Following the March 3 kidnapping of four Americans in the Mexican border town of Matamoros, the U.S. State Department issued new travel warnings for several areas of Mexico. The new advisories prompted a flurry of headlines that once again put Mexico in the spotlight as a destination that is unsafe for travel. However, a closer look at the travel warnings and conversations with Mexico travel experts reveal that these warnings are, once again, sensationalized and that Mexico remains a safe place for tourism.
“Advisors and myself are not spooked [by the abductions], as nobody I know is selling Matamoros as a travel destination,” said Hope Smith, an independent contractor with Montecito Village Travel. “We know where Matamoros is in relation to where our clients go.”
What the travel advisory says
The current State Department travel advisory gives a state-by-state breakdown of where the U.S. government suggests travelers exercise caution. Only six states are on the “Do Not Travel” list, and none of these states is a major tourism destination for U.S. travelers. The six states on the list are:
x25CF Colimax25CF Guerrerox25CF Michoacanx25CF Sinaloax25CF Tamaulipasx25CF Zacatecas
The city of Matamoros, where the kidnappings occurred, is in the state of Tamaulipas, which is just on the border of Brownsville, Texas. Most of the other states on the travel advisory are ones that have been on the advisory list for many, many years due to crime. However, the reason that the Matamoros news made headlines is because crime directly related to tourists is so incredibly rare in Mexico.
Reading further into the travel advisories on the State Department site, while certain states may have a Level 2 travel warning, most destinations that are known for tourism within those states have no travel restrictions. These include:
• Cabo San Lucas• San Jose del Cabo• La Paz• Palenque• San Cristobal de las Casas• San Miguel de Allende• Guanajuato City• Puerto Vallarta • Chapala • Ajijic • Mexico City• Riviera Nayarit • Oaxaca City • Monte Alban • Puerto Escondido • Huatulco • Puebla • Cancun • Cozumel • Isla Mujeres • Playa del Carmen • Tulum • Riviera Maya • Mazatlan • Yucatan State
Is Mexico safe for travel?
It’s a question that we’re all used to hearing. The answer remains the same. Mexico is a big country. It is also a safe country for tourism, but like any destination there are things to keep in mind.
Journey Mexico, one of the leading luxury travel experts and DMCs in Mexico, recently did an interview with ABC News Bay Area to clarify a few points.
“Mexico is big. It needs more granularity, it needs more destination-specific information. In fact, to most, all of the most popular tourist destinations, there are no restrictions,” Zach Rabinor, CEO of Journey Mexico, told ABC News.
Journey Mexico’s Instagram page has an informative Reel posted that addresses this as a larger issue. Mexico has 32 states, and the threat level differs drastically between tourist destinations and destinations that are far away from where any tourist will go.
“I have not seen a drop off in requests, or much concern from my clients,” said Sharon Walters, owner of Sharon Walters Travel. “I have families year after year that visit destinations such as Los Cabos and Punta Mita who are still planning on traveling this year. In fact, I have clients in Mexico on almost a weekly basis. The subject [of safety] does come up, but they are aware of the differences in destinations and understand that the resorts and locations are safe to travel to.”
What to say to clients
While most advisors have not had inquiries about the safety of travel to Mexico, should an advisor receive a question about safety there are a few things that can be said.
Basic travel sense should always be exercised no matter where you travel. This includes advice like staying on main roads, not driving at night, not wandering into neighborhoods where you do not know your way around, maintaining composure and not getting too intoxicated, etc. This is basic advice for travel no matter where one goes.
It’s important to note that there are many other popular travel destinations around the world that have the same travel warnings as these states in Mexico. Destinations with Level 2 or 3 travel warnings from the State Department include:
• Hong Kong • Belgium • Denmark • France • Germany • Netherlands • Spain • Sweden • United Kingdom • Belize • Brazil • Trinidad and Tobago • Turks and Caicos • Guatemala • India • Italy
And yet, many of these destinations remain out of the headlines when it comes to safety.
“I try to stay on top of what is going on in the world and how it will affect my clients’ travel,” Smith said. “In the case of Matamoros, you make [your clients] aware of where this is in relation to where they are going. Nowadays, it is part of our job to make clients feel at ease about traveling.”
“I will absolutely warn my clients about safety to any destination, and I will not send them to a location that I would not personally travel to myself. I have had conversations regarding safety between traveling to Los Cabos versus traveling to border towns that have a cartel influence. Of course, there are many places I would not send clients to in the USA, either,” Walters said.