The Coronavirus Economy: Inside the reopening of an ultra-luxury resort in Mexico’s Riviera Maya
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For nearly two months, the entire full-time staff of Rosewood Mayakoba (including their families) went into voluntary quarantine together at the resort in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. They shared all duties, including cooking, cleaning, and general maintenance of the 620-acre ultra-luxury escape. They also offered community support, delivering meals and groceries to the families in need in Playa del Carmen.
Fortune spoke with Daniel Scott, regional vice president and managing director at Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, for a new series, The Coronavirus Economy, about how the outbreak has affected the hospitality industry and what travel will look like through the pandemic.
The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Fortune: When did you know the outbreak of COVID-19 would affect your resort?
Scott: We began to see a halt in travel at the beginning of March and temporarily closed our resort in early April. Like nearly all hotels around the world, we were affected tremendously. Our guests are like family, and we knew that an emotional connection with our community was key to weathering this crisis.
We quickly pivoted to providing virtual travel experiences via our social media platforms, and created “Closer, Whatever the Distance,” a series of videos spotlighting our experts. We provided our past and future guests with an array of Rosewood Mayakoba moments that showcased different members of our team sharing their respective areas of expertise, such as guided mediations from our resident shaman Fernanda Montiel or how to make delicious, healthy foods from our chef Juan Pablo Loza. We really wanted to make sure that our guests knew that we still were there for them even if we could not physically be together.
What have the past few months been like for the employees at the Rosewood Mayakoba? Have you kept the property open at all? What has the upkeep of the resort been like?
We are grateful that we were able to retain all full-time staff members, and, throughout the last few months, I lived on-property with a group of 28 Rosewood Mayakoba associates and their families. We lived as an integrated community, sharing the duties of cooking, cleaning, and general maintenance of the property.
We recently completed a multimillion dollar property renovation, so it was crucial to keep the resort looking pristine and well-maintained during the COVID closure. The Rosewood Mayakoba land thrived during this time; hundreds of indigenous plants and animals really flourished over the past few months. We also had a few private residence owners living on-property and worked as a team to make sure that they felt at home.
We also used this time for self-improvement and community bonding, and the team did everything from professional development and motivational talks to yoga classes and swimming lessons.
As travel restrictions are increasingly lowered, are you expecting an influx of guests this summer? What will the guest experience be like for the next few months or even the next year or two?
We reopened the resort on June 8, and, although the recovery is slow, we are happy to see guests returning and feeling comfortable traveling again. The safety and well-being of all guests and associates has always been and will continue to be our No. 1 priority, and we have implemented enhanced protocols based on Rosewood Hotels & Resorts’ Commitment to Care program. While we are all adjusting to this new normal, we are nonetheless even more committed to the warmth of our hospitality and to the special touches that our guests have come to expect from our resort.
We are also continuing to utilize the Rosewood Mayakoba app so that guests can have access to resort services at their fingertips—everything from accessing restaurant menus, to requesting items from housekeeping or texting with their butler—with limited face-to-face contact. Rosewood Mayakoba is naturally conducive to distancing; each accommodation, from our spacious suites to the residences, is a private, stand-alone structure.
Even if restrictions are being pulled back, the pandemic is ongoing, and cases are increasing in both the U.S. and Mexico. What kinds of new protocols or precautions—from cleaning and sanitizing rooms to social distancing—have been put in place to ensure safety for guests as well as employees?
We have an incredibly comprehensive plan in place to ensure the health and safety of all guests and associates. For example, our multiple restaurants and bars will be operating at reduced occupancy, allowing for a minimum of six feet between each seated group of guests. Our restaurants will also provide contactless e-menus that are available for our guests to view on their personal devices via the resort app or QR codes.
Additional practices include mandated physical distancing in all areas of the property, with sanitizer and disinfecting stations located at key touch points throughout all public spaces, including our pool areas. We will also be conducting hourly cleaning and disinfection of all public areas and common touch points, such as elevators, door handles, and railings. There will be frequent use of electrostatic sprayers throughout all areas of the resort, with enhanced cleaning between guest visits. These are just a few examples of the wide-reaching, property-wide strategy that we currently have in place.
Before the outbreak, you’ve overseen community investment on behalf of Rosewood Mayakoba, including the founding and operation of a local school, Centro Educativo K’iin Beh. Can you share more about how this came about? And how does the resort plan to continue the school’s funding and expansion as the pandemic goes on? Is the Rosewood Mayakoba supporting local communities in any other ways during the pandemic?
We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to get involved and help build Centro Educativo K’iin Beh, a bilingual school, from the ground up in 2017. Through the support of guests, our associates, and friends of the resort, we were able to raise over $500,000 to start construction on the new school. We wanted to make a positive difference, giving back to the community that has been so kind to Rosewood Mayakoba and where many of our associates are from.
Located 15 minutes away from the resort in a small neighborhood of Playa del Carmen, the school opened with 200 elementary and middle school students—children of Rosewood Mayakoba associates and local youth. The school continues to be funded with the support of the resort’s friends and family. Guests could donate money or time to the school during their stay, and visiting incentive or corporate groups frequently donate their time to the school and volunteer for hands-on projects like reading or building bookshelves. We look forward to welcoming back our students and our guests when it is safe to do so.
We continue to be nimble to act when our community is in need. During COVID-19 we provided groceries to over 200 families in nearby Playa del Carmen, ensuring that they not only had nourishing meals, but also making sure that they knew that we are all in this together. Community connection continues to be of utmost importance to myself and all of our associates.