Increasing violence in Cancún is leading to increased worry in the tourist industry, which is currently seeing a decline in the number of spring break visitors.
Security specialists say local police need better training and that the situation needs to be brought under control quickly.
One police officer was executed and three others wounded in two separate incidents on Tuesday in the latest outbreak of violence in Cancún.
Orlando Camacho of México SOS, an organization that specializes in justice and security issues, stressed the need for immediate action.
“What we are saying is that it’s necessary to act now, immediately, because the feuding between gangs can carry on multiplying and becoming more complicated, as has been seen in other parts of the country.”
He said hotel owners have met with México SOS and are very worried.
María Elena Morera of another non-governmental organization, Causa en Común, or Common Cause, says the outbreak of violence is not isolated and urged strengthening local police forces and implementing more intelligence efforts.
“Certainly fewer tourists are going to come to [Quintana Roo],” she said, but pointed out that security measures also worsen the perception. “. . . students arrive and see soldiers everywhere; this doesn’t leave a good impression either.”
Those students are traveling to the state for spring break, but their numbers are down, say hoteliers. Cancún hotels association president Carlos Gosselin Maurel said 40,000 visited the city in 2016 but he expects they won’t even see 30,000 this year.
He estimated the number of Canadian “spring breakers” is down 40% due to violence in the city. They are traveling instead to the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean desintations, Gosselin said.
The majority of spring break tourists come from the U.S. Last year they represented about 85% of the total, while Canadians numbered some 8%.
Gosselin noted that those who travel despite the threat of violence must deal with the threat of extortion once they arrive. He said he has heard of more than a dozen cases of spring break visitors being victims of extortion or bribery, with demands that they pay between US $50 and $100.
Spring break is a mixed blessing for many tourism operators. Many don’t like the market because it brings a low economic return while being a hotbed of drug and alcohol sales.