How safe is it to travel to Mexico has been a hot topic in the news the past few weeks due to a few incidents. As a result, the U.S. State Department has been updating its travel advisory, giving some states within the country a Level 4, which indicates “do not travel,” although the majority of Mexico is at a Level 2 (“exercise increased caution”). That said, the main tourist destinations are perfectly secure, so if your clients are coming to you asking if their trip to Mexico is still safe, you can reassure them that it is.
“Any destination, including small cities in the U.S., have crime and danger. The Mexico Tourism Board advised that more than 40 of the country’s major international tourist destinations have no travel restrictions, which shows that the country is overall a safe destination,” says Kim Goldstein, president and travel advisor with Journeys Inc.
Frank Maduro, v.p. of marketing at AIC Hotel Group, adds that, “Mexico continues to be a leading destination for travelers, welcoming over 39 million tourists in the past year with a 7 percent increase in international tourist arrivals, and becoming the sixth most-visited country in the world. Additionally, our hotels continue to see an increase in bookings from both new and return clients.”
It’s a destination that’s always been safe. There has never been any specific incident with tourists. And the private sector and public sector are working very hard to make sure that’s the way it will remain. — Rodrigo Esponda, Managing Director, Los Cabos Tourism Board
Safety in Mexico and Its Cities
The Mexico Tourism Board states that, “The Mexico government and entire tourism industry continue to invest in initiatives to ensure the safety and satisfaction of visitors coming to Mexico each year. These steps are the reason why Mexico’s tourism industry has been experiencing a growth rate above industry-average levels for the last five years. Media reports have also recently confused the U.S. State Department Travel Advisory website, which currently ranks Mexico as a level 2 nation, the same ranking given to France, Italy and the United Kingdom, where only increased caution is recommended, as a travel warning or alert.”
Acapulco’s tourism board also agreed that the destination is safe for travelers and that what is being shown in the news is not a representation of the entire country. Jesus Radilla, Undersecretary of Tourism for Guerrero, says, “We are convinced that Mexico is an overall safe destination. Every country has its particularities and no place is exempt from incidents, but despite what people hear in the news, the country remains a safe destination.”
Adding that, “Acapulco specifically, hasn’t had an incident involving tourists in many years. The city continues to welcome Mexican and international visitors, which proves that it remains not only attractive, but safe to the point where people keep returning.”
Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of Los Cabos Tourism Board, says, “Los Cabos is a very safe destination. Ninety percent of the beauty in Los Cabos is related to tourism alone, because we breathe and live tourism, everybody takes care of the tourists in a very deep way.”
Though Los Cabos is generally a safe destination, that doesn’t mean they’re resting on their laurels when it comes to safety precautions for tourists. “A year ago, we implemented a strategic approach on safety in the destination. We enlarged the surveillance system throughout the destination; we worked with the Mexican marine to have a headquarter built in Los Cabos; we also work throughout the hotel association and the different suppliers to check on the very important rapid response network where everybody is connected in the same system to make sure they can respond to any specific thing that is needed. And the final point is we have been working with the U.S. government, where the U.S. has working bodies to share these practices and communicate on the specific situations that need to be taken care of.” He adds that, “This has increased the level of safety protection in the destination in general, not just tourists. It’s a destination that’s always been safe. There has never been any specific incident with tourists. And the private sector and public sector are working very hard to make sure that’s the way it will remain.”
Cameras have also been placed around the destination in outdoor public spaces. And for hotels and private entities that have cameras facing the outside, those were included in the system so that all cameras are connected to provide better intelligence and response time in the case of an incident.
Radilla says, “I think it’s important to highlight that most Mexican destinations are going to great measures to make visitors feel safe. In Acapulco, specifically, the government has implemented a series of measures that have proven to effectively control and deter crime against tourists. Among them are the creation of the Tourist Assistance and Protection Center (CAPTA, in Spanish), to provide special assistance to domestic and international travelers, a new training program for state police, the deployment of additional manpower, vehicles and drones during peak seasons, and the homologation of 9-1-1 as an emergency number.”
I travel there often by myself for work, in addition to vacationing there with my family. I certainly wouldn’t do either if I felt unsafe. — Kim Goldstein, President and Travel Agent, Journeys Inc.
Should Travelers be Wary?
It was a resounding no from everyone we asked if travelers should be worried about traveling to Mexico now. From tour operators, hotel suppliers, and tourism boards, everyone is confident that travelers can head to the destination without a worry in their mind.
“No, definitely not as long as they stay in the main touristy areas,” says Goldstein. “Every city has good and bad neighborhoods, but if you stick to the touristy areas, then things are typically pretty quiet and calm. I also think it’s very important to use a reputable DMC for the tours and transfers, such as Lomas Travel. I know my clients are very safe when traveling with them. They monitor each and every vehicle they have out on the road.”
