With all the bad news about Mexico that has been circulating in the international press in recent years, you may have travel concerns. Our advice is to visit this beautiful country, do not change your vacation plans. It is safe to travel to Cancun, the Riviera Maya, the Yucatan Peninsula and indeed many other parts of Mexico.  Millions of people vacation in Mexico every year and enjoy their stay. In fact, tourism statistics for 2011 show an increase in the numbers of international visitors in spite of the negative media reporting and the figures continue to be robust in 2012. In an attempt to eradicate some of the misconceptions about Mexico, we have prepared this article with useful facts on geography and safety to set your mind at rest about your trip.

is mexico safe to travel | royal resorts

Cancún, México

Mexico is a Huge Country, Almost Three Times the Size of Texas

First of all, it is extremely important to put geography into perspective: Mexico is vast and many people do not realize just how large it is. It is the world’s 14th largest country with a territory measuring 758,774 square miles and a population of 112, 468,855 (July 2010 estimate). It is slightly less than three times the size of Texas, which is the largest US state, and roughly the size of Western Europe! Media reports frequently fail to take the size of the country into account. Instead of reporting incidents that occurred in a specific and localized area, generalized blanket warnings are often issued, thus painting a misleading, false and alarmist picture that the entire country is unsafe when this is not the case.

Most of the incidents associated with organized crime in Mexico that are being reported by the press take place in the north of the country – often in sparsely populated and inaccessible mountainous regions, the desert or in districts in large cities along the Mexico-US border, thousands of miles from Cancun and the Riviera Maya. Many of these areas are rarely visited by tourists.

The most recent US State Department travel warning emitted on February 8, 2012 contains a map and mentions whether an advisory is in effect or not for different states.  Among the states with current advisories are Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Durango, Sinaloa, Michoacan and Veracruz.

In some cases, if there is a warning about an area within a state, a particular highway, or a border with another state, but the state capital or popular tourist spots are unaffected, the advisory gives further details, so that visitors can see that their destinations are safe.

It is important to note that there are no travel advisories in effect for Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and the Mayan Riviera, Cozumel, Tulum, Isla Mujeres, Merida, Yucatan and for many other parts of Mexico, including the nation’s principal archaeological sites, colonial cities and some of its most famous beauty spots. Here is the list of states where no travel advisories are in effect, it also includes Mexico City, one of the world’s largest cities.

States where no travel advisory is in effect

Quintana Roo (including Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen and the Mayan Riviera, Akumal, Tulum, Cozumel, Holbox, Costa Maya and Chetumal)

Yucatan (including Merida, Valladolid, Izamal, Chichen Itza and Uxmal area)

Campeche (including Campeche City)

Chiapas (including Tuxtla Gutierrez, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Palenque)

Tabasco (including Villahermosa)

State of Mexico (including Toluca)

Guanajuato (including San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and Leon)

Mexico City (Distrito Federal)

Oaxaca (including the city of Oaxaca, Huatulco and Puerto Escondido)

Puebla (including the city of Puebla, Cholula)

Queretaro (including the city of Queretaro)

Hidalgo

Tlaxcala

Baja California Sur (including Los Cabos, Loreto, La Paz)

With regard to the state of Jalisco, the US State department warning refers to remote mountainous areas along the borders with Michoacan and Zacatecas, but says that the popular travel spot of Puerto Vallarta is safe. It recommends that visitors to Mazatlan in Sinaloa and to Acapulco and Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo in Guerrero stay in the tourist zones of these cities.

Distances Matter

To give an idea of the vast distances from north to south in Mexico, one of the cities sometimes mentioned in news reports is Tijuana, a sprawling border city with a population of 1.6 million in Baja California, over 2,000 miles from Cancun, the equivalent of the distance between Los Angeles to Chicago. Would anyone cancel a trip to Los Angeles if they heard about a crime in Chicago, the answer is no.

Further examples of the distances between Cancun and states mentioned in the update can be seen in the following map.

is mexico safe to travel | royal resorts

So why would an incident occurring thousands of miles away on the other side of Mexico affect a trip to the Mexican Caribbean? The answer is that it shouldn’t.

The safety of visitors wherever they are in the country is a priority for the Mexican government and the authorities are extremely vigilant in all tourist destinations and major cities.  The U.S. Department of State warning acknowledges this by saying: “Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day for study, tourism or business and at least one million U.S. citizens who live in Mexico. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) have targeted U.S. visitors and residents based on their nationality.”

U.S, citizens making the trip south are joined by millions of Canadian nationals – over 1.6 million traveled to Mexico in 2011 – and by visitors from all over the world.

Mexico’s Crackdown on Organized Crime

The drug trade is a global problem and Mexico is playing a leading role in combating the cartels, also coordinating with other countries in the Americas to prevent narcotics shipments from even reaching its territory. In 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown on organized crime in the country and today more than 45,000 troops and thousands of Federal police are actively involved in the war on drugs. Record amounts of narcotics have been seized, arms smuggled in from other countries have been destroyed and many senior cartel leaders have been captured or killed in operations. In a recent editorial former US Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza said that more than half of the individuals on Mexico’s most wanted list are now in custody or have died, including 23 in 2011.

