Last Friday the U.S. Department of State issued a Travel Warning for Americans who are considering vacationing or otherwise traveling to Mexico; this latest advisory supersedes a warning issued in May. As the new posting states: “The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major drug trafficking routes. Nevertheless, crime and violence are serious problems.”
According to the State Department, Travel Warnings are issued when long-term, protracted conditions make a country “dangerous or unstable” and the U.S. Government's ability to assist American citizens is constrained due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff. Conversely, Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information about short-term conditions that pose significant risks; these can be due to such conditions as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, coups, anniversaries of terrorist events, election-related demonstrations or violence, and other high-profile events.As for Mexico, the State Department notes that narcotics-related crime is a “particular concern” along the northern border with the United States; however, violence also has occurred in areas frequented by American tourists. The warning states: “U.S. citizens traveling in Mexico should exercise caution in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times.”
Among the safety tips offered for U.S. citizens:
• Avoid traveling alone.
• Leave an itinerary with a family member or friend not traveling.
• Confirm that cellular coverage is available.
• Make every attempt to travel on main roads—particularly toll or “cuota” roads—during daylight hours.
• Stay in well-known tourist areas.
• Do not display expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items.
Further information is available in the Travel Warning posting.
Despite such cautionary advice, the latest statistics indicate Mexican tourism has been surging. According to the country’s Tourism Secretariat, Mexico posted tourism revenues of $5.56 billion during the first five months of 2010, which represents a 6.1 percent increase from the same period last year.
At a press conference last week to announce a new $55 million advertising campaign aimed at promoting Mexican tourism to American and Canadian travelers, Rodolfo Lopez, the director of the Tourism Promotion Council, addressed concerns about safety. “Undoubtedly the isolated issue of violence that we've had is an issue that has a certain impact on the perception of the consumer," Lopez said. "Our function is not to speak of security, our function is to speak of the assets we have as a country.”
Other Travel Warnings issued recently by the State Department include Israel and Haiti, while recent Travel Alerts include Jamaica.—William J. McGee