Spring Break Breakdown?

By Lola

We all know somebody who is or will be on Spring Break this month—that fun-filled time of the year that is usually synonymous with “Beach in Mexico.” But this time, things have been a bit rocky for our South of the Border neighbor, and that’s putting it mildly.

With all the news hitting the headlines about the dreadful violence inflicted on the country by the drug cartels, it’s hard for people to separate the border from the beach since it’s all being lumped under “Mexico.” And while no destination is perfect—yes, there have been incidents in beach destinations (and please show me one in the U.S. where nothing has happened, ever)—what’s occurring in Ciudad Juárez and Nogales, for example, cannot be compared to Cancún, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos or any other vacation spot.

Travel Weekly, the national newspaper of the travel industry, recently hosted a topical virtual forum presented by Funjet Vacations and Travel Impressions. The 35 minute Webcast was held exclusively for travel agents and addressed travel agent and consumer concerns and their misconceptions about the Mexico Travel Alert and drug violence in Mexico.

Travel Weekly Editor in Chief Arnie Weissmann moderated the panel, which included Mike Going, president of Funjet Vacations; Steve Gorga, president of Travel Impressions; Mandy Chomat, vice president of sales and marketing for Karisma Hotels & Resorts; Carlos Behnsen, executive director of the Mexico Tourism Board; and Sal Ramos vice president of sales and marketing at Marival Resorts & Suites.

Because it’s a topic that affects all of us who love Mexico, whether we’re in the travel business or not, we wanted to share some of their thoughts:

“The U.S. Department of State’s Mexico Travel Alert has been broadly misinterpreted. The misinterpretation of the alert, not the actual violence in U.S./Mexico border towns, is what is affecting tourism to Mexico,” said Mike Going President of Funjet Vacations during yesterday’s discussion. “The intent of the alert is to advise travelers to use common sense precautions when in Mexico; it does not discourage people from vacationing in the destination.”

The U.S. State Department reassured on Friday, March 6, 2009, that despite previous warnings of Mexico’s ongoing drug violence, much of the country remains unscathed by running battles between security forces and rival drug cartels. Spokesman Gordon Duguid said violent activities are relatively confined. “We notice that many of the violent activities are localized in several different places. They are not general across the north of Mexico, let alone through… the entire country,” he said.

The panelists agreed that the concentration of violence in Mexico is hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of miles from main tourist destinations and that Mexico continues to be a fun, safe and amazing place to go on vacation.

Although the success of Funjet Vacations’ business relies on sending thousands of Americans to Mexico each year, Going stated that “We all have commercial interests, but this panel is representative and reflective of an industry that puts customer safety ahead of the bottom line.”

The Mexican government is also working to undo the damage of the negative press, sending out to subscribers of its VisitMexico.com website a series of newsletters with updates on popular destination spots, as well as details on the travel alerts, weather, safe travel tips, testimonials from travelers and more. I’m not quite sure I like the testimonial from Mr. Wallace, who focused on the lower drinking age, but hey, I was in college once. Now I’m a mom and I totally sound like one. Yikes!

Click here to take a look and send me your thoughts…