Travel Still Safe to Major Tourist Hubs in Mexico
Feb 27, 09 | 10:58 am
(The following is a press release from the folks at Travel Video Television and contains in part, a statement from the Mexican Tourism Board)
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, “While 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.”
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.
(Photo:Courtesy of Por Esto)
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.
Mexico’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 Basset, 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: Shouldn’t everyone just avoid going to Mexico, with everything that is going on with the crime and drug dealers?
It’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: Cancun’s hotel occupancy at 73%, Riviera Maya at 85%, Los Cabos at 69% and Puerto Vallarta at 78%,
As the country’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.
The Cancun Beach scene is on the front burner right now and not for the reasons one may expect, not Spring Break, not quiet Caribbean breezes at night during beach walks and not because another tropical storm has reaped havoc on the fragile Cancun coast but rather, in a word, restoration. The Cancun Beach Restoration Project for 2009 is going out to bids both national and foreign, with results anticipated in approximately fifteen days before a review period and the awarding of the contract(s). The financing for the project has been put forward, signed off on and approved, in a multiple tiered government level, from the federal level down to the individual municipalities involved, and bank loans have been granted based on, what else, future taxation.
The project is said to include 11.1 miles of beach in Cancun’s southern Hotel Zone, almost 3 miles of beach in Playa Del Carmen, 1.5 miles on Isla Cozumel in multiple areas, and if previous reports are correct PlayaNorte, Isla Mujeres. The sand is to be pulled from two outer banks, underwater, off shore, North of the island of Cozumel. The project will include funds for future beach replenishment over a ten year period in case of continued and expected erosion due to tropical storms and will require the removal of previous man made barriers and breakwaters. The sand pumped onto the Cancun beaches will be approximately three times the amount of sand that was applied in the previous replenishment project a few years back.
It’s expected the restoration plus process will take up to 151 days to complete for all destinations mentioned and minimal disturbance is expected to beach fronting hotels and only in short increments when occurring so that there will be limited annoyance to vacationers. The sand replenishment process will take place barring delays between late May and the end of August in Cancun. It is also expected that there may be some man made jetty’s or breakwaters added strategically though the placement and extent is not in the public venue at this time. The texture of the sand has also been mandated in the contract and should be expected to be fine material that most will find comfortable.
We should note that a citizen’s group on Cozumel is protesting under environmental concerns the removal of the sand at the two outer banks off Cozumel at present.
In any case, the approximately $75-80,000,000, ten year, project is a much needed shot in the arm for Cancun’s southern beaches from Punta Nizuc to Punta Cancun (Club Med to Dreams Cancun), many of which were damaged over the last few years in storm surges and via natural erosion. Cancun has been taking heavy negative publicity especially from competing destinations in the Caribbean for its beaches or lack thereof.
Now, we shall wait and see, after-all this is still Mexico and home of the Mexican minute, hour, day, week, etc. and like all government projects everywhere across the globe, getting something done on time and within budget is usually a long shot.
But for now, there’s joy in the land of the tourists and the economic engine for over a half a million working Cancunense who rely heavily on the tourist industry for economic income to support their families. Personally, I never thought I’d see the beaches have the look of the period before Hurricane Gilberto in 1988 again and here we are, the possible dawn of a new beach era in Cancun.
With a beachfront, 20 plus years in the waiting, absolutely terrific news on the Cancun scene.
My lover stands on golden sands, and watch’s the ships that go sailin’…
One of the things folks ask me all the time regarding Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean in general is; “what is there to do, what are the best tours, and where are your favorite places to go”. Of course where I go and where they would want to go may be the difference between the dark and light side of the moon. So, what we’ll do here via a couple of top ten lists, will be to list our recommendations for infrequent Cancun visitors and the Danger’s Top Ten, some popular, some not. Keep in mind, these are our opinions, and not necessarily backed by statistical proof not that we would care anyway, here goes;
Cancun Top Ten Visitor Attractions:
1) Chichen Itza, the grand daddy of the Maya Ruin sites, a must see when visiting the area
2) Xcaret, arguably the best Eco Park in North America, make sure you catch the night show
3) Xel Ha, beautiful lagoon and water sports based Eco Park
4) Tulum, another scenic sight, the ruins aren’t major league but the view is, the ad for Mexico
5) Dolphin Interaction (multiple sites), I’ve done it, don’t recommend it, do it with captive born dolphins if you must
6) Jungle Adventure Tour (mini speed boats and snorkeling) The lagoon is polluted, stay out of it, plus, it has croc’s.
7) Isla Mujeres, I wish we never told anyone about this one, I’d like to keep her to myself
8) Coco Bongo (nightclub), Las Vegas style shenanigans, current reigning Cancun Nightlife King
9) Playa Del Carmen, skip the Mega Resorts and spend the day and evening here, in town
10) Isla Cozumel, one day is not enough and certainly not a cruise agenda, dive, dive, dive
The Danger’s Top Ten:
1) Isla Mujeres, particularly El Garrafon, Punta Sur, Playa Norte and more than a few cantinas
2) Fifth Avenue, Playa Del Carmen (eclectic mix of beach, bars, restaurants and shops)
3) Isla Cozumel, diving, snorkeling, Chankanaab Park, lazy boat drinks in San Miguel
4) Isla Blanca and El Meco at Punta Sam, beautiful uncrowded beaches and shady Maya Ruins
5) Parque de las Palapas, downtown Cancun just off restaurant row, relaxing evenings, locals
6) Puerto Morelos, laid back fishing village turned seaside resort with great beaches
7) Old Chichen Itza, adjacent to the main city ruins but unexcavated, you can feel the history
8) Akumal, serene, picturesque, holding on but not holding out
9) Xcaret, the tourist in me still enjoys the vast Eco Park and exhibits
10) Visiting with friends in the downtown and hotel zone, this is probably number one on my list but not for the average visitor, and my friends downtown would have fed me to the pterodactyls had I not added them on this list.
