Using the most modern method of communication herself, in a webinar, Gloria Guevara talked about peoples’ perceptions about safety in Mexico.
She tried to separate fact from fiction but in doing so readily admited that two towns along the Texas border, Matamoros and Ciudad Juarez, should not perhaps be added to the Mexico list of great tourist destinations.
Ciudad Juarez alone accounts for 30% of Mexico’s drug related crime.
But she reinforce that these areas are far away the nearest tourist cities. Cancun she pointed out was a thousand miles away.
Talking about more recent events she acknowledged that the public does not like it when gaps of information are not forthcoming.
Mexico, she said, has now retain a public relations agency to help them do a better job on communications.
But she stressed the fact versus fiction nature of the stories that come out. The difference between perceptions that have grown and reality are far apart.
In spite of all the negative stories that are highlighted in the news relating to drug and gang violence along the border and around Acapulco, she said, Mexico is a popular and safe destination.
“All countries or societies have problems to solve,” Guevara said, “but Mexico is one of the top 10 tourist destinations in the world.”
“According to a recent survey conducted by Virtuoso, Mexico came up as the No. 2 country … preferred by their members.”
“Our major destinations continue to be world-class, and they can be visited anytime.”
In trying to put a geographical perspective to the areas where there are drug violence problems she said, “Let me ask you: If you were planning a trip to New York, would you cancel it if you heard about challenges in Baltimore?” Guevara asked. “Of course not. Copper Canyon is very safe and very nice.”
She pointed out that Mexico, even after the first coverage of drug wars broke out, continues to grow its tourist numbers. About 22.6 million tourists, 80% of them North Americans, are expected to have visited Mexico by the end of 2010.
As of September, inbound tourism was up 18.8% year over year compared with 2009 and 6% better than 2008. And, despite the much-publicized failure of Mexicana Airlines earlier this year, air arrivals from the U.S. were up 15% compared with 2009.
As a point of reference she said Canada was up 22% over last year already.
International air carriers are also adding flights. New flights and increased capacity to Mexico are from Alaska Airlines, US Airways, American, Virgin America, Air Canada, Westjet, British Airways, Iberia and other carriers.
“Every major airline is increasing capacity to Mexico because the demand is there,” Guevara said.
“They love [Mexico’s] hospitality, and they like how they’re treated and they like the service. I believe there’s never been a better time to visit Mexico” she said.
Referring to other recent tourism developments, she added that Unesco has officially designated Mexican cuisine a piece of intangible world cultural heritage.
She promised to do better with communication going forward. “For the last couple of years, we as the government made the mistake of leaving a gap of information. When you leave a gap, what happens is that it’s filled with bad information. What we’re doing right now is working with a [public relations] agency to put [these] things in context.”
Speaking about the recent explosion at the Grand Riviera Princess Hotel in Playa del Carmen she said “We haven’t received the final report … so we don’t want to draw any conclusion, [but] we’re sure it’s something that’s not going to happen in any other hotels. This was very sad, and of course we’re very concerned and sad for the travelers affected.”
There is no question that tourists will continue to flood to Mexico…and they should. But it is important that Mexico does a better job on this investigation and others that have affected tourists.
When people in the numbers that go to Mexico go there or any other country, there will be a percentage of crime.
Like in any big city, and that is what those numbers of tourists over a season constute, people will be robbed, killed, and find trouble from time to time.
We should keep it in perspective, but clearly Mexican authorities have to improve thier track record for solving and reporting incidents of any kind.