A couple of years ago when I was still a baby blogger, I wrote a post about why I thought that parts of Mexico were safe to visit. Talking with people, I thought that the message was getting across, that some parts of Mexico are iffy but that the major tourist areas are fine. But I still don’t think people understand that Mexico is safe.
Just as with my first post, I want to offer a huge, gigantic, mega-big caveat here. THESE ARE ONLY MY OPINIONS. I do not have intimate knowledge of the inner workings of Mexico nor can I say that every tourist there will have a great time. But that can’t be said by any location, anywhere in the world. So, with that out of the way, let’s talk about why people are still nervous about visiting Mexico.
The light bulb for this post went off during a dinner conversation with a colleague. She said her son was getting married and was looking for a spot for their honeymoon. My eyes lit up and I said, “Well Mexico is a great option if they don’t want to travel far.” Apparently that wasn’t to be, for her son didn’t think that Mexico was safe.
As a refresher, this discussion all began several years ago when the Mexican government began a crack down on the drug cartels. What ensued was open warfare, taking the lives of thousands of Mexicans mostly along the border towns. At nearly the same time, the country also had to deal with an outbreak of swine flu. The result was a public relations disaster. In the minds of millions of people around the world, Mexico was not a safe place.
Since then, although the situation hasn’t necessarily improved, the tourist areas remain (mostly) safe. In particular, Cancun, Riviera Maya and Puerto Vallarta have all been safe, as safe as any destination can ever be really. And yet, government entities are still releasing travel warnings scaring an already jittery tourist into inaction.
This is frustrating not to just to those involved with the Mexican tourism industry, but people who love to visit the country and want as many people to experience it as possible, like me. Luckily, when the U.S. recently renewed their travel advisory to Mexico they exempted the aforementioned popular tourist areas and cited that they have been mostly safe.
Just as I was preparing to publish this post, I read an article about a spate of robberies that happened over the weekend while a cruise ship was visiting Puerto Vallarta. I fear that this news will keep even more people away, even if it appears that the crime wasn’t drug related. It’s a cautionary tale not just for visitors to Mexico, but for all tourists. While I was on a Mediterranean cruise a few years ago, several passengers complained about pickpockets and general intimidation during a stopover in Athens. These events sadly happen everywhere and they are not specific to one country or region.
Unfortunately, it will take a lot more than government issued bulletins to erase the images of Mexican violence from the minds of many tourists. Instead it is important that as many of us as possible travel to Mexico, enjoy ourselves and share our experiences with friends and family. Repairing the image of traveling in Mexico can only be achieved one person at a time; citizen travel diplomacy at its best.
What do you think? Is Mexico a safe tourist destination and if so, how do we convince people of that?