The violence reported in the media is largely attributed to the members of rival drug cartels that are engaged in turf wars for control of narcotics smuggling routes. The Mexican Government has been at pains to point out that the majority of the casualties arising from drug-related violence are the product of these disputes and involve people who were connected with the drugs trade or members of the security forces. The general public is not targeted and there have been no incidents involving international tourists.

The Mexican Caribbean & the Yucatan Peninsula
Cancun and the Mayan Riviera have always been, and remain, two of the safest places in the world for visitors. Moreover, in keeping with other international travel destinations, the authorities have upgraded security in recent years and tourist areas are well policed. Many countries have consular offices in Cancun or Merida, capital of the neighboring state of Yucatan and embassies in Mexico City. There is also a help center in the Cancun Hotel Zone staffed by consular representatives where visitors can seek assistance if they have questions or a problem.

is mexico safe to travel | royal resorts

Yucatan is also a favorite with visitors and gets the thumbs up from Mexicans and foreigners alike as a place to live on account of its peaceful ambiance and the friendliness of its inhabitants. It has a murder rate of two per 100,000, on a par with Wyoming and Montana, comparable to that registered for France and lower than Canada (Sources: USA Today, August 2010 and The Economist, October 2010). In April 2011, Mexico Meetings Network also noted that according to figures published by the United Nations and INEGI, the Mexican Institute of Geography and Statistics, the cities of Merida and Campeche and the beach resorts of Riviera Maya and Isla Mujeres have lower homicide rates than those registered for the United Kingdom, France and Finland.

Common Sense is the Key Wherever you Travel in the World

Major urban centers in the US and around the world have neighborhoods with a reputation for crime and gang violence. Common sense is the key to safety wherever you travel, whether at home or abroad, and may we suggest that you take certain precautions, just as you would if you were going to a new city in your own country or elsewhere. Be aware of your surroundings and stay alert, stick to reputable restaurants, bars and other establishments in well-known tourist areas of the city and drink responsibly. Take care when visiting unfamiliar areas and avoid walking alone at night through poorly lit neighborhoods or isolated areas.

General travel recommendations also apply as they would anywhere in the world, such as not leaving your bags unattended in public places, keeping an eye on your purse or wallet and not displaying expensive jewelry or large amounts of cash. You should always store your travel documents and valuables in the safe in your villa or room. Similarly, use the ATMs in banks wherever possible and make withdrawals during the day. When you type in your pin number cover the keypad with your other hand and keep your eyes upon people in the vicinity.

When driving in Mexico always respect the speed limits and the warning signs you see. Never drink and drive and always wear seatbelts. Car rental agencies normally give customers maps and driving tips when they collect their vehicles.

As a precautionary measure, the police and army have set up checkpoints on highways throughout the country to intercept criminals smuggling drugs, arms and other contraband. There is no cause for concern, tourists are rarely pulled over, but if you are, stop, follow the instructions you are given and you will soon be on your way.

Visitors traveling by car should use toll roads where possible and avoid nighttime travel on highways in remote areas, or in the mountains and deserts. This is a sensible precaution as drivers are unfamiliar with the highway and the route they have to take. The tarmac may be in poor condition on secondary roads and the surface peppered with baches or potholes. Furthermore, livestock, pedestrians and cyclists riding without lights tend to stray across roads in the vicinity of communities and may be difficult to spot in the dark. During the wet season, heavy rain may also loosen rock and soil on mountain slopes and trigger landslides.

If you read a negative report about Mexico on the Internet, it is a good idea to check the date of the article and the location where the incident took place. Do not take everything you read online at face value; sometimes old reports resurface and are republished even though they may no longer be accurate and rumors also circulate. Be aware that comments posted in chat rooms or in response to media pieces can also be submitted by people who have never visited Mexico and may allude to rumors they have heard.

Mexican Tourism & Economic News
Despite what you read in the newspapers or on the Internet, violence is not rife throughout Mexico and not all the news coming out of the country is bad. Here are some of the news stories that you may not have read.

is mexico safe to travel | royal resorts

Tulum, Quintana Roo

Mexico Welcomed Over 22.6 Million Visitors in 2011

The Mexican Tourism Board (SECTUR) reported a record figure of 22,670,000 visitors in 2011. Some 1,072,180 of them arriving in December – 13 percent up on December 2010, and the highest number ever recorded for that month. Officials anticipate that the number will continue to grow this year, particularly in the Maya World given the interest in the Maya culture and the ancient calendar.

When compared to December 2010 figures, the numbers of December 2011 visitors to Mexico from the United States grew by 11 percent, Canada 9.1 percent, United Kingdom 10.6 per cent and Argentina 21.4 percent. In the last five months of 2011 the growth of international visitors to Mexico was sustained when compared to the same months in 2010.

