Despite warning, Mexican officials say resort areas are safe

El Arco, the signature rock formationin Cabo San Lucas.
El Arco, the signature rock formationin Cabo San Lucas.

Mexico tourism officials this week were working to protect their $20 billion tourism industry following a new U.S. travel warning that included some of the country's most lucrative resort regions.

The updated warning advises travelers of increased homicide rates in the popular resort states of Baja California Sur, which includes Los Cabos, and the state of Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum, marking the first time the State Department issued such a warning for the popular resort regions.

"The overwhelming majority of those incidents have taken place in locations not frequented by international tourists, such as inner-city areas or private properties," the Mexico Tourism Board said in a statement, adding that the Mexican government and its tourism industry were working toward trying to prevent violent incidents from occurring in areas frequented by international tourists.

"Los Cabos is completely safe," said Rodrigo Esponda, managing director for the Los Cabos Tourism Board.

Esponda said that the destination is booming. He said he didn't know why the State Department had updated its warning now or whether the update was at all politically motivated during a time of increased tensions between the U.S. and Mexican governments.

"Tourism has to be completely unrelated to any political environment," Esponda said. "The fact that tourists travel to a country is precisely to know more of the culture, to enjoy, to relax. Not to be related to any political situation."

Los Cabos recorded 2.1 million international tourists in 2016 and is on track to welcome 2.4 million this year.

For the past several years, the State Department has had an evolving travel warning in place for Mexico addressing the risks of travel in certain parts of the country due to the activities of criminal organizations.  

"U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery in various Mexican states," the updated travel warning says; it replaced a Dec. 8, 2016, version.

The current warning says that U.S. citizens should be aware that the state of Quintana Roo "experienced an increase in homicide rates compared to 2016. While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens.

Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured or killed, have occurred," the warning states. The language was similar in a section about Baja California Sur.

In a statement this week, Quintana Roo tourism secretary Marisol Venegas Perez emphasized that the updated warning was intended to be a message of additional precaution for travelers and doesn't suggest any restriction on travel to Quintana Roo. She added tourism numbers in the state continue to grow, as do investments in its tourism economy.

Tourism represents about 7% of Mexico's gross domestic product.

The Mark Travel Corp., which owns the brands Funjet Vacations and Southwest Vacations, stated that it takes the warning "very seriously" and that it is "related to isolated violence in areas surrounding the destination."


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