Despite warnings by the State Department, Americans traveled to Mexico in record numbers last year.
Mexico was the top U.S. international destination last year, with a record 25.9 million visitors from the U.S., up 24% from the previous year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
"U.S. tourism to Mexico has increased in large part due to Mexico's concentrated effort to improve its accessibility," said Frank Cordova, tourism secretary for the Mexican state of Sinaloa.
"Travelers have felt welcomed through the country's rapidly exploding number of direct flights, and the hotels, conference centers and tourism destinations springing up throughout the country," he said.
The surge in visitors to Mexico was part of an overall 11% rise in international travel by U.S. residents last year, according to the federal agency. A total of 68.2 million Americans traveled abroad, including 30.8 million who ventured overseas.
Until last year's surge in U.S. visitors, the annual number of U.S. travelers to Mexico has remained relatively flat since 2004, despite an ongoing battle among Mexican drug cartels.
The U.S. Department of State issued two travel warnings last year, both cautioning tourists to stay clear of parts of the country where drug wars have sparked shootouts, kidnappings and carjackings.
The Mexican government continued to promote tourism, saying that Mexico's popular tourist destinations are safe for vacationers.
The State Department report did not give a reason for the increase in international travel, but the data suggest that lower travel costs may have helped boost tourism.
The average airfare for international travel from the U.S. dropped 2% to $1,347 last year compared with the previous year, according to the agency. The average spending budget while overseas was $1,484, down 5% from the previous year, according to the data.
The second most popular international destination for U.S. residents continued to be Canada. Last year, 11.5 million U.S. travelers visited Canada, nearly the same as in the prior year.