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De la Madrid, right: warnings won't hurt tourism ranking. De la Madrid, right: warnings won't hurt tourism ranking.

California not as safe as Baja California

Officials speak out in defense of Mexican tourism industry

Tourists are safer in Baja California than in the U.S. state of California, according to a comment made by the state’s tourism secretary in an appearance before the state Congress in Mexicali.

Óscar Escobedo Carignan made the assertion in response to lawmakers’ questions about insecurity in the northern border state.

“We had 27 million tourists last year, just over 16 million were from the other side [the United States]. There were two incidents that shouldn’t have happened, but [in terms] of the international numbers . . . they’re practically nonexistent,” he added.

Congressman Bernardo Padilla, who is also a member of the state’s Public Security, Civil Protection and Tourism Commission, questioned Escobedo about comments made by internationally renowned chef Javier Plascencia in relation to the security situation in the state and specifically Tijuana.

“. . . How could this affect the work that is being carried out?” the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) deputy asked.

“The voice of chef Plascencia concerns me because it resonates in the gastronomic sector at an international level. He said he was nervous about bringing public figures to Baja California.”

Escobedo responded by recognizing the problem but stressed it wasn’t confined to Baja California.

“What is happening is regrettable [and] concerning. He mentioned Tijuana in particular but in reality it’s in tourist destinations in the whole country like Cancún, Quintana Roo, or Los Cabos, Baja California Sur,” he said.

There have been 1,365 homicides recorded in Tijuana this year as of yesterday while rising crime and violence in Baja California Sur have been blamed for hotel cancellations in destinations such as Los Cabos.

Meanwhile, federal Tourism Secretary Enrique de la Madrid ruled out the possibility that an updated travel warning issued by the United States Department of State in August would affect Mexico’s chances of becoming the world’s seventh most visited country.

Mexico is currently the world’s eighth most popular destination, according to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Growing violence and insecurity will also not affect Mexico’s tourism growth, de la Madrid said, stressing that the dangers of travel to Mexico for overseas visitors were minimal.

“The chances that you, as a foreigner, are affected [by insecurity] are frankly very low,” he declared at a tourism event in Cancún yesterday.

He also called on Mexicans to stop branding the country as unsafe because of the negative effect it will have on tourism.

“If we manage to convince the world that we are an unsafe country, someday we are going to pay for it with fewer tourists, less employment and less progress,” de la Madrid said.

Twenty-six million international tourists arrived in the first eight months of 2017, representing a 12% increase over the same period in 2016 while a total of 35 million international tourists visited Mexico last year, up 50% on 2012 figures.

Increases in visitors from Argentina, Brazil, France and Canada were all cited by the tourism secretary while he also said that more Mexicans are choosing to vacation at home.

De la Madrid also made his own comparison to the relative safety of tourists in Mexico compared to the United States and beyond.

“In Mexico, we don’t have insecurity where one person guns down more than 50 people at a concert . . . We don’t have insecurity where you’re walking down a European street and a terrorist comes and shoots people who are drinking coffee . . . .”

“In Mexico the insecurity we have, unfortunately, most of it has to do with . . . criminal groups competing among themselves to gain [control] of a plaza.”

Source: Reforma (sp), El Universal (sp)

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