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Mexico: Si-Si or No-Go?

Mexico: Si-Si or No-Go?

Pity the Mexican tourism officials.

The country they’re charged with promoting boasts everything a marketer could want: rich history, resonant culture, friendly people, gorgeous beaches, moderate climate. And it shares a border with the U.S.

But the horrific stories of violence and pandemonium bred of the country’s pervasive narco-terrorism contradict the balmy tranquility depicted in the glossy brochures and travel posters.

No wonder the country is a hard sell.

For several years, I was comfortable promoting Mexico as a compelling travel value. Demand was weak, so airlines and hoteliers routinely discounted their rates. And the violence, while extreme, was concentrated in specific areas and seemed easily avoidable.

But as the carnage continued and the country looked increasingly like a failed state, my enthusiasm waned. Sure, the odds of becoming a victim of the country’s drug wars are still infinitesimally small. But why even subject yourself to the anxiety when there are plenty of stress-free destinations vying for your travel dollar?

Even as my support for Mexico travel cooled, I have been watching for signs that the situation was changing, either for better or worse. And this week, Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism had some modestly encouraging news, reporting a 5 percent increase in the number of tourists arriving by air during the first quarter of 2013.

That’s hardly a turn-around in the country’s fortunes. But it could be a sign that travelers are slowly gaining a better understanding of which destinations are more danger-prone (Acapulco, for instance) and which are safer (Puerto Vallarta), rather than dismissing the country outright as an undifferentiated whole.

The stakes for Mexico are high. In 2012, tourism accounted for $11 billion in revenues, and was the third-largest source of foreign-exchange earnings, after oil and money sent back to in-country friends and relatives by emigrants.

Reader Reality Check

What’s your take on Mexico as a travel destination: go-go or no-go?

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  • D Daniel

    Oh please…. I have lived in various places in Mexico off and on for the last several years. The “failed state” BS is US propaganda at it’s finest. The majority of Mexico is very safe and the bad parts are no more dangerous to tourists than bad cities in the US. If you go looking for trouble you can find it. But random violence against tourists is incredibly rare. Look up random violence in cities like NOLA, LA, Philadelphia, even my beloved Chicago.. vs RANDOM violence in Mexico. Do I hear you questioning rather you should go to those places?

    Why go to Mexico? The people are some of the nicest on the planet. The beaches are amazing! The food is excellent, fresh and cheap. As for value? Right now I’m staying in a lovely $275/week room 50′ from the Caribe that has high speed wifi, a kitchenette and weekly maid service. The beaches here are rated in the top 10 in the world and they are accessible to everyone.

    If you want a non-beach experience there are Mayan ruins, amazing colonial cities, mountains and canyons to name a few. It is a huge country with amazing history, culture and natural beauty.

    Pity the tourism officials? No, pity the ignorant @ssh@ts who believe what they read in the news because they are missing a wonderful time. I’ve got real news for you… while the Americans and Canadians may have been staying away everyone else is here in droves. The other guests at the guesthouse are Swiss and German and a couple from Japan are settling in on Sunday. In the last weeks I’ve met Australians, Irish, several French, Russians, more Germans and a bunch of folks from Israel. On second thought… stay home, Mexico is probably better off without you…!

  • antidemagogue

    Having been born and raised in Mexico, my perspective might be a bit different. I travel to Mexico frequently, mostly by choice. It is still, by far, the best deal for the money.

    As happens frequently, I believe that we of tend to ignore the forest by looking at the trees. Crime by drug cartels and other “organized crime” entities are still, overall not the bulk of the problem, liike Marathon bombings and school shootings are not the bulk of the crime and violence in the USA. It is merely the focus of more attention. Thefts, robberies, are still a problem like they always have been, Mexico remains, no matter how hard they try, a “third world” country that shares it’s crime pattern with other underdeveloped economies. Acapulco has always been violent. Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, are overall safe. Use common sense. Just like there are “safer” neighborhoods in the USA, Europe, the same thing happens in Mexico.

  • Kathy M

    Agree to all of the above. I have been traveling to Mexico for winter vacations in excess of 20 years. Because Itravel with family, my husband and I have purchaes and are on our second time share/vacation club and stay in a top resort in the town of Play del Carmen. It IS getting more and more expensive, mostly due to air prices; generally, though, there is more and more touristy stuff…they are building a mall in Playa and we worry what will happen to the vendors we love so much. Many restauraunts and tours are now at US prices, which is sad, really, and all of the chains are there, too…Mickey Ds, Starbucks.I do wish they could keep these joints away from MX. We have yet to encounter violence but we do stay away from certain areas, mostly in Cancun. The people are absolutely the best best best!!!

  • Elena Mathis

    First of all I cannot believe you used “PV” as an example of a “safe” destination when there have been crimes against tourists there. I still consider it safer than some other places but Los Cabos is truly one of the safest destinations in Mexico, along with Cozumel and the Riviera Maya. I was a travel agent for years (just retired) and never discouraged anyone from going to Mexico – just told them where to go. It would be the same as someone asking me to plan a trip to Los Angeles – I would recommend that they stay in Santa Monica as opposed to Watts!