Mexico: New travel advisory system an improvement, but could be better

The State Department has created a color-coded map of Mexico that breaks down each state with warnings specific to those areas.
The State Department has created a color-coded map of Mexico that breaks down each state with warnings specific to those areas.

The Mexico Tourism Board (MTB) called the U.S. State Department's new travel advisory system an upgrade over its previous one, but said there is room for improvement.

Criticizing what it describes as a travel warning for the country as a whole based on crime, violence and other statistics that are "not related to the number of incidents that impact foreign visitors," the MTB said, "It is these kinds of facts and context which are relevant to tourists that we believe are still missing and are important to keep in mind when evaluating this and other travel advisories." 

The MTB said the new system is an improvement based on its organization and simplicity, and noted that the State Department "confirmed that major international tourist destinations in Mexico are safe" and have no travel restrictions.

Under the State Department travel advisory system, every country in the world has a ranking from 1 to 4: Level 4 being "do not travel" and level 1 "exercise normal precautions." They are also marked on an interactive, color-coded map: red for 4, orange for 3, and yellow for 2. Countries with a level 1 ranking are not color-coded.

Mexico was given a level 2, or "exercise increased caution," putting it in in the same category with France, Spain and the United Kingdom. While those Western European countries' advisories are based on terrorism, in Mexico it is based on crime. 

Also new in the travel advisory system, travelers going to Mexico can use a separate color-coded map of the country that breaks down each Mexican state with warnings specific to those areas. The most popular region for Americans, the state of Quintana Roo (home to Cancun, Cozumel, Riviera Maya and Tulum) is outlined in green and therefore "no advisory is in effect."

This is an improvement for Quintana Roo, as the State Department last summer issued a travel warning for the state due to "turf battles between criminal groups that have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. "

For Baja California Sur, outlined in yellow -- the color code for Level 2 -- the State Department suggested travelers "exercise caution in the state capital of La Paz" and said that the state registered its highest homicide rate since 1997. 

Still, officials in Los Cabos (a destination in Baja California Sur) found the rating to be positive, pointing out that there are no travel restrictions to the region. The destination made an appearance for the first time in a U.S. State Department travel warning in August and responded with an aggressive and multipronged security action plan, which includes the construction of a marine base that is due to open next year and an expanded surveillance network. 

"We are encouraged, and this underscores our belief that Los Cabos is safe and secure," said Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board. 

The state of Jalisco, home to Puerto Vallarta, was also rated at level 2. There is no advisory in effect for Mexico City.

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