Dreams Natura Resort and Spa, formerly Now Natura Riviera Cancun, opened its doors to the public at the end of January 2020. The resort, located 10 miles from Cancun International Airport, positioned itself as a premier offering for Cancun vacations, with 554 rooms, a world-class spa, and massive convention center space.
Shortly after those doors were open, they had to be closed. COVID-19 started having a worldwide impact less than a month after the resort’s opening, as international borders closed, and vacation plans were canceled.
Speaking to TMR last week, Israel Ortiz, the resort’s director of sales, and Luis Miguela Ojeda, the resort’s general manager, talked about what it was like to open, close, and then re-open a resort all in the span of 12 months.
“COVID has changed not only the thing about traveling; it’s changed our whole lives. It’s been something that nobody was expecting and I think the industry that has the most damage is the tourism industry,” Ortiz said. “It has been a nightmare for us, but we now can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Dealing with COVID
“We were happily working for 23 days after two years of construction and building and a lot of hard hat visits,” Ojeda said. “We were ready for this bright future ahead of us but then COVID hit.”
On day number 24 of operations, Dreams Natura had to shut its doors, a closure that would last until Sept. 11 of last fall. Since then, along with a branding change from Now to Dreams, the resort has “seen its ups and downs” in occupancy,” Ojeda said, but has had to continue to deal with the fallout from COVID-19.
“It’s something different every day,” he said. “It’s been a struggle every day between occupancy, and our budget. This has definitely been the most difficult year of my life.”
The pandemic hasn’t just caused stress, either. Between the loss of room nights, the cut in occupancy, the money the resort has invested into the health and safety protocols, COVID-19 tests for staff and guests, and more, Ortiz and Ojeda estimate that it has cost them “millions of pesos.”
The pandemic has also caused harm among locals in Cancun, a city so heavily dependent on tourism that the World Tourism and Travel Council ranked it as the largest tourist-centered city in 2018. According to the WTTC, over half of the city’s entire GDP is directly tied to tourism, more than any other city in the world. And, even with American tourists started to come back, the resort is still unable to attract guests outside of the U.S., which Ortiz and Ojeda expect to account for about 30% of its occupancy.
But, after months in the dark, locals are starting to see the light as tourists return to the region. And all that starts with inspiring confidence in guests through a set of safety protocols that were designed to keep guests safe.
One of the pools at Dreams Natura Cancun. Photo: AMResorts.
Health and safety protocols
Even before COVID, keeping guests safe onsite, and public spaces clean, was a priority for Dreams Natura. However, that focus has increased heavily due to COVID-19.
Dreams Natura, because it is part of the AMResorts family, operates with the company’s CleanComplete+ protocols in place. That program, which the company put in place for all of AMResorts’ properties in Mexico, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, and Mexico, includes:
- Hand sanitizer, hygiene check-in stations, and sanitation at check-in.
- Increased sanitation of public areas, social distancing-friendly activities, and more space between beach and pool loungers.
- Temperature checks at the Explorer’s Club for kids and teens.
- Social-distancing friendly seating at restaurants and digital menus.
That has helped Dreams Natura feel confident in its ability to keep guests safe and secure on-site.
“I got a call from one of my friends who live in Mexico City a week ago. They asked me if it was safe to go to Cancun. The only thing that I told them is that ‘the hotel is cleaner than your house, it’s going to be safer than your house,’” Ojeda said.
The program also allows guests to receive COVID-19 antigen testing on-property at no cost, with test results coming in the same day. It also enables guests to quarantine for 14-days after the original departure date should they test positive on-site. The results have been largely positive.
“We have done maybe more than 2,500 tests since January 26 and we have gotten one positive,” Ojeda added. The resort has also had to invest in testing for its employees, as well, who are tested every two weeks as part of the health and safety protocols.
Light at the end of the tunnel
As of earlier this month, the resort is now able to operate at up to 70% of occupancy, which is allowing the resort to boost both guests and staff on-site.
That extra 20% boost (originally the resort could only operate at 50%) came from the completion of a certification program issued by the Mexican government that included training of the staff. That, along with improving COVID numbers in the U.S. (its main feeder market) has given the resort some encouragement in the recovery.
Ortiz and Israel also believe that the resort’s offerings, designed to draw all kinds of guests to the resort, will help in that recovery. Stays in the resort include access to its four different swimming pools (including an adult’s only pool and children’s splash pool), a Rollglider aerial ride, a zip line, a professional golf course nearby with complimentary green fees, ultra-private dining on-site (for a cost), and much more.
“We see a more positive trend – we are having better numbers, every single day we have a report where you can see how many bookings you have,” Ortiz said. "And we are slowly going in the right direction."