BY CHRONICLE STAFF
Tourist areas in Mexico are safe for American visitors, local tourist and U.S. government officials say. ”We recognize that there is concern over the drug trafficking violence in our country,” says Jorge Apaez, president for Mexico for UK-based hotel giant Inter-Continental Hotels group, which owns brands like Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza. “However, they are taking place in specific areas, not throughout our country…We’re not trying to hide our situation, but you can’t generalize.”
Already, several thousands of American spring breakers are visiting Mexico without problems, he adds.
Last week, Bill O’Reilly of the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News urged an American travel boycott of all Mexican destinations, not just those singled out by U.S. officials as dangerous such as Ciudad Juarez, the nation's most violent city. “It’s important to be informed and conscious of the different areas and not send the message that the whole country is a risky destination,” Apaez says.
Travel to Mexico benefits not only that country, but also the U.S. economy at a time of crisis, he argues. “It generates revenues and jobs even within the United States,” Apaez says.
Meanwhile, Americans benefit since Mexico now offers an exceptionally inexpensive vacation alternative thanks to the depreciation of the local currency. “Our currency now trades at 15 to the dollar, which makes Mexico a real godsend,” he says.
The peso, the worst performer among the world’s most-traded currencies in the past six months, will weaken another 17 percent by year-end as the nation’s twin deficits swell, prominent local economist Rogelio Ramirez de la O told Bloomberg yesterday.
On Friday, U.S. State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid specified that the violence is not affecting all of Mexico. “We noticed that many of the violent activities are localized in several different places,” he said. “They are not general across the north of Mexico, let alone through Mexico, the entire country itself. “
Last year, 18.3 million tourists visited Mexico. Cancun is the top destination, with more than two million American tourists last year. Hotel officials in Cancun emphasize that the city is safe and the city’s hotel zone has been unscathed from the drug violence affecting border areas a thousand miles away.
“We were only supposed to stay here for two weeks, but decided to stay for another week, so if we didn’t feel safe we wouldn’t be here now,” Joanne Snyder from Carmel, Indiana said in a video interview posted on the web site of the Cancun Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. The interview – along with several others -- was taped on Thursday last week, said Erandeni Abundis, a spokeswoman for the bureau.
HIGH OCCUPANCY RATES
Apaez says that Inter-Continental’s properties in Cancun boasted 74 percent occupancy in January, while the Holiday Inn in Puerto Vallarta managed to reach 96 percent.
Even the worst cities affected by the violence such as Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua managed to achieve occupancy rates of 70 percent and 62 percent last year. “These results show that travel continues,” he says.
The safe environment in tourism resorts, combined with a very attractive exchange rate, should be a clear draw for Americans, he argues.
© Copyright Latin Business Chronicle