I want to share the content of an email I got today. I think it offers some words of wisdom and some important facts regarding the safety of travel to tourist areas in Mexico right now.
Travel Still Safe to Major Tourist Hubs in Mexico
On February 20, 2009, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel alert to those visiting Mexico, warning of increased violence and drug-related conflicts in several areas. The alert states, in part, â€œWhile millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year (including thousands who cross the land border every day for study, tourism or business), violence in the country has increased recently.â€
Travel agents should be aware that the most noteworthy crimes are taking place in border towns including Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez and the city of Chihuahua. The most popular tourist destinations, including Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Los Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta, remain safe for visitors.
The following is an abbreviated response from the Mexico Tourism Board:
Mexico remains a safe tourist destination and this is reflected in the 22.6 million international visitors that arrived in 2008, of which 18 million were Americans. This number represents a 5.9 percent increase from the previous year. Tourists who suffered any incidents were minimal. The violence associated with drug trafficking is isolated in cities that are far away from tourism destinations. We suggest using common precautions as when traveling to any foreign country.
Q: Is Mexico an unsafe place to travel?
Mexico ranks tenth as an international travel destination in the world and is the number one international tourism destination for North Americans traveling abroad. Many tourists to the country are repeat visitors, which demonstrates that the vast majority of tourists are satisfied and leave with overwhelmingly positive impressions.
Q: The travel alert issued by the U.S. State Department warns that even travel within the country beyond the border is dangerous. Should I just avoid traveling to Mexico completely?
No. Common sense and proper precautions must be taken when traveling anywhere, and Mexico is no exception. Whether traveling on the border or if you find yourself in another area of the country, stick to legitimate businesses and tourist areas. Be aware of your surroundings and your stay should be a memorable and safe experience. Mexicoâ€™s frontier, like many other frontiers in other countries, at times experiences certain conflicts and those crossing border states should do so while taking the proper precautions.
Q: Then what do you make of the U.S. State Department warning against travel to the border due to infighting among drug cartels?
In Mexico, the possession and consumption of drugs and narcotics are illegal. The laws governing these offenses are stricter and the resulting fines and prison sentences are often harsher than those provided for in U.S. and Canadian law.
The recent incidents involving drug traffickers have prompted U.S. and Canadian authorities to suggest travelers exercise extra caution when visiting certain border towns.
It is important to note, however, that this temporary announcement does not advise travelers against visiting the many safe tourist destinations. In fact, Leslie Bassett, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, declared that the intention of the alert is to inform of the violent acts that are taking place in specific states of Mexico as well as in other nations. She clarified that in no way does this alert seek to negatively portray the tourist destinations.
Q: Shouldnâ€™t everyone just avoid going to Mexico, with everything that is going on with the crime and drug dealers?
Itâ€™s important to note that hotel occupancy in the popular destinations for tourists within Mexico remains strong. A report from the Secretary of Tourism elaborated this month (February 2009) shows the following: Cancunâ€™s hotel occupancy at 73%, Riviera Maya at 85%, Los Cabos at 69% and Puerto Vallarta at 78%.
As the countryâ€™s promotion agency, the Mexico Tourism Board recommends visitors to contact our many offices for more information on the destination they are planning to visit.
Drug dealing and possession are a social problem that every nation faces, and Mexico is no exception. Visitors can be confident that local authorities are working hard to apprehend all those who violate the law to bring them to justice.
Q: What if something does happen? Will emergency services be able to help?
Federal and local governments are constantly working on improving emergency services, not only for tourists but for locals, too. Visitors should take precautions if they have any pre-existing medical needs and speak to their doctors before they travel abroad. We are also working on raising the bar in our standards to that our guests are kept safe, such as de-legalizing open bars in areas known as Spring Break destinations.
Hundreds of thousands of American students travel to resort areas throughout Mexico over Spring Break each year. The best way to enjoy their vacation without incident is to use some common sense to avoid dangerous situations. We encourage students to drink responsibly and be aware of the laws and regulations.
As stated in the U.S. State Dept. website:
â€œExcessive alcohol consumption and unruly behavior can lead to serious problems with Mexican authorities. Alcohol is involved in the vast majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes, rapes, and deaths suffered by American students on Spring Break. Disturbing the peace, lewd or indecent behavior, littering, driving under the influence, drinking on the street or on public transportation, using public transportation without payment, or making obscene or insulting remarks are all considered criminal activities by Mexican authorities.
For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens in Mexico, please contact the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-52-55-5080-2000; telephone within Mexico City: 5080-2000; telephone long distance within Mexico 01-55-5080-2000. You may also contact the Embassy by e-mail at: http://firstname.lastname@example.org. The Embassy’s Internet address is http://www.usembassy-mexico.gov/
Here’s a link to the full text of the U.S. State Department Travel Alert, please read it yourself.
It is worth noting that in the past few weeks the Cancun Airport has seen record numbers of international flights arriving, the airport is busier than ever before with tourists arriving for vacation.
I also want to point out that the exchange rate between the U.S. Dollar and the Mexican Peso is such that Americans traveling to Mexico right now can enjoy real bargains.