Travel Advisories Continue for U.S. Citizens Visiting Mexico

Even as drug-war casualties rise, the number of visitors to Mexico continues to increase.  Mexico welcomed almost 18 percent more international visitors last year.  Airlines continue adding Mexican destinations.  But the U.S. Department of State and the Texas Department of Public Safety continue their travel warnings for U.S. visitors.

The State Department has advised U.S. citizens against travel to Mexico since March 2010, according to the department's Amy Wickenheiser.

"This one is primarily based on the security situation in Mexico, and a lot of the problems do stem from narco-trafficking."

The warning cites violence along the border, and includes travel to Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, and Nuevo Laredo.  Travel advisories can be issued following natural disasters, long-term or protracted instability or the potential for violence.  The State Department lists Mexico as one of 34 countries that meet the criteria for a travel warning.

"One of the triggers for travel warnings is what we instruct our U.S. government personnel.  So for Mexico, when it changed from a travel alert to a travel warning, one of the reasons was the dependents of U.S. government personnel at the consulates along the border with Mexico were authorized to leave if they wished to do so."

The U.S. Air Force recently added three Mexican states to their list of travel-restricted areas, bringing the total to seven.  Security concerns have caused Princess Cruises and other cruise lines to cancel calls at Puerto Vallarta and some other ports of call.  Jeanenne Tornatore with Orbitz says travel warnings have caused Mexican tourist destinations to take a hit — but not all of them.

"Well interestingly, the major U.S. travel destinations in Mexico, including places like Cancun and Cabo, are still, you know, very high on our list of where travelers are going.  Certainly, some of those destinations — including Acapulco — that are in that warning area, have taken a hit.  But because Cancun is, you know, such a big tourist destination there, and is, you know, pretty far from where the warning is, you know, we're seeing that travelers are still heading there."

The Puerto Vallarta Tourist Board commissioned a report that says the resort is one of the safest tourist destinations, and the number of negative events involving foreigners is fractional compared to the large ex-pat population.  The Texas Department of Public Safety upset Mexican tourist authorities with its travel warning about Nuevo Laredo this summer, even advising spring breakers to avoid the country altogether.  But Tim Vinger with DPS says it's the agency's job to protect Texans, including those who travel.

"We're simply saying if you can, avoid travel into Mexico, especially in the border regions, but also in other regions, as well.  It's very dangerous in Mexico, and it's worrisome that people try to downplay the violence there when it's so evident that it's increased over the past several years.  And that's simply the reality of the situation."

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...