Mexico travels still on for Canadians despite surge in violence

Canadian travel agents are getting more calls from concerned travelers after a recent surge in violence in Mexico, but there hasn’t been an increase in cancellations and experts say the country is still safe to visit as long as visitors act responsibly.

Violence broke out in regions of Mexico on Jan. 5 after the son of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, Ovidio Guzman, was arrested sparking bloody retribution by members of the Sinaloa cartel in cities across the country.

Recently, the federal government issued a warning to Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to several states in northern, western and central Mexico and to exercise a “high degree of caution.”

Many of the regions with a travel advisory, however, are far from the typical tourist destinations of Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos/Cabo San Lucas, said Allison Wallace, vice-president of communications at Flight Center Canada.

“We haven’t had a surge of cancellations to Mexico and as a country it’s by far the most popular sun destination for Canadians,” Wallace said. “Mexico is a large country and the tourist areas are typically the safest areas. Mexico works very hard to maintain safety in tourist areas as they understand the economic benefits of all those visitors.”

Travel agent AJ Malik with Marlin Travel Heartland in Mississauga, said the agency has received more calls from travelers heading to Mexico about safety concerns, but many realize the violence taking place is far away from their destination.

Bruna Silva, manager and travel agent with Toronto’s Mandala Travel agency shared a similar experience; no one is canceling.

“Even the providers of the resort and flight packages haven’t announced any cancellations or cause for concern,” she said. “Everything we’re learning about Mexico is from the news, there’s nothing from the providers.”

There are best practices and safety tips to follow when heading to a destination with travel advisories, said Denise Georgiou-Newell, destination specialist and travel expert.

“People have always been concerned when traveling to Mexico,” she said. “I’m not getting more calls than normal.”

Often people have questions about getting stabbed, mugged, killed, and kidnapped, which are all “stereotypical questions and assumptions,” Georgiou-Newell said. “Mexico has its corruption, but also has its love of tourists and they treat their tourists well,” she added.

Common advice is to be cautious when traveling to a new country whether that be Mexico or anywhere else, he said.

“Act as you would in your own city. If you don’t walk alone at 3 am in your own city, don’t do it in Mexico,” Georgiou-Newell said, adding excessive drinking and wandering the streets alone should be avoided.

It’s also important to build a relationship with the resort or hotel reception and customer service agents. If there is a problem, the resort can be the first point of contact and offer insider knowledge and expertise from the country.

Travel insurance is also a must-have these days, said Wallace. At the very least, trip interruption, cancellation and medical coverage should be considered.

Travel expert Natalie Preddie noted that travelers can register with the Canadian embassy in Mexico. Should the need to evacuate arise, the embassy knows to look for you.

A common mistake to avoid, Preddie added, is to make sure your emergency contact is someone back home and not a person traveling with you.

Other safety tips include not sharing travel plans with strangers and not posting your location on social media — geotagging often means strangers can have access to your location.

“Don’t wear your flashy stuff like a Rolex or jewelry,” Preddie said. “Don’t make yourself a target.”

Checking in with family and friends regularly is also recommended, so they can keep tabs on your whereabouts. And, if you’re going to a country where the first language isn’t English it can be handy to have the resort’s business card to provide a cab driver for the location, so you’re not struggling to communicate about how to get back to the hotel.


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