So, there it is, the lazy man’s blog but one hopefully wrack full of information for the visitor and the explorer. Along the way here, I’ll do a bird’s eye view of various tours and places along with individual favorite restaurants and what not as we’ve already done with the Maya Ruins at El Meco and El Rey.
Till next time…
I’ve a pretty Senorita waiting for me, Down in old Mexico…
This one’s for the future visitor or the return visitor who had such a good time the first time, they don’t remember being there. “There”, is of course, Mexico, the original homeland of the Aztec, Maya and Olmec along with a host of other Amerindian civilizations all pre-dating Spanish colonialism before the Spanish arrival during the western European expansion period some centuries ago.
The first thing the casual tourist needs to get a grip on is that Mexico is large, big, spacious, if Texas is big, Mexico is gargantuan, nearly three times the size of the State of Texas. We’re not talking some tiny island nation here, some loosely held Banana Republic or some obscure destination hidden from the real world. Mexico is large, almost two million kilometers large and something happening on the Mexico- U.S. border is about as relative to Los Cabos or Cancun as something happening in New York, is to Orlando, Florida.
And, no you aren’t going to drive from Cancun to Cabo San Lucas on vacation, or Puerto Vallarta or to Las Vegas for that matter.
Mexico is also considered part of North America, sometimes arguably defined as “Middle” America but it’s not in Central America and it’s not in South America, and it isn’t an island though its territorial rights include more than a few, among them the Island of Swallows, Cozumel, on the Mexican Caribbean. Mexico also borders the Pacific Ocean in the West and the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea in the East.
And, Mexico, has people, good Lord, it has people, approximately 110 million of them, honest to goodness, mainly hardworking people trying to earn a living, raise families, educate their children and generally make a better life for their children through better schools, government and medicine. The large majority of those people don’t ride burros, wear sombreros, eat Frito’s or wait in box canyons to rob people shouting out ”we don’t need no stinkin’ badges”.
Mexico is a melting pot of a vast array of cultures, modern Mexican cities like Cancun, a city built out of the tropical forest along the Caribbean for tourism, are a sampling of a multi-regional culturalism from all over Mexico with thousands of international citizens thrown in for good measure. It is also a culture with a large segment of Amerindian descendants. The Aztec and Maya didn’t disappear as a people with the Spanish conquest though Spain and other western European nations did their best to drive them to extinction, they live on, populating massive regions of Mexico today. Those cities and pyramids left standing today as monuments to archaeology, and often archaeology and tourism gone wrong, are the remnants of the vast highly developed cultures that preceded today’s Aztec and Maya descendants. In fact it’s estimated that as much as 30% of Mexico’s current day population is almost entirely of Amerindian descent with approximately 90% of the population having some form of their gene pool mixed with the original Amerindian inhabitants.
Mexico has a 1.5 trillion, yes, a trillion dollar economy, so we’re not talking a backwards Banana Republic here relying on the sale of coconuts to tourists to get by. Mexico has a government, a congress, a president, and a court system, it has a constitution and is more properly known in English as the “United Mexican States” in its federal republic. Sound a bit familiar, Mexico has 31 individual states all with similar governmental structures as the overall republic. Mexico is a republican democracy, elects officials to government and maintains a standing army, navy and air force.
Mexico also has religion, predominately Christian, mostly Catholic and most of her citizens speak Spanish with a surprising number quite capable of dual languages, either English, Maya or Nahuatl, or combination thereof. If you think learning a bit of Spanish is tough, try and get a grip on some Maya.
Nope, no banana republic, no island tourism special and no backwards nation waiting for foreign tourists to come to show them the way. No cannibals, no hordes of roaming banditos and no one waiting for modern baubles and beads handed out by tourists to make their lives easier. If you intend to tip for services in Mexico, and tipping is common, similar to the U.S., the hands down bottom line, is tip in the monetary form unless you’re handing out Flat Screens and Laptops.
Now that we’ve been through some basic geography, history and geopolitics, travelers and tourists to Mexico need to realize that your preconception has to be adjusted, in some cases radically when visiting Mexico. Mexico isn’t some slighted backward step sister of a nation, she’s a nation on the move, developing, learning as she goes, an equal partner in the North American scene. Her people are educated, industrious, and devoted to their families and religion. She has modern medical facilities, modern telecommunications, major institutions of learning, modern industry and above all a people every bit as worthy and equal as our own, wherever that may be. Is Mexico perfect, no, like every other nation on the planet there’s problems, problems that the people and her leaders are battling to correct to give the current and next generations a better life.
If any of this has sounded very familiar, it’s not surprising, Mexico and her people are very similar to people all over the world, your neighborhood, your house.
So, folks, long and short of this is, respect the people, respect the culture, and remember you’re a guest in their nation, a welcome guest but a guest nonetheless.
Oh, Mexico, I guess you’ll have to go….
Dangers…with apologies to all the Banana Republic’s out there