Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Contrarian Traveler Calls for More Responsible Travel Warnings

31 March 2011

The Contrarian Traveler, Peter Greenberg, who writes about business travel for BNet, criticizes the Texas Department of Public Safety in a recent column for issuing a press release warning people to avoid Mexico over spring break.  Greenberg found the warning unfounded and misleading, as well as a bit fear-mongering.  Texas DPS Director Steven C. McCraw was quoted as saying, “avoid traveling to Mexico during Spring Break and stay alive.”

Acknowledging that official statements like that carry weight for both business and leisure travelers, Greenberg, who was traveling in Mexico during the time the statement was issued, felt it was irresponsible.  Citing his own trip which stretched from Oaxaca to Chihuahua to Mexico City and encountered zero problems, he relays the fact that business travelers he found in Mexico were not worried about safety issues.  Because business travelers tend to be more savvy and streetwise travelers than vacationing tourists, they also tend to exercise more common sense regarding travel conditions.

Greenberg points out that the often used statistic that 64 Americans died in Mexico last year does not specify the cause of deaths and thus, is a misleading statistic.  He presents some facts to contextualize the worry those statistics seem to generate.

  • An overwhelming majority of the crime is in the northern part of the country.
  • The distance between Tijuana and Cancun almost matches the distance between Los Angeles and New York.
  • An overwhelming majority of the crime is drug related, and it is generally cartel versus cartel.  Americans aren’t targeted.

Greenberg’s article is extremely well reasoned and written from a wealth of travel experience; you can read it in full here.

Peaceful Merida, Rich with Tradition and Social Capital

24 March 2011

The beginning of 2011 saw a return to media fanfare about violence in Mexico amidst more drug trafficking related deaths.  And with the sensationalism comes another round of voices who want to speak to the Mexico that they know and have experienced.  One of those voices, writer Edith Wilson, addressed the controversy in The Washington Post at the beginning of March, speaking earnestly about the southeastern Mexican town of Merida, where she recently traveled for a month.

Merida, the capital of the Yucatan state with a population of one million and famous for its Mayan ruins, provides an example of an average city recognizable in any American state.  Violent crime is low, free  WiFi can be found in public parks, and families gather in the streets for cultural events, like a recent festival which brought in Colombian rock star Juanes to play an outdoor concert.  Says Wilson:

“I just spent a month wandering its clean, civilized streets, often by myself, and I’ve never felt safer or met nicer people. This is the Mexico rich in social capital, tradition and culture that we should cherish and defend, and that is almost blotted out amid news of drug violence.”

In her article, Wilson praises what she experienced in Merida – a wealth of social capital and rich culture, “where the community, rich and poor, gathers in public; and where pride in local culture feeds adherence to values that serve the needs of all” – and urges readers to not be blinded by the Mexico they see in the media.

You can read the full article, here.

The Real Worries To Have When Traveling To Mexico

18 March 2011

Back from a writer’s conference in Puerto Vallarta, travel writer Susie Albin-Najera took a moment to reflect in writing on the country’s safety. As a travel writer, she is frequently asked about safety in Mexico, and her answer is always yes it’s possible to run into violence, but is it probable?  No.

After another pleasant stay (Albin-Najera is a frequent traveler to Mexico) she felt compelled to compile a list of what travelers should really worry about when traveling to Mexico. Some of those include:

* You might overeat at the endless Sunday brunch and get heartburn
* You might get acid indigestion from too much fresh squeezed lemonade
* You might get sunburned and have to spend extra money buying aloe vera gel
* You might lose your hearing if you are sitting next to a 26-piece mariachi band
* You might have a hard time deciding whether to go to the beach or get a massage

To read the full list, go here.

On Location in Mexico: Hollywood Productions Have Safe Track Record

16 March 2011

Part of the fallout from Mexico’s drug war has been lost revenue from Hollywood production budgets. Once a prime shooting location for Hollywood films, Mexican film commissions have taken a hit as Hollywood takes sensationalized media reports of violence to heart. Mexico City film commissioner Fernando Uriegas told Variety that drugs have,

“not only given business to the cartels, but to the media who cover the violence around them. As long as these stories sell space, they’ll keep running them.”

In response to the fallout, state tourism and film commissions are taking extra steps to ensure the safety of productions.  According to state film commissioner Sergio Gutierrez, local and state police along with federal troops circle the sets with full security and even offer to fly in stars via helicopter, courtesy of the state government.

Noting that most of the nine productions that shot in the Mexican state of Durango last year asked to reduce security measures as shooting progressed, Gutierrez said, “When (actors and producers) come, they usually come with fear, but after a few weeks of filming, they realize that all this has more to do with the media … that this isn’t how they say it is.”

Read the full article here.

Calderon Addresses Violence in Mexico with Travel Weekly

8 March 2011

In another interview, this time with Travel Weekly’s Arnie Weissmann, President Felipe Calderon addressed violence in Mexico, and what Mexico is doing to keep tourists safe.  Once again saying that violence is concentrated in certain areas of Mexico, Calderon also pointed out that other countries have higher homicide rates than Mexico, even though they don’t get as much press.

Said Calderon: “Most of the troubles we have are with gangs fighting other gangs. Mexico has more than 2,500 municipalities, and 80% of the problems are focused in 80 municipalities. Consider the rate of homicides per 100,000 people. Mexico has about 15 homicides per 100,000 people. Jamaica has about 60. Guatemala and El Salvador are closer to 70. And even some cities in United States, like Washington, D.C., Baltimore and New Orleans, have more homicides per 100,000 people than Mexico.”

Calderon told Weissmann that in addition to fighting all types of organized crime, government officials are paying close attention to popular travel destinations, and any incidents involving tourists are attended to at the federal level.

Read the full interview here.

President Felipe Calderon Speaks on Mexico’s Violence with AARP

4 March 2011

In a recent interview with Viva, the American Association of Retired People’s bilingual publication for Hispanics, President Felipe Calderon addressed tourist concerns about violence in Mexico.  Calderon told tourists not to worry, and reminded viewers that violence was limited to certain areas in Mexico.  Calderon also spoke about the growing community of retired people who have made a home in Mexico and live there happily; he said:

“Over 2.5 million U.S. citizens live in Mexico – half of them retire – and they live very peacefully.  For them, Mexico is a safe country, and we are always very alert to any incidents that may occur.”

Citing the over 20 million international tourists that came to Mexico last year, Calderon urged people to feel safe about coming to Mexico to both visit and to live.

Watch the full interview, with English subtitles, above.

Mexico still a popular destination for spring break goers

3 March 2011

Spring break students are still heading to Mexico in droves, according to reports from travel agents.  Many agents site factors such as a somewhat better U.S. economy, beautiful beaches and ultra cheap prices, which are particularly attractive to students.  Also, popular spring break destinations like Cancun, Carmen del Playa, Cabo San Lucas, and the Riviera Maya are far away from the border violence which has plagued Mexican tourism.

From the article:

Most U.S. travelers understand that the violence is confined to specific areas, she said. And a lot of college students, with their fixed income, are attracted to the all-encompassing deals at resorts.

“It boils down to value overall,” Gerhardt said. “People, particularly with the winter we’ve been having, they’re looking for sun and fun and value.”

Read the full article here.