The Mexico Tourism Board labeled as "excessive" the travel warning issued March 6 by the Texas Department of Public Safety urging spring breakers to avoid all travel to Mexico.
"To paint Mexico with such a massively broad brush stroke is simply outrageous," said Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, COO of the Mexico Tourism Board.
Although the Texas warning acknowledged that "the Mexican government has made great strides battling the cartels, and we commend their continued commitment to making Mexico a safer place to live and visit," the agency urged individuals to avoid travel to Mexico at this time, asserting that "drug cartel violence and other criminal activity represent a significant safety threat, even in some resort areas."
The situation in Mexico is "significantly different than it was just a decade ago," said Steve McGraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. "Many crimes against Americans in Mexico go unpunished, and we have a responsibility to inform the public about safety, travel risks and threats."
The Texas warning, the third in three years timed to coincide with the state's spring break travel period, is similar to the one issued in 2011, which did not draw distinctions between tourist zones and regions hit by violence and warned students to "avoid traveling to Mexico during spring break and stay alive."
The recent Texas warning is in stark contrast to the recently updated U.S. State Department warning, which was more carefully worded, provided a state-by-state security assessment and indicated which cities and states are considered safe for travel and do not fall within the warning. (Click the image for a larger view of a map detailing the areas listed in the U.S. State Department warning.)
Although the federal warning urged travelers to defer nonessential travel to all or parts of 14 Mexican states, it excluded the resort areas of Cancun, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, the most popular spring break destinations in Mexico.
Lopez Negrete said the State Department warning "abided by three key tenets: context, clarity and specificity."
He pointed out that Mexico was the most-visited country in the world for U.S.-originating travelers in 2011 and that Mexico welcomed a total of 22.7 million international visitors last year.
Approximately 60% of Mexico's visitors are American, and about one-third of them either live in Texas or pass through Texas en route to Mexico.
Lopez Negrete traveled to Austin in late February to meet with officials of the Texas Department of Public Safety in advance of the issuance of the March 6 travel warning.
"This is part of our continuing dialogue with Texas officials, part of an agreement both parties made to keep the communication lines open," he said at the time. "We shared information with Texas. We asked them to refer to the State Department travel alert. A travel alert has to be within parameters."
Meanwhile, hotels and motels in Padre Island, Texas, long a hotspot for Texas college students, reported 95% occupancies for the peak period of March 11 to 17, according to a spokesman at the South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.
More than 45,000 students are expected this year at South Padre, which competes with Mexico destinations for students traveling on spring break.
For Caribbean and Mexico news, follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.