For the fifth year in a row, the state of Texas is telling travelers to leave Mexico out of their spring break plans because the country is unsafe.
The state’s Department of Public Safety last week included in its safety tips for spring break travelers: “Avoid travel to Mexico.” Mexico, for its part, has repeatedly disputed this sweeping warning over the years as inaccurate for most parts of the country.
When I called the Texas agency and asked for a clarification, a spokesman sent me a statement via email that said: “The Mexican government has made great strides battling the cartels, and we commend their continued commitment to that effort. Regarding travel to Mexico, our position remains unchanged from the last few years.”
The U.S. State Department has had a Mexico travel warning for some time, last updated Jan. 9, but it breaks down safe and unsafe places state-by-state. For example, spring-break hot spots such as Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya have no advisories in effect.
The warning does, however, document the decades-long gun violence, murders, kidnappings and other crimes largely attributed to warring drug cartels.
Texas, in its statement, makes no distinctions about where it is safe and isn’t safe to go. In a 2011 interview about Texas’ travel advice, Mexican tourism board official Alfonso Sumano told Travel Weekly, “it is inaccurate to paint the whole of Mexico with the same brush. Certainly visitors should avoid the border towns, which are 2,500 miles in some cases from the resort areas.”
And how effective is the warning? It’s hard to say.
Los Cabos on the tip of Baja as of January reports a 14% increase in international passengers during the last year and a 70% hotel occupancy rate, which was higher than 2013.
Cancun reports that it hosted 4.6-million visitors last year and is expecting 44,000 to 50,000 visitors this spring. It hasn’t been exempt from drug-related crime. On the outskirts of the resort town last year, seven people were found dead, the deaths said to be tied to drug dealing, and six others were gunned down in a bar before that incident.
Cancun adds this note on its website: “Cancun will be increasing security presence as well as the number of lifeguards and beach patrols in the popular Hotel Zone to ensure a safe and memorable vacation.”