Cruise lines have stayed away from Mazatlan, Mexico for several years, largely due to concerns the cruise experience might include a visit from a dangerous drug lord. With crime rates down in Mexico, west coast cruise ship itineraries are now retuning to Mazatlan.
Cruise lines had steered away from the port because of safety issues. There was no way that they would endanger the lives of their passengers by dropping them off at an unsafe place. The move was primarily a precaution as drug lord activity was happening far to the north of Mazatlan.
“We understand that travel agents and providers have a duty to inform their customers, but we feel as if we have been unfairly singled out as an unsafe destination,” said Julio Birrueta, spokesperson for the Mazatlan Tourism Trust, according to Caribbean News Digital.
Indeed, I walked the streets of Mazatlan at 3 a.m. with no problem on a recent trip. We explored the area during the Day of the Dead stroll and festivities in 2011, at the height of drug lord mania in the travel world. Held in Mazatlan’s old historic district, the centuries-old tradition, also called All Souls Day, honors those who have died with a Mardi Gras-like walking procession through town.
One would think that the safety of travelers on the ground in any given country would be easy to define. “Yes”, its safe to travel there or “No”, its not. Government travel alerts and warnings surely have our best interest in mind and provide helpful information. But when it comes to our personal safety when traveling, there’s a lot more to it than just staying away from the bad part of town in countries we visit. It’s often a matter of perception and who we choose to believe.
Mexico’s government and tourism people have been fighting news of drug-related crime for years and have devoted a whole lot of effort to telling their side of the story. They say criminal activity, death and all sorts of bad things are in isolated areas, far from where travelers might normally visit.”We do have a challenge, but Mexico has the equivalent of 2,500 counties. Eighty of those are the ones having the challenge. That’s less than 4 percent. What I tell the travelers is they need to get a map. It would be very helpful for them to understand what cities are involved.” Gloria Guevara, Mexico’s secretary of tourism told the Miami Herald, adding “They might have trouble in Juarez; 2,000 miles from there is totally safe. It’s like in the U.S.: If there is an issue in L.A., does that mean that you don’t go to New York? Or if there is an issue in Las Vegas, do you not go to Chicago?”
OK, good idea. We got a map. A picture is worth a thousand words right?
Here are a couple maps from from WatchmanReport.com that tell two completely different stories. The first shows what they say is “the way the government and mainstream media paint the picture of Mexico”
We don’t have to look too far to find plenty of stories that validate that map.
“You would think, by the way the mainstream media over blows these stories that all of Mexico is involved a violent, drug crazed killing spree, when in reality it’s only occurring in a few cities along the border in a country twice as large as the state of Texas.” says WatchmanReport adding “This would be like making the ridiculous assessment that crime in New York or Detroit is an example of crime in all of America.”
Actually tracking crime in Mexico however makes for a much nicer map.
So what is Mexico to do?
They might try some of the strategies Egypt has employed that seem to be working. Tour operator Great Safaris, for example, is offering its travelers to Egypt a money-back Security and Satisfaction Guarantee.
“This guarantee reflects my confidence that Egypt remains one of the most fascinating and secure exotic destinations for American travelers ” said Dave Herbert, CEO and founder to TravelPulse.
But first Mexico needs to stop/solve/slow-down-a-little their drug-related violent crime problems.
The U.S. Department of State’s latest travel alert reports the situation in Egypt has returned to normal. Mexico? Not so much. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo is back to business-as-usual, all of Egypt’s airports are open and travelers are returning.
Mexico is still racking up the crimes and those crimes are not all tourists in the wrong place at the wrong time as drug lords battle in remote areas.
Leonard Schell a Canadian father of two was stabbed 25 times in his Puerto Valarta home (popular tourist destination, if you’re keeping score) last month and robbed of about $13,000, bank cards and passports reports CTV.ca. “They cut him from his lip to his throat. It’s terrible, and just to rob money,” Schell’s wife, Elba Ruiz said
Puerto Valarta is way far away from the drug running corridor where mass slayings, beheadings and other gruesome crimes occur. Still, Mexico is not giving up on their effort to win back travelers.
The head of Mexico’s state-run tourism board met with Texas officials Wednesday reports chron.com. Rodolfo Lopez-Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board wants to prevent more scare-off-the-tourists bulletins such as one released in March, when the Texas Department of Public Safety bluntly told travelers to, “Avoid traveling to Mexico during Spring Break and stay alive.”
“We believe that these travel alerts are too broad-based and making very blind statements about Mexico that do not reflect the reality,” Lopez-Negrete said. Testimonials from Americans, Canadians and the British seem to back up that thought.
So depending on who we choose to believe, conditions on the ground in Mexico seem to rely a lot on where we visit. Most sources we checked agree on that. Stay away from high-crime border areas and we should be safe.
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