Over five million cruise ship passengers also disembarked at Mexican ports in 2011 and the island of Cozumel is the leading port of call in the Caribbean. A large marina was also inaugurated on the island in February to attract more members of the yachting community.

SECTUR departure surveys in 2011 indicated that visitor satisfaction and repeat visits are on the rise, standing at 98%, and 99% of all respondents said they would recommend Mexico to their family and friends.

In 2011, Mexico ranked second in the world’s top wedding destinations according to a survey conducted by The Bridal Knot; it occupies the same position in the luxury tourism market and is one of the leaders in spa tourism.

Actors, musicians, models and other celebrities are often spotted in Mexico’s beach resorts, recent visitors include George Clooney, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Ethan Hawke and stars who attended a 60th birthday celebration in the Riviera Maya for British billionaire Sir Philip Green.

The Enduring Appeal of the Mexican Caribbean

According to Orbitz Cancun came out top in winter travel destinations for 2012. The popularity of the Mexican Caribbean is also evident in surveys conducted by the online Trip Advisor travel community in 2011. Four of the area’s finest beaches figured in the World’s Top 25 Beaches 2011 list (Tulum No. 5, Isla Mujeres No. 15, Playa del Carmen No. 17 and Cancun No. 20) and four favorites made it into the Top Destinations to Visit in the Caribbean and Mexico in 2011 (Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Chichen Itza and Tulum).

Major international airlines are expanding services to Cancun or including the Mexican Caribbean in their flight network. Recent additions include new routes from cities in Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Russia.

is mexico safe to travel | royal resorts

Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo

Mexican Economic Growth

A recent study revealed that the Mexican economy grew by around 4.5 percent in the third quarter of 2011, capitalizing on the strong recovery it made in 2010 (in 2010, it registered a growth rate of 5.5 percent, the highest for ten years) and ended the year with a growth rate of 3.9 percent, higher than other G20 countries such as Brazil and South Africa.  The Bank of Mexico estimates that growth will be at a rate of around 3.5 percent in 2012.

The industrial sector grew by 5.1 percent in the final quarter of 2011, although the growth rate is expected to slow this year due to negative global economic tendencies. Exports also increased in 2011. Non-petroleum exports were at their highest level since 1980 in March 2011 and by the third quarter of the year had grown by 15 percent.

The largest trading nation in Latin America and the world’s 13th largest economy, Mexico is forecast to be one of the seven biggest economies in the world by 2050. It has one of the most business-friendly environments of any large emerging market and ranked 35th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings in 2011, above Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and the powerful BRIC bloc of countries comprising Brazil, Russia, India and China.

From tourism to aerospace, electronics, software and renewable energy to the automobile industry, mobile phones, petrochemicals and mining, international firms continue to invest in Mexico.

In recent years the Mexican government has also invested billions of dollars in upgrading telecommunications, road and port infrastructure. The most recent example of this is the new Mazatlan-Durango highway and the Baluartes Bridge, the highest cable-stayed bridge in the world (1,321 feet above the valley floor).

Finally, Mexico has the rotating Presidency of the G20 group of nations in 2012 and is hosting a series of meetings of finance ministers and think tanks, culminating in the G20 summit of world leaders in Los Cabos in June. The G20 nations (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and the European Union) represent 80 percent of the world’s trade and two thirds of its population.

Mexico’s agenda for the G20 meetings includes the following priorities: economic stabilization, structural reforms for growth and job creation, strengthening financial systems and trade reform, food security, addressing price volatility in raw material markets, promoting sustainable development, infrastructure, green growth and financing for tackling climate change.

Trips to Mexico
We hope that you find this update helpful and that you do decide to visit Mexico. We are sure that you will have a wonderful time, there is so much to see and do in this incredible country and its people are renowned for their hospitality.

For those of you who are longtime visitors to Cancun and the Riviera Maya and have strong ties to the community, we look forward to seeing you soon in your resort home.

Useful links

http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/news.html?d=247390

http://www.mexicotruth.com/

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/blog/2012/04/30/are-americans-safer-in-mexico-than-at-home/

http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/travel/nogales-mexico-a-few-steps-and-a-whole-world-away.html?hpw

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/travel/mexico-a-safe-destination—-but-travel-smart-140405763.html

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travelblogs/1279/146696/Why+Are+We+Still+Talking+About+Travel+Safety+in+Mexico?%3FdestId=361529

Travel expert: Why you should go to Mexico (CNN)
Mexico decries ‘confusing’ travel warning (Travel Weekly)
Mexico travel warning mapped (Travel Weekly)
The Reality of Travel to Mexico  (About.com Travel)
Mexico, beyond the drug violence  (The Washington Post)
A Q&A with Mexico’s president  (Travel Weekly)
President Felipe Calderon, tour guide  (Travel Weekly)
Mexico: One Journalist’s View  (Banderas News)

Pro Mexico video: Mexico is Opportunity