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Mexico is safe, but travel smart

by The Concordian March 6, 2012
Mexico is safe, but travel smart

A holiday in Mexico is supposed to consist of a week or two of fun in the sun―unlimited drinking, eating and partying until the wee hours of the morning, without being attacked.

But recent reports of Canadians being beaten or even killed in the country have left many people wondering if attacks are becoming part of the package deal.

According to an Ipsos Reid poll conducted between Jan. 30 and Feb. 1, 2012, 74 per cent of Canadian participants felt that Mexico is a “serious safety and security problem” and said they were “hesitant to book a trip to Mexico.”

It is unfair to completely write off a trip to Mexico because of recent attacks. It is first and foremost important to look at Mexico’s geography. The country is fairly large (almost three times the size of Texas) and is divided into 31 states and one federal district; crime within these states varies considerably.

The escalation of violence and crime has been linked to the current drug war in which the government is trying to stop the trafficking of narcotics and other unlawful activities. This war is being waged primarily in the north and north-western part of the country, although there are outbreaks of violence elsewhere.

Regions including popular destinations such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Mexico City and Los Cabos are relatively safe. Places to avoid include Acapulco, Veracruz, Ciudad Juarez, Guadalajara, Chihuahua and Jalisco.

Walter MacKay, a Mexico City-based safety consultant, stated that in 2010, there were 300 deaths per 100,000 people in the city of Ciudad Juarez. He made it clear that Ciudad Juarez “is not a tourist area. Tourists who remain in tourist areas such as Cancun will be mostly safe,” he told the CBC.

Pan Express travel agent Christine Tassé recently spent a week at the Hotel Riu Emerald Bay in Mazatlan, the same resort in which Canadian Sheila Nabb was beaten unconscious in January. Tassé noted that “not once during my seven-day stay did I ever feel as though my security was at risk or being jeopardized.”

However, Nani Demirdjian, a travel agent for the House of Travel, does not think Mexico is a safe destination. She stated that she always tells her clients to stay on the hotel property for security reasons, but she noted that tourists are now even being attacked at the hotels. Tourists “are not safe anywhere.”

Nabb’s attack, however, was considered isolated and not related to the drug wars. Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board, stated in the media that it was a type of crime that could also happen in the U.S., Canada or Europe.

Tassé agreed, explaining that she does not think this attack “should be a reason to write off Mexico or Mazatlan as a travel destination. Security measures are in place to protect Canadian travellers.”

People must remember that tourism is an important part of the economy in these countries. The tourism industry does not want to lose tourists because it will inevitably translate into a loss of revenue.

But tourists should be vigilant at all times. As Demirdjian explained, tourists are easily identifiable, noting that “your face says it all: you’re not Mexican.” Tourists should not wear jewellery when going out, should not carry large amounts of money, should remain in well-lit areas and should always travel in groups.

These recommendations are not just for Mexico; they are guidelines for safe travelling in general. The key is to just play it smart.

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