Mexico still safe for Canadians to visit, but stay in comfort zones: expert

Hotels in Playa del Carmen beach area. (PHOTO:

It’s still safe for Canadians to visit Mexico as long as they don’t get too adventurous, says a former British Columbia police officer and Mexico security expert.

Walter McKay, a former Vancouver cop who spent seven years in Mexico creating and implementing a police reform training plan, said a recent fatal shooting at a nightclub in Playa Del Carmen is not a reason to avoid the popular holiday destination altogether.

On Jan. 16, five people were killed, including Canadian Kirk Wilson, in a shooting at the BPM electronic music festival.

Miguel Angel Pech, the attorney general of Quintana Roo state, said a lone gunman apparently entered the nightclub and began to exchange fire with another person inside.

Festival security personnel tried to stop the shooting and came under fire.

Risk higher outside safe zones

McKay said there is no need for people who had been comfortably travelling to Mexico for a long time to change their vacation plans.

“This event is not a tipping point; things haven’t radically changed,” said McKay.

Kirk Wilson
Friends and family are mourning the death of Canadian Kirk Wilson, who they say died in a nightclub shooting in Mexico earlier this month. (PHOTO: Wilson family)

“It’s still the same as it was and if you’ve been going there for the last 10 years with all the … violence and you’re comfortable with that, then you’re fine.”

But McKay said the risk of violence has increased outside safe zones, such as all-inclusive resorts.

“When I say it’s safe, it is if you fly in, go to your all-inclusive resort, enjoy the beach and the food, and then fly back,” he said.

“You’re more likely to run into trouble, and serious trouble, when you start being adventurous and go out into the … cities outside these comfort zones.”

Cartels contributing to violence: McKay

McKay said the majority of violence in Mexico usually takes place in border cities and port cities, where different groups and cartels are fighting for control.

He added that the Playa del Carmen resort town had not been one of those places because it was largely under the control of the Zeta drug cartel.

McKay said there are cities that tourists should avoid and suggested fledgling travellers choose other destinations, such as Cuba.


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