I’m sure by now you have read, watched, or heard all the media attention given a recent death in Mexico, and shortly following, the adjustment to the US State Department’s travel warning for Mexico.
Recently, I have fielded hundreds of questions on the topic of travel to Mexico, and have taken a lot of time to research facts. In a nutshell, there are concerns you must be aware, but frankly, they are NOT what the media and some individuals think. Lets go over the major questions, and some important insights that you have not been told.
- The news says Mexico is no longer safe for travel, is this true? If you plan to go to Mexico, and start your own competing cartel in the drug trafficking business, Its definitely not safe. If your intent is to visit one of the fine All Inclusive resorts, visit a port on a cruise, or experience travel with a reputable tour operator, then I would have to say your visit to Mexico will be as safe as visiting any city in the United States under the same pretense. There are no warnings that include these specific tourist destinations, and no events that have occurred within those safe parameters.
- But Didn’t the State Department specifically list specific states, and the towns within those states as dangerous? Yes, the state department made some very general warnings, by state, and included the names of some cities of concern. A thorough reading of the full warning makes it very clear that the concern is outside of the tourist properties within those states, and that no US citizens have been targeted specifically because of their nationality. If you are visiting Mexico, and staying within the resort, You should be very safe. Wandering on your own, well outside the resort, in the local community, at dark, you take a huge unsafe risk. This risk isn’t because of your race, sex, or specific nationality. Its because you are an easy target – foreigners in general have travel money and at risk of robbed, or kidnapped til you make a sizable deduction at an ATM. You could also be the untimely, unintended, victim of gang battles that occur in that location.
- Why were these locations specified in the travel warning? The location were listed because of an uptick in the homicides, according to data being tracked by the US State Department. These homicides were admittedly targeted attacks on individuals, likely assassinations due to their association to a gang or one of its members. These homicides were not targeted toward tourists. Again, if you hook up with a local, and go to their home for drinks, your danger risk increases many-fold. Stay in your resort, the risk is extremely low.
- I’m still concerned as my recently booked cruise or resort is in those areas, what should I do? First, lets approach this pragmatically. Are you afraid to travel to the United States? How about specific states such as Florida, or Michigan? How about specific cities like New York, Boston, or Los Angeles? Foreign countries have travel warnings to all these places for their citizens. I’m not talking about North Korea, but countries like The United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, France, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Germany all who urge caution to U.S.-bound travelers. Statistically, you are more likely to be a homicide victim in your own state than in the Mexican state which your resort is booked. In fact, the rural states in the US have higher homicide rates than the Yucatan – where Cancun and many other resort communities, are located. Then consider that your resort is a private facility, with security, gated properties, and a vested interest by the local, state, and federal officials to keep those places safe. The last thing you should be thinking about is canceling your travel. That’s a kneejerk reaction to media fearmongering. Talk it over with a travel professional, and experts of the area.
- What about the deaths involving tainted or drugged alcohol? There have been reports of people having issues after drinking alcohol at resorts. We don’t have the medical facts about all of these reports, however experts have reviewed what information is available and have surmised that a variety of causes are at play. Lets break them down:
- Date rape drugs are a concern worldwide, including Mexico. Spring Break has more occurrences than any other time, but you could be a target anywhere, at anytime, and at any age. Alcohol alone is the #1 drug used for date rape, so the more you drink, the greater at risk you may become. Individuals can add other drugs, and it may be wise to reject any suspect beverage, or have a test kit on hand. You can get them here.
- The Mexican Government has revealed that over 30% of the alcohol available in the country is actually illegally manufactured. That doesn’t mean that 30% of it is unsafe to drink – just that the manufacturers are bootlegging the product, without the proper permits, inspections, and taxation required within Mexico. Some of it may also be unsafe to drink because it wasn’t properly brewed, distilled, or blended. Recent reports at the Iberostar resort of unsafe alcohol have been levied by some tourists. While their particular experiences are tragic, there is no evidence to support that the resort was serving tainted alcohol. There is evidence to support that it wasn’t.
