Drug violence scares off tourists to Mexico
13 Apr 2010 14:51:15 GMT
* Tourists worry drug violence makes vacations unsafe
* International arrivals down at Mexico's top resorts
By Jose Cortazar
CANCUN, Mexico, April 13 (*******) - Fears of drug violence spreading to beaches and colonial towns are driving away tourists and threatening Mexico's crucial tourism industry, already battered by last year's swine flu outbreak.
Gory news reports of daily shootouts between drug cartel hitmen are fueling concerns among North Americans and Europeans that Mexico is increasingly unsafe, even if most of the violence is along the U.S. border, far from top tourist areas.
The number of international tourists flying into the Pacific beach resort of Acapulco, where rival hitmen have fought brazen gun battles in recent months, fell by almost a quarter in the first three months of this year, airport operator OMA <OMAB.MX><OMAB.O> said.
International arrivals to the popular Caribbean resort of Cancun fell 4 percent in the same period, according to airport operator Asur <ASURB.MX> <ASR.N>.
They are peak months in Cancun as many tourists escape from winter at home, and U.S. students traditionally flood Mexico on their "spring break."
Almost 20,000 people have died in the fight between cartels and Mexican security forces.
Violence has worsened dramatically since the start of the year, with 1,000 deaths across Mexico in March, the bloodiest month since President Felipe Calderon launched his crackdown on drug gangs in late 2006.
Mexico's tourism industry is still likely to grow in 2010 compared to last year, when fears of swine flu emptied beaches, but businesses worry a perception of danger hangs over Mexico that could continue to undermine the industry.
"The fall in foreign tourists in Cancun is certainly noticeable. Mexico's bad image abroad means tourists, mostly the Americans, are not coming as much," said Roberto Diaz, a leader of Cancun's pleasure boat captains that ferry fishermen, divers and snorkelers to nearby islands in the Caribbean.
I'm not sure how much it actually affects tourism visits to tourists spots. I would imagine that the percentage drops have more to do with the economic issues faced from the visitors to those vacation spots than anything else. Border town tourism particularly in TJ and the like are more likely spots to be areas for tourists to be scared off from than Cancun or other tourists areas.