppl is theater.

  9. @Ed, absolutely, Covid here to stay. Now medical community is looking at P-town Mass crowd, seeing if there is anyone who has had 4 exposures to Covid: once early on, 2 vaxxes, then this recent event. 4 exposures=equivalent to common cold? Another year–if that–Covid will be old news.

    Especially with this new nasal spray, SaNOtize, 2 sprays in the nostril (nitric oxide!) and it kills Covid. Pharmacies in Isreal already preparing to sell it. Never a positive PCR again!


  10. @Ed has spoken so therefore the rest of the world should listen! Newsflash, you have zero influence how other countries are run or how they choose to handle things. Since Americans can’t be trusted, many places have upped requirements for them. Others allow the vaccination cards ( I have used in Spain where I live, France and Italy ) but since the US can’t seem to get involved with the EU on a compatible website for documentation, it has also become political. Maybe the US should get it’s sh@t together and work on contributing to a universal passport or be part of the current EU one. But that would pull funds from the next biggest bomber

  11. Good. As long as the US government is willing to let thousands of people a day stream across the border (many of whom are known positive) I see no problem with hotels selling what’s amounts a phony letter saying I don’t have it. I’m vaccinated and testing vaccinated people who are shedding so little of they were to contract it is BS. Looks like this nonsense will be continuing until November 2022.

  12. While in Italy for 3 weeks I got a test done every 3 days by the red cross at the train stations. Other americans were shocked I got mine for free so often and they paid 120 euros for theirs. Just got up and got in line at the stations.

  13. @Marc Sure there is. In an effort to simplify, these tests rely on particles with dye attaching to viral antigens from sars-cov-2 and nothing else. While antigen tests exhibit false positives much less frequently than false negatives, in a population with low rates of infection, these false positives will make up a noticeable portion of the overall number of positive results.

  14. It’s a joke to even have to get tested to return.

    I don’t care if people fake it, bribe etc.

  15. Maybe there are so many negative results because…gasp…so many people don’t have it!

  16. Biden needs to get off his butt and end testing req for re-entry to US regarding already vaccinated persons. Ridiculous Covid Theatre. And for those of you who want to lock the US down and close the borders do us ALL a favor and move to Canada.

  17. Well, when the PCR creator (RIP) said his tests were not designed to detect a particular infection, well… do the math! True may might be disturbing and it will be always easier for the masses to be told what to do. When the world prefers to be informed by media instead of actual experts non members of “The Pharma Club”, we all get this non sense as result.

  18. Simply irresponsible. But they are infecting and killing their own ppl. So the rest of the world does not care and Mexico is earning money out of it. Win win situation for all, do not you think?

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