|Mexican tourism officials in 'total shock' at Princess move
Princess Cruises' decision to cancel calls in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the rest of the year has left the country's tourism industry in "total shock," a top tourism official tells USA TODAY.
"Puerto Vallarta is a perfectly safe destination," says Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board. "We were very surprised and clearly very concerned about the announcement of Princess Cruises pulling out."
As we reported Monday, Princess cited worries about the safety of cruisers and crew in canceling calls in Puerto Vallarta -- a move that comes just months after Princess and several other cruise lines pulled out of Mazatlan, Mexico over safety concerns.
The decision came just days after the robbery and murder of a Canadian man who was living in Puerto Vallarta with his family, and in the wake of a new U.S. State Department travel warning about growing drug-related violence in Mexico. The travel warning specifically mentioned Mexico's Jalisco state, where Puerto Vallarta is located.
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Still, Lopez Negrete says the drug-related violence in Jalisco and other areas of Mexico cited in the travel warning is taking place far from tourist areas, and the State Department is unfairly lumping whole regions together without being specific about the risks to tourists.
"Mexico is a very large country," he notes. "If there are some episodes of violence up in the hills of the state of Jalisco that doesn't mean that Puerto Vallarta is an unsafe place for tourists."
Lopez Negrete draws a comparison with Los Angeles, which he notes is considered a safe tourism destination despite recurring violence in some areas of the city that aren't near the places that tourists go.
"If they kill 100 people in East L.A. that doesn't mean that I shouldn't go to Los Angeles," he says.
Lopez Negrete says Mexican tourism officials were given no warning of Princess' move, but top Mexican officials including Secretary of Tourism Gloria Guevara Manzo have since reached out to the company.
"Unfortunately we were not given the chance to have a prior dialogue with the Princess Cruises executives to talk about this topic before they made the decision," he says.
Lopez Negrete says Mexico remains a wonderful and safe place to visit, despite what Americans may be hearing about drug violence on the evening news.
"The perception of the consumer is that Mexico is up in flames, (and) that is totally wrong," he says. "There are episodes of violence in pockets of the country, but that is in places we do not recommend (people) go."
Of 2,500 municipalities in the state, only 80 have experienced drug-related violence, and tourists are rarely the victims of crime, he says.
"Mexico receives more than 20 million tourists every year, and we receive more than 6 million cruise passengers every year," he says. "When you compare the number of incidents that tourists have had in Mexico to that scale of business, it's really small."
As for Puerto Vallarta, Lopez Negrete says it is "more beautiful than ever, more wonderful than ever. (It has) fantastic weather, fantastic food (and) has become one of the meccas of the world."
+ Wexico http://news.wexico.com/tourism/14jul2011/mexican-tourism-officials-in-total-shock-at-princess-move.htm
There is no reason not to go, he says.
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