Radilla agrees and adds that travelers should feel confident when heading outside of the resort during their trip. “The resorts are, no doubt, a safe and controlled space. But the best Mexico has to offer is experiencing its culture, its people, its nature. Of course, it’s important that visitors and agents do their research because as with any destination, some areas are safer that others.”
And when it comes to choosing a resort for your clients, Goldstein says, “Most of the resorts that I send my clients to have gated entries and a high level of security. Just be smart and be safe, as you would at home or in any major city.”
Goldstein says her clients feel more comfortable after she talks to them about her thoughts on the destination. “Honestly, with all of the clients who I send to Mexico, I’ve only had a few clients cancel. Usually, once I speak with them over the phone regarding their concerns, they feel very comfortable. I never guarantee safety anywhere, but I assure them that I travel there often by myself for work, in addition to vacationing there with my family. I certainly wouldn’t do either if I felt unsafe,” she says.
And the Mexico Tourism Board also feels that the destination is safe for tourists, saying that, “All of Mexico’s major international tourist destinations are safe. This includes the following states, which are home to Mexico’s largest and most popular international tourism destinations, and have no travel restrictions: Quintana Roo, Baja California Sur, Mexico City, Yucatan, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Puebla, Guanajuato, Baja California, Queretaro, Campeche, Veracruz, Tabasco, Tlaxcala, Aguascalientes and Hidalgo.
“Despite this recent and isolated incident—in which a tourist was killed by a stray bullet—Mexico City is a global and safe destination for all travelers. As a host to 39.3 million international visitors—20 million of which are American visitors—each year, we want every single one of our guests to come and have fun, enjoy themselves and return home safely. Unfortunately, in today’s world, incidents of violence can take place almost anywhere and individuals must remain vigilant and aware of this reality whether they are at home or traveling abroad.”
“None of our hotels are in nor near Mexico City, however, travelers should still exercise the same precautions they would when visiting any travel hub around the world,” says Maduro. “Mexico City is statistically safer than some major cities around the world, including some cities in the U.S.”
Esponda adds, “Agents need to understand we work very hard to get that point across to the public and communicate that Los Cabos is a very different destination, not only inside Mexico but they’re also very particular in the type of offerings at the destination. We have statistics that show that 65 percent [of tourists] at least get out of the resort and experience the restaurants, or a tour, and doing some of the activities you can do, or go to the Sea of Cortez to swim with the dolphins.”
Tips for Travelers
Precautions should be taken when traveling anywhere, but with the constant buzz regarding Mexico, your clients might be asking you for more specific pointers. “I’m always asked about the safety in Mexico by my clients, typically right before travel,” says Goldstein. “I generally tell them to exercise the same level of caution that they do at home. Don’t go out in dark alleys in the middle of the night and just be aware of their surroundings. Bad things happen everywhere and you can’t live in a bubble, so get out there and explore. I personally feel safer in Mexico than I do walking around downtown where I live.”
Radilla points to the tried and true. “The same precautions anyone would take when traveling abroad: Be aware of your surroundings, keep your valuables close to you, ask the hotel/restaurant/store to call a taxi instead of hailing one.”
The Mexico Tourism Board suggests visitors, “rely on the hotel concierge for local recommendations and guidance.”
U.S. State Department Advisory – Level Two
Though the U.S. State Department’s advisory put Mexico at a Level 2, it also left many areas safe for travel. As Maduro says, “The U.S. State Department’s recent advisory for Mexico reaffirms that resort towns and major tourist areas in the country are perfectly fine for tourists to visit.”
The Mexico Tourism Board points out that this is the same level that’s found in many other popular destinations around the globe, and that the advisory did not have a travel ban or travel restrictions for many areas in the country. “According to the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory for Mexico and specific mentions for Mexican states and major cities, Mexico’s major international tourist destinations have been explicitly listed as having no travel restrictions or they exist in states where there are no special travel advisories for tourists.”
As for Los Cabos, Esconda says, “There is no restriction for travel to Los Cabos. In general, the travel advisory points that Mexico has no restriction to travel, and it’s the same level as France or U.K. has, or many of the European countries. The bottom line is that message.”
And Radilla notes that, “We, of course, are respectful of the need for the State Department to advise its citizens on precautions when traveling abroad, but sometimes the advisory lacks context or is factually inexact. For example, in the case of Guerrero, it states that armed groups may use violence against travelers while there have been no reports of crimes committed against tourists. The crime and violence statistics used for the assessment of Guerrero destinations are not related to incidents that directly affected foreign visitors.”
Though your clients might be feeling some concern, it is your job to reassure them that they can safely travel to Mexico and explore all that the country has to offer. “Mexico is a friendly, welcoming country for global travelers. It is a safe destination for tourists and is growing in popularity in America and globally. It is truly a world of its own, and we invite travelers to immerse themselves in the culture, landscapes, and gastronomy of this special country,” says the Mexico Tourism Board.