Category Archives: Travel warnings

Map Of Countries That Currently Have Travel Warnings

Thanks to the Orange County Register for providing this comprehensive map that overviews areas of the world that the US State Department has issued travel warnings.

Mexico still leads the way for countries in North America where it is still extremely dangerous when traveling in and around northern border states.

This is the link to the full report.

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.

Texas warns of travel to Mexican border town for the Fourth

exas authorities are urging residents not to cross into the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo during the Fourth of July weekend because of intelligence that a Mexican drug cartel plans to target U.S. citizens.

The violent Zetas drug cartel, which operates in Nuevo Laredo, will be targeting crimes at Americans who cross the border into the city this weekend, the Texas Department of Public Safety and Webb County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday.

“According to the information we have received, the Zetas are planning a possible surge in criminal activity, such as robberies, extortions, car-jackings and vehicle theft, specifically against U.S. citizens,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said in a statement. “We urge U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Nuevo Laredo this weekend if it can be avoided.”

Nuevo Laredo is across the border from Laredo, Texas, a city which bills itself as the “Gateway to Mexico.” Four international bridges link Texas and Mexico at Laredo. An average of 11,000 trucks cross the border daily on those bridges.

Besides, commerce, the bridges between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo also connect families who have relatives on both sides of the border.

Nuevo Laredo, like most Mexican border cities, offers rows of bars, inexpensive dentists, restaurants and cultural events to draw tourists. But tourism has sharply declined in the past six years as drug cartel violence has spiraled in Mexico. Because of the various bridges into the United States and access to a major highway, Nuevo Laredo has been a turf contested by rival drug cartels.

The Zetas are known for having expanded their activities in the area from drug trafficking to exortion, kidnapping and human smuggling.

While the officials put out a warning for travel to Nuevo Laredo, they said there is no indication that this cartel criminal spree will crossover into the United States.

Officials in Nuevo Laredo said they were not familiar with the Texas warning.

“We are on alert as usual, because that is how we must be in Nuevo Laredo, but there is no special alert here with regards to what the U.S. authorities in Texas are saying,” said Michelle Jones-Salazar, spokeswoman for the state’s public prosecutor’s office in Nuevo Laredo. “This week, there has not been a single gun battle that we have had to respond to or a single dead body. The city continues as usual and we remain vigilant.”

Is Mexico's Violence Overblown?

Mexican President Felipe Calderón is touting 2011 as the year of tourism, and the Mexico Tourism Board is spending millions of dollars on ads.

Yet the nation’s deadly drug wars have led the U.S. government to widen its travel warnings in recent weeks, throwing a wrench into Mexico’s effort to attract foreign visitors.

Nearly half of all available rooms in 70 major resort centers in Mexico have been vacant this year, except for the Easter crowd that nearly filled the hotels for a few days over the holiday weekend, according to the tourism board.

Some U.S. travel agents and Mexican officials believe news about the violence has been overblown. “Bad things can happen anywhere,” said Rita Wilcox of Rocky Point Reservations travel agency in Phoenix. “But people are afraid, so even those who have the money to go might not. It’s affected every business down there tremendously.”

In Acapulco, the occupancy rate at major resorts slid 7 percentage points to 38.4 percent last year from 2008. In that period, Cancun’s rate tumbled to 57.4 percent from 72.1 percent, according to the Mexico Tourism Board. Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Maya have seen similar declines.

Overall, the number of international visitors has fallen 13 percent to 79.8 million last year from 91.5 million in 2008, according to Banco de Mexico. The trend isn’t looking better this year: In January, 3.8 million day-trippers crossed the U.S. border into Mexico, down 16 percent from the same month last year.

It was the violence that prompted the State Department advisory as well as a separate warning from the Texas Department of Public Safety urging spring-break vacationers to give Mexico a wide berth.

As lawlessness escalated last year, 111 Americans were killed in Mexico, compared with just 35 in 2007, authorities said. Others have been kidnapped from hotels, carjacked at gunpoint and targeted for extortion.

The State Department has urged travelers to avoid the states of Tamaulipas and Michoacan and parts of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sinaloa, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi and Jalisco.

Is Calderon Telling The Truth About Drug Violence In Mexico?

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said Thursday that drug violence in Mexico isn’t hurting international tourism or the country’s plans to grow the industry.

Calderon told a group of travel industry executives in Las Vegas that international tourism was up 6 percent last year in Mexico, with 10 percent more American tourists visiting the country.

With 23 million international visitors last year and 6 million on cruise ships, Calderon said there were “almost zero” incidents of tourists encountering crime related to drug cartels.

Violence has been a consistent problem in Mexico, with frequent reports of killings and kidnappings related to the nation’s drug war. Late Tuesday, gunmen opened fire in an auto body shop in the Gulf Coast state of Tabasco, killing nine people. In the southern state of Guerrero, six people were killed earlier this week, including four police officers.

The U.S. State Department has warned Americans to stick to tourist areas and legitimate businesses, avoiding areas where criminal activity might happen. The department said that while there is no evidence of criminals targeting Americans because of their citizenship, the number of Americans killed in Mexico increased from 35 in 2007 to 111 in 2010.

Texas also warned college students earlier this year about going to Mexico for spring break, but Calderon said the vacationers encountered no problems.

“Let me tell you, I saw thousands, thousands of spring breakers in Mexico having fun,” Calderon said. “And from my understanding, the only shots they received were tequila shots — a lot of them.”

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, international visitors spent $15 billion in Mexico in 2010, up from $12.3 billion in 2009. Domestic travel spending was also up to $78.9 billion, from $68.2 billion in 2009, and the council projects both figures will be up again in 2011.

Calderon said Mexico is proving to be an attractive investment for foreign travel companies, with $4 billion in investments in Mexico during the first quarter this year.

“Mexico is a safe place to visit,” Calderon said.

“Yes we have problems… We are dealing with that, we are facing it,” he said. “But at the same time, we have everything.”

Earlier this year, Calderon pledged with state governors to declare 2011 the year of tourism in Mexico, the start of a campaign to push international visits to the country even higher by 2020.

Calderon said that right now, Mexico is the 10th most visited country in the world by international travelers, and he wants that to improve to 5th by the end of the decade.

State Department Issues New Travel Alert

Practically since the Twin Towers fell nearly 10 years ago, the U.S. State Department has issued a worldwide caution, a blanket advisory that travelers should be on guard anywhere they go. Now with the death of Osama bin Laden, that caution has been augmented with a worldwide travel alert, a short-term notice for U.S. citizens in effect through August 1st. It cites the “enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counterterrorism activity in Pakistan.”

On the other hand, since there is no specific threat to share, the Department of Homeland Security is stopping short of issuing an alert under the new National Terrorism Advisory System that does away with the former color coded model.

Many travelers who spoke with NY1 say the heightened warnings won’t change their summer vacation plans.

“To tell you the truth it doesn’t really affect me in any way. I wasn’t really afraid to travel before and I don’t think I’m going to be afraid to travel now. So the fact that Osama bin Laden has been killed doesn’t really change anything,” said one city resident.

“Ultimately he would have died from old age or us capturing him or being bombed so I don’t think it’s the event that is going to trigger a whole lot of other stuff,” said one city tourist.

For an older generation on the road, some swear by the protective confines of a group.

“We’ve done a lot of traveling since 9/11, we’ve done South America, Antarctica, Israel and when you travel with a tour or with major company, you’re safe, it should not inhibit you, I think if I was younger or more adventurous and traveling on my own I think I would be a little more concerned,” said one tourist.