Mexico tourism on defense after expanded US travel warning

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By Laura Bly, USA TODAY

An expanded U.S.State Department travel warning to Mexico, issued before this week’s news that 183 bodies have been discovered in a northeastern border state, is generating mixed responses in tourist spots highlighted in the new alert.

The April 22 warning notes that millions of U.S. citizens visit Mexico safely each year, and says that “resort areas and tourist destinations generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes.” But it recommends visiting “only legitimate businesses and tourist areas during daylight hours,” and says that while most victims have been Mexicans associated with criminal activity, the country’s security situation “poses serious risks” for U.S. citizens as well.

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The new alert includes the Gulf of California resort area known as Rocky Point, popular with Arizona tourists, and the area in Mexico around the border crossing near Nogales. It also warns of problems in areas such as Acapulco, Cuernavaca (a popular destination for American language students), Michoacan’s butterfly sanctuaries and capital, Morelia, and Mazatlan, where cartel-related violence has prompted some cruise lines to stop their calls.

Friday’s warning was “a major red flag” and “quite a bit more expansive” than past alerts, Kathleen Fairfax, vice president for global education at Arizona State University told CNN. She said school officials will meet this week to discuss how the new guidelines might affect study-abroad trips.

But business owners and tourism boosters in Rocky Point, where spring-break reservations are down sharply this year, say they don’t understand why the destination was included since the police chief shooting mentioned in the warning happened a year ago.

Reports of violence can be overblown, adds the leader of an expatriate group in Lake Chapala, Mexico. “I felt totally safe there. We had no problem at all. You have to be mindful of what’s going on, but there aren’t people attacking anybody, especially expats,” Denver retiree Howard Feldstein told CNN about his trip last month to a butterfly sanctuary in Michoacan, a stronghold of Mexico’s La Familia cartel.

“We should not take the issue out of context,” Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board, said in a recent CNN interview. “The distances are very, very great. You wouldn’t stop going to New York because of a problem in Dallas.”

Posted Apr 27 2011 10:51AM

Apr 27th, 2011 | Posted in Travel
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