The last 24 hours have been a whirlwind of activity in Playa del Carmen. Rumors have run rampant here and on the internet and have covered the gamut of possibilities. Some of the rumors had all of the businesses on Fifth Avenue being shut down, others had bars being closed, and some had the entire city–including government offices and private businesses–being shuttered for the next week. As a result we were inundated by inquiries by telephone and email asking whether it was true that Playa was now a ghost town, closed down because of the swine flu. The answer is a resounding NO. NOT NOW, NOT NEXT WEEK.
We’ve said it before and we’re going to say it one more time: THERE HAVE BEEN NO REPORTED CASES OF SWINE FLU IN PLAYA DEL CARMEN, THE STATE OF QUINTANA ROO, OR EVEN THE YUCATAN PENINSULA. While the government is taking rational and reasonable steps to prevent any outbreak of H1N1 (swine) flu, life continues to go on in this beautiful Caribbean town as it does every spring. There are tourists in the streets, the restaurants and bars are open, and the beaches are full of vacationers.
Once again, we want to make the point that we understand people’s concerns during this medical situation. We’re sympathetic when people say they don’t want to travel to any place in Mexico because of the swine flu outbreak in Mexico City. Our response is pretty simple: are you traveling in the United States? There are now more reported swine flu cases in the US over a greater geographical area than there are in Mexico. Yet the Centers for Disease Control still advises avoiding nonessential travel to any part of Mexico, even those where the outbreak has never touched. Yet they offer no advisories against travel between states where there are swine flu cases confirmed. We think the reason for this has more to do with politics than health concerns. But regardless, we still stand by what the World Health Organization is saying: that travel restrictions will not affect the spread of this disease. So we are telling anyone who asks that Playa is indeed open for business, free of any sign of the swine flu and that people should ignore the rumors.
To make the point that it is business as usual in Playa, we contacted government officials, ecoparks, local restaurants, beach clubs and stores to confirm what was open and what was not. Here’s what we found:
ECOPARKS – Xcaret and Xel-Ha are open, despite rumors to the contrary.
SUPERMARKETS – Walmart, Mega, Sam’s, Chedraui, San Francisco, etc. are all open.
RESTAURANTS – Walking 5th Avenue we’ve seen no restaurants closed. The same is true for the rest of Playa. All of our favorites are open, including Babe’s, Antica, El Fogon, HC de Monterrey and La Pesca. We didn’t see a single restaurant closed.
BANKS – All of them are open. They will close tomorrow for the national holiday of Labor Day but will be open again on Saturday and/or Monday, depending on the specific bank’s normal banking days.
BARS – All bars are open, including the world famous Luna Blue Bar. And don’t forget, if you are going to be in Playa del Carmen on May 5, we’re having the biggest, the best and probably the only CINCO DE MAYO PARTY in town. Live music, Tony’s cheeseburgers, girls in bikinis and Lenny the Wonder Dog. Please stop by and say hello.
BEACH CLUBS – In North Beach we went down to check and saw that Mamita’s, Kool and Blucacao were all open and operating with normal capacity crowds. We checked with our friend Jez who runs Zenzi Beach Club in central Playa and he tells us they were full and the rest of the beach was open with normal business.
NIGHT CLUBS – The clubs that have been closed temporarily are those with the capacity of over 1,000. This includes Dubai, Coco Bongo and Mambo Cafe. Santanera’s indoor facility has been temporarily closed, but its beautiful outdoor terrace is open for business. Other clubs are open for business as usual.
TOURS – All of our tour operators are open and operating. We have heard of no closures.
Government offices will be closed tomorrow for the national holiday. Schools will remain closed through next Wednesday. The archaeological zones (Tulum, Cobá and Chichen Itza, etc.) will be closed until further notice.
The point of all of this is to reassure people that if they are coming to Playa del Carmen, they will find the resort facilities and businesses open and welcoming. And you won’t be alone if you do come. While we certainly have had some cancellations, we have also had a lot of reservations. A number of guests with existing reservations have emailed us to tell us of their intention to keep them. And, regarding the CDC’s suggestion that non-essential travel to Mexico be avoided, one person emailed us with the comment that his upcoming vacation was “essential” to his sanity.
Of course, we are hearing from people that they are afraid to come based upon the continuing reports in the news media. We’re puzzled by the fact that Mexico alone is singled out as a place to avoid, rather than New York, California, Canada, and numerous other cities, states and countries where this flu has surfaced. It appears that once more, poor Mexico is being used as the whipping boy by other countries and cultures. We’re going to blog about that more in the future. All we can say is that if you are refusing to travel to Mexico because of swine flu, you should be refusing to travel anywhere, because the virus exists all around the world at this point. The good news is that it still does not appear to have a high fatality rate or be a particularly destructive virus. To read more about the swine flu, we suggest this Los Angeles Times article: Scientists See this Flu Strain as Relatively Mild.
We will be blogging more about Playa and the effects that this unfair travel ban has had on it over the next couple of days. Right now we’re just going to offer some pictures of our adopted home to show you what it looks like as of today. Before we do that, one personal note: We’ve removed a certain individual’s comments from our blog twice now. We did so because we thought the comments were exactly the type of irresponsible statements about swine flu that we’ve been reading all over the internet and seeing all over the television and have been trying to counter balance. There are plenty of public forums on the internet where anyone with this individual’s views can set forth whatever claims he or she wants, regardless of their veracity. But this is our blog, and it is not available for abuse by others. We intend to keep it a place for rational and factual information during this circumstance. We hope our regular readers understand and approve.
Now, here are some photos to illustrate that Playa is open for business and being enjoyed by locals and tourists alike:
The parking lot at the supposedly empty and closed Playa del Carmen Walmart
Looking inside the Playa del Carmen Walmart
The checkout stand at Walmart. Yes, it was crowded enough we had to wait.
Fifth Avenue showing tourists moving from shop to shop and restaurant to restaurant
Another view of tourists on Fifth Avenue
Playa Norte in front of the Kool and Mamita’s beach clubs
Another view of Playa Norte
More Playa Norte
Finally, for you guys out there who cancelled your vacation that was supposed to start in Playa del Carmen today, here’s a little taste of what you missed:
By the way, while we were writing this, we heard Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s Countdown interview Dr. Roy Gulick, Chief of Infectious Diseases at New York Presbyterian Hospital, who said that at this point the swine flu seems to be no more dangerous than the standard influenza that we see each year. Is it time to start talking about overreaction???
For a link to other other blog entry on this topic, click here.
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