Chris Owen, Gadling, March 28, 2011
It is an ongoing debate about Mazatlan, Mexico. Justified or not, tourism is down. Land vacations tour operators are being cautious more than ever. Cruise lines refuse to stop due to real or perceived security issues (stabbings, drug lord bombings, no bingo). But those who live there say it is safe. Now, Cancun, Mexico, former poster-city for organized crime is saying “Hey, give US a look why don’t ya?” as if the focus has shifted and they are in the clear now.
Trying to hang on to its self-proclaimed “No. 1 vacation destination in the Caribbean” title, Cancun is beefing up security reports USA Today.
“The safest people here are the tourists,” Erandeni Abundis of the Cancun Convention & Visitors Bureau “We depend on tourism. We couldn’t afford to lose it.” Proactive Cancun has beefed up their web site too with clear, easy to find information and believable video content.
Indeed, tourism is a major factor in Mexico’s economy. Cancun alone boasts 5.9 million international visitors last year, up over 400,000 from 2009. But with tourism numbers down, rather than whining about it like Mazatlan has, Cancun is taking clear steps to send a message of safety.
Tourists can now dial 911 for an emergency rather than a confusing local number, uniformed customs officers with assault rifles stand watch over visitors at the airport and a dozen highly-visible “tourist advisors” greet visitors, directing them to approved airport transportation.
Still, news of crime in Mexico, attacks on tourists and just general worldwide unrest in the travel sector has tour operators and tourism officials working overtime to set the record straight.
While colleges are on break, the beach is not packed. Hotel occupancy at 71% this week is down from a traditional 80+% at this time of the year reports the Cancun Hotel Association.
One major travel agency in Cancun laments: “every time this comes . . . less tourism and it causes Cancun to die slowly.” reports 630ched.com adding “So, if you’re dreaming of a spring break on the Mexican Caribbean but lack “mucho dinero”, you might want to cash in on Cancun’s misfortune.”
Many have too. In defiance of a Texas Department of Safety warning to stay out of Mexico on spring break, college students are flocking to Cancun, the closest Mexico destination to the border with few problems reported.
“We haven’t been beheaded,” Archer, a 26-year-old dental assistant, says with a grin. “We’ve had no problems. People need to chill out.”