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.