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In a Little Cafe on the Other Side of the Border, a Virtual Visitor's Blog on Cancun

March 2009
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Is Cancun and the Riviera Maya Safe Redux
Filed under: Cancun Tourism, Is Cancun Safe
Posted by: Dangers @ 9:23 pm

Well, here we are again folks, the follow up blog to the follow up blog regarding whether the Cancun and Riviera Maya areas of the Mexican State of Quintana Roo are safe. Please read below for the detailed answer based on a variety of sources including but not limited to the US State Department, the US Mexican Embassy, the Canadian Foreign Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Tourism of Mexico and associated sources including Karisma Resorts.  In my opinion the region and many other destinations in Mexico are safe provided normal precautions used anywhere in the world are maintained.

Recent conflicts discussed in the U.S. media have been isolated to the Mexican border towns of Tijuana, Chihuahua and Ciudad Juarez, all of which are located between 1,311 miles and 2,012 miles from Cancun and the Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Detail Map of Areas of Violence and Distances from Cancun and the Riviera Maya

A follow up statement from the US State Department on March 6, 2009:

“US Travelers Told Mexican Violence ‘Localized’”

Washington D.C.
Mexico’s escalating drug violence need not stop the customary spring exodus of American students south of the border, the US State Department said Friday. Amid warnings of spiraling Mexican murder rates, the US State Department said much of the country remains unscathed by running battles between security forces and rival cartels.”We notice that many of the violent activities are localized in several different places. They are not general across the north of Mexico, let alone through … the entire country,” State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said. As students prepare their annual spring break from studies, concerns have grown about the safety of popular Mexican getaways such as Cancun and Acapulco which traditionally swarm with hedonistic students each March. Duguid said violence was “not systematic throughout the country.” In February, the State Department warned travelers of the risk posed by increased violence, particularly along the US-Mexico border. Last year an estimated 5,300 people died in Mexico as a result of drug-related violence.”

From the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City:

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.”

From the Canadian Foreign Ministry Office:

“You can see that certainly the conventional tourist spots, the major tourist locations, don’t have any more risk involved than at normal times,” Peter Kent, Canada’s junior foreign minister, said in an interview. “But there are parts of Mexico off the beaten path . . . where there have been incidents lately, and they’re itemized on the (departmental) website.” Kent called the advisory “really just a heads-up to remind folks there are situations in Mexico that can be risky, if not dangerous, and that people should think before they get into certain situations, certain locations.”…

The Washington Post:

The Washington Post reported that the alert for Mexico focuses on border towns and makes no mention of “Cancun and other Caribbean resort areas” and that crime bosses and street dealers have little interest in harming tourists.

The Latin Business Chronicle: Fox News Bill O’Reilly Is Wrong!

It is quite irresponsible for Bill O’Reilly to urge Americans to completely stay away from Mexico, as he did on yesterday’s on Fox News. “I would not allow my children to go to Mexico on spring break, particularly when you have Florida and the Caribbean and other alternatives,” O’Reilly said.

This after his guest, travel expert Pauline Frommer of the  Frommer’s Travel Guide rightly pointed out that Mexico was a diverse country, with some parts being more dangerous than others. “You have to realize that Mexico is a very big country and 50 percent of the violence is in the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico,” she said. “Cancun is very different from Juarez or Tijuana or the places where the murders have been.” 

As Frommer pointed out, warning against travel to any destination in Mexico because of the danger in certain areas, would be like warning against travel to New York because of danger in Detroit.

(Editorial Opinion from the Latin Business Chronicle)

The Edmonton Sun: Mexican Resorts Safe, areas near U.S. Borders dangerous


Local travel agents say travelers  bound for Mexican resorts shouldn’t worry about escalating drug wars in parts of the country. On Friday, the Department of Foreign Affairs updated its travel report to warn Canadians to “exercise a high degree of caution” when traveling to northern parts of Mexico bordering the U.S., particularly cities like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, which have been struck by drug cartel bloodshed in recent months.

“Canadians should be particularly vigilant in northern Mexico … as firefights between the military and drug cartels can occur without warning at any time,” the advisory reads.

But Edmonton agents say they rarely send locals anywhere outside of the sandy beaches of the Mayan Riveria, Cancun or Ixtapa. “We are not going to send a client to a place that is not safe because we are liable to our guests’ safety,” said Leonor Bela Cruz, owner of Castle Travel. “(Resorts) are completely safe. Unless they get out of the resort and do things that aren’t within our control.”

About 1.4 million Canadians travelled to Mexico last year. That’s an increase of about 20% from 2007.

