Mexico tries to counter ‘dangerous’ image

By Doug Newhouse |

The Mexico Tourism Board’s (MTB) COO Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete says that it is important that travellers do not over-react to ‘adverse publicity’ suggesting that the country is not safe and it has launched an advertising campaign to counter this image. Having said this, 37,000 people have died after government crackdowns on drug gangs.

The good news for the MTB is that foreign visitors still spent $11.9bn last year in Mexico, up 5% from 2009 when the global economic crisis and H1N1 virus took their toll on global tourism. But 2010 figures were still down 10% compared to the $13.3bn achieved in 2008.

Mexico has now launched an advertising campaign to counter its image as a ‘dangerous’ country and this is aimed primarily at the US, which still provides more tourists to the country than any other nation. Mexico has been particularly hit by US travel alerts warning Americans about the violence south of the border.

More than 37,000 people have been killed in Mexico since late 2006 when President Felipe Calderon vowed to break up powerful cartels battling for lucrative smuggling routes into the United States.

While acknowledging there is still a huge problem, the Mexican Government and its tourism arm still insist that tourism is ‘alive and well’ in the country, with the reported troubles taking place quite some distance from the tourist resorts.

“There are many exciting developments happening in Mexico each and every day,” said Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete, COO, Mexico Tourism Board. “Mexico continues to be a destination of choice for many people around the world and it is important that travellers not over-react to current security concerns. It is my responsibility to tell that ‘untold’ story of Mexico.”

The MTB says that many of the major resorts have reported ‘strong tourism numbers’ for Mexico during the first quarter of the year, with 90% occupancy rates for the Easter Week. The tourism body also adds that several major hotel chains are investing in Mexico and are set to open new properties in the near future.

In a statement, the MTB said: “Mexican tourist destinations are safe and Mexico continues to be the number one destination for Americans. As the US Department of State has noted, ‘millions of US citizens travel safely to Mexico each year,’ including ‘at least one million US citizens who live in Mexico’.

“We just finished Easter week with over 90% occupancy rates in most of the destinations and without any incidents related to tourists. The current advisory in place is an extension of the advisory that was issued in late 2010. Authorities in Mexico are working closely with the destinations pointed out by the travel advisory to ensure that there is necessary infrastructure in place to address any safety concerns.

“Last year more than 22m foreigners visited Mexico and internationally-celebrated destinations in the country. Mexico continues to be a top destination for foreign visitors. “Most of Mexico’s tourism destinations are located many hundreds of miles away from the Mexico/US border where the majority of the reported incidences have occurred and we ask all our visitors to exercise the same safety precautions they would use when visiting any tourism destinations within or outside their own country.” 

Meanwhile, the MTB also points out that Mexico continues to be the second most visited country for cruise travellers. In February 2011, the average expenditure of cruise travelers to Mexico was $90.70, an increase of 4.2% compared to the same month in 2010 and an increase of 12.4% compared to February 2009.

At the same time, several airlines including Virgin America recently launched non-stop flights from San Francisco International to Cabo San Lucas back in December 2011. The MTB adds that many are also considering increasing their routes to Mexico – including American Airlines and Continental.

[In March, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a notice advising college students not to travel to Mexico for their Spring break with the dramatic message: ‘Stay alive.’ At the same time a US State Department advisory ahead of the Easter weekend this year warned all Americans to avoid all but essential travel to 10 states in northern and central Mexico due to ‘ongoing violence and persistent security concerns.’]



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