- Alex Zozaya, CEO of the resorts’ parent company, Apple Leisure Group. was recently held to task on the matter. He confirmed that the resorts owned by that corporation (and their competitors) use the most reputable supplier in the country for over 90% of their alcoholic beverages, and that supplier has no record of problems distributing illegal alcohol. Frankly, knowing this, and that other resorts have not had this problem, it stands to reason that the cause lies elsewhere.
- So if tainted alcohol isn’t likely the real problem, what else could it be? As already stated, date rape drugs is a possibility. However, there can also be other organic, and environmental causes. 1. Its very common for travelers to arrive in Mexico, and go straight to the swim up bar. Long flight with associated typical dehydration, warm pool water, empty stomach, beverage with high alcohol content, and overindulgence can be a recipe for a medical disaster. A Hot tub can exacerbate the risk. Taking prescription medication with any combination of the above can also result in negative outcomes. Using any drug unlawfully with alcohol is just stupid, and has resulted in fatal incidents. Let’s be honest, these are probably the most likely causesassociated with tourists, especially when those events are occurring on the day of arrival. Studies have shown that each one of these on their own, can increase your rate of inebriation two to four times the normal rate of intoxication. Combined its a much higher rate, and can replicate the same symptoms found with date rape drug cases. Consult your medical practitioner for greater detail on how your specific body handles alcohol in these circumstances. Or better yet, get settled in, enjoy a meal, and rehydrate with no alcohol. You have the rest of your vacation so why ruin it on the first day.
- So you are saying the media was wrong? Bluntly, yes. They capitalized on a tragic event, made it salacious for their own interest, and avoided factual, honest journalism. They are still painting Mexico as an unsafe place to vacation, when real data, facts, and evidence from all reputable sources prove otherwise. Look, in the last 15 years, roughly only 20 cases have been reported. For the sake of comparison, lets add 30 more cases as unreported. 10 Million+ visitors go to Mexico annually. That’s 150 million people, of which 50 people possibly had an issue with tainted alcohol at a resort, cruise, tour.. That’s .0000003 probability that you would have an issue.
- What can I do to maximize my safety while traveling to Mexico? First, get involved with a reputable travel professional that has expertise in your destination. He/She can offer much in ways of protecting yourself by choosing safe travel options and destinations, insuring your travel investment, travel documentation, and more. Second, while traveling abroad, register your travel with the state department through the Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP). Third, don’t be like most tourists who fail to get immunized for the area of travel, or take necessary health precautions. Of concern to tourists to Mexico are Hepatitis, Malaria, Typhoid, Zika, and Chikungunya. The CDC has recommendations here.
- If its safe, why don’t I hear about it from the media? In my opinion, much of the US based mainstream media has become so focused on attracting your attention, and thus preserving their market share and valuable advertising income, that journalism has largely disappeared. They no longer operate foreign new bureaus, instead, they will promote the sensational points of a story without much of the less sensational, factual information. Honestly, relying on only one of two sources is going to leave you without the information you deserve to make an educated decision. In researching Mexican travel, over 100 reputable sources were utilized. What’s painful to point out is that the U.S. State Department has failed to list Alcapulco as a danger to tourists, yet it has had specific, tourist targeted attacks, homicides, kidnappings, and other events over the last 15 years, that should have it on a warning. For some reason yet to be discovered, they have failed to do so. These events are well documented in the NarcoBlog. The media, nor the state department have been forthcoming and sharing details that are important to travelers. Frankly, Mexico has the 3rd largest homicide rate in the world, yet 90% of that occurs along the US/Mexico border and is associated with drug and human trafficking. Over 90% of tourists to Mexico do not go to these areas, instead traveling to destinations that for most of visitors, are safer than their home communities.
- If I have specific questions on a destination, can I ask you? Whether Mexico, or other destinations, I am happy to provide answers to your travel questions. I am associated with a number of consortiums and associations filled with experts for most destinations. If I don’t know the answer, I know who can provide it, and I’ll share that information. The best traveler is the informed, prepared traveler. Leave your question in the comments.