Bela Cruz said it’s among her most commonly booked destinations. “Really there is no issue,” she said of resort trips.

An agent from SellOffVacations echoed that. “Generally you’re really safe when you stay in the resort,” said Kara Kelemen.

“You have to be respectful and not go to the areas that are affected.” Kelemen said she very rarely books customers to stay in hotels rather than all-inclusive resorts. “Not too many ask for it,” she said.


AAA Travel Representative: 

According to Donati, AAA Arizona encourages travelers to heed travel warnings, but also wants to remind travelers that the violence which spurred the State Department travel advisory is fairly isolated and has not been reported in resort areas like Cabo San Lucas, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta among others, nor on the major highway leading to Rocky Point. Donati says these areas depend on tourism dollars to keep them going, she adds, they are not a major hub for drug cartel related activity, so she says AAA hasn’t seen the violence in the resort towns like there is in border towns.

According to Donati, AAA is anticipating that destinations in Mexico are going to be popular for spring and summer travelers, given their affordability and proximity to the state. However, Donati says AAA would like to remind all travelers, no matter the destination, to use common sense and exercise caution while on vacation. Donati adds, crime can occur in a large metropolitan area in the U.S. as well as another country.

(courtesy ABCNEWS)


1. Is it safe to visit the Riviera Maya and Cancun properties?

a. There have been no reports of incidents in the Riviera Maya. The isolated, drug-related incident that took place outside of Cancun earlier this month was more than 100 miles in the opposite direction of Riviera Maya, and did not involve everyday citizens or tourists.

b. We have been reassured by the tourism ministry that Riviera Maya remains a safe tourist destination.

c. Border towns including Chihuahua and Tijuana, which are the focus of such violence, are more than 1,500 miles and 2,000 miles from Riviera Maya, respectively.

2. Wasn’t there a travel advisory cautioning travelers about popular tourist areas like Los Cabos and Cancun?

a. No, the Mexico Tourism Board maintains that Mexico remains a safe tourist destination, further reassuring that popular tourist destinations including Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, and the Riviera Maya all remain safe for visitors.

b. The U.S. Department of State also issued a travel alert warning U.S. citizens about dangers in border towns.

3. Are reports that the Cancun Airport has been taken over by the military true?

a. Despite the proliferation of rumors, there are no reports indicating the takeover of the Cancun Airport by military officials.

Travel Agent Magazine Interview with Mandy Chomat, V.P. Karisma Hotels & Resorts:

Mandy Chomat, vice president of marketing and sales for Karisma Hotels & Resorts, vented to Travel Agent Tuesday about the false belief by consumers that the Riviera Maya and other non-U.S. bordering Mexico territories are unsafe. A string of brutal murders of local police officials earlier this month along with other ongoing violence in Mexico prompted the State Department to issue an official travel alert for all Americans planning to travel to Mexico.What gets lost in the alert, however, is the fact that only U.S. bordering towns, mainly Tijuana, have been the scenes of the crime. But the Riviera Maya, Los Cabos and other territories far away from the crime scenes, are being found guilty by association in clients’ eyes and Chomat can’t take it anymore. In a one-on-one phone interview, Chomat told us that operators and agents, now, more than ever, need to stress to their clients that not all of Mexico is unsafe. Despite attacks near the U.S border, other territories like the Riviera Maya have remained just as safe as they’ve always been. Although repeat customers will continue to flock to Karisma’s Riviera Maya properties, Chomat is concerned that the exaggerated news may turn off honeymooners and other first-time visitors.

“It’s frustrating because what is going on in Mexico City and its border has nothing to do with Cancun, the Riviera Maya or other parts of Mexico that are no where near where the violence is occurring,” Chomat told us. “We’ve even gone as far as to show operators and agents maps to point out how far away our destination is from the border towns.”

Chomat isn’t alone in his frustration. He said he recently met with hoteliers from Los Cabos and other regions in Mexico that were being unfairly linked to the violence. “People see a warning to Mexico and think its all of Mexico,” Chomat says. “I don’t think they realize how big of a country it really is…


The country of Mexico encompasses approximately 758,449 square miles (1,964,375 square km), and incidents that affect one city or region can have little to no impact on the safety of regions on the opposite side of the country.  According to the Mexican Tourism Board, these incidents have not affected the decision of tourists to travel to Mexico, which continues to receive thousands of tourists monthly.  More than 22.6 million international tourists visited Mexico in 2008,  representing a 5.9 percent increase compared to 2007.

Further, in February 2009, hotel occupancy in Riviera Maya was at 85 percent. 

Please note that: