Once again Mexico is making headlines because of gun-related gang violence. This is a story we've heard before, and often heard in Mexico. But like incidents in the past regarding gang violence in Mexico, experts assert that these incidents are isolated and that Cancun, and Mexico in general, remains one of the safest places for tourists.
"Acts of violence like this one are all over the world. I don't know why [there is] so much noise when it happens in Cancun," said Rocco Bova, director feneral at Grupo Hotelero 1800 and former general manager at Chable. "Yes, it was in a touristic area, [but] thankfully the police intervention managed it well with the only casualties [being] the two drug dealers."
According to the Associated Press, the shootings were the results of the resident gang members trying to drive out drug dealers from a rival gang. The shootout was dramatic and had tourists running for cover to the town of Puerto Morelos, which is just south of Cancun.
I have been in Puerto Morelos since Nov. 7 and can report that everything is back to business as usual, with no residue of the unfortunate events that occurred the first week of November.
A recurring story in Mexico and beyond
Drug and gang violence is not a new storyline in Mexico. Drug and gang violence is not a new storyline to many other countries in the world, and very rarely are tourists actually involved in these horrible incidents. A previous shooting happened in Tulum in late October where two tourists were, unfortunately, killed in the crossfire in another drug-related shootout. But the tourists were not the target of the incident, nor were residents.
In response to the incidents, the federal government has sent more than 450 national guard police officers to both Puerto Morelos and Tulum to improve public safety. Being at a resort in Puerto Morelos for the past week, the presence of the national guard was not overpowering, or even really visible, and everything operated as usual.
"We are confident that the increased police presence will ensure a safe and secure environment," said Zach Rabinor, CEO of Journey Mexico. "According to our own staff and key suppliers on the ground, the police presence has been welcomed as a reassuring measure taken out of an abundance of caution with locals' and visitors' safety and security as the top priority."
It's important to note, as well, that issues of safety and security in one particular region do not act as a blanket statement to other destinations in Mexico.
"I am headed to a family wedding this coming Thursday just south of Cancun being held at the Nizuc Resort and Spa, and my mom and other family members will be attending. I don't perceive any increased risk for me and my wife or our larger family," Rabinor added.
What to tell clients about travel to Mexico
If your clients were comfortable traveling to Mexico before and during the pandemic, it is important to note that the crime rate in Mexico has stayed the same. According to the Associated Press, 2020 was the second straight year that homicides flatlined in Mexico.
That said, shootings of any kind are never good for a destination's image, nor for the safety of the residents who must deal with certain realities that tourists do not have to deal with. Still, not much has changed with respect to crime in Mexico over the past several years, for better or worse. Clients who have felt comfortable traveling to Mexico in the past should continue to feel comfortable going forward.
I had no doubts about boarding a plane to Cancun, and I will remain on the Caribbean coast until early December. I have not made any adjustments based on recent events.
Mitch Toren, chief vacation engineer at TripGuy Travel said, "We are advising that these are, at this point, isolated incidents that could happen anywhere at any time and are not a trend. I will be going to Mexico two more times this year, including once with my kids. If I felt it wasn't safe, I wouldn't put my own kids in jeopardy."
"This is characteristic of previous isolated incidents," Rabinor said. "Our advice continues to be the same. Don't drive at night. Stay away from establishments of ill repute. Work with a trusted travel expert to make sure you maximize your chances of traveling safely and securely."