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How to stay safe when traveling in Mexico: One travel agent’s recommendations

by Yucatan Times
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Millions of Americans travel to Mexico every year and likely will continue to visit, despite U.S. warnings about crime, tainted alcohol, and potential hurricanes on the other side of the border.

Steve Danishek, president of Seattle-based TMA Travel, shares his thoughts with King5.com what you can do to reduce your risk while visiting Mexico…..

Q: Tell me about the government warning that came out this week.

A: This is a renewal of an existing advisory.  That’s the bad news. Conditions in Mexico have not improved.  The same cautions to tourists remain in place.  Parts of Mexico can be very dangerous, even in safe tourist areas.  Gang fights are spilling over into safer areas; not frequently, but enough that cautions are advised.  The advisory even details the three types of kidnapping that may occur.

Q: What are you hearing from inside the travel industry. Are customers concerned or canceling trips?

A: Tourists tend to become complacent when negative headlines disappear, so no panic to cancel at the moment.  Hopefully, things will stay quiet and it won’t come to that.  The airlines are betting on that.  Alaska, Delta or American do not have Mexico Travel Advisories in place at this time. However, travel agents, even online travel agencies, like Expedia, do have a duty to disclose that an advisory is in place to:

1) Inform the tourists to review the advisories and their comfort level.
2) Shield their companies from liability claims if something bad happens, and they did not make a disclosure to their client.

Clients should ask questions and keep in mind that the situation can change instantly, like between the time you buy your tickets and your departure date.

Q: If I’m traveling to Mexico, how can I reduce the risk that I’ll become a crime victim?

A: Standard protocols apply.  Stay in the normal tourist areas. Ask the hotel/resort staff about security issues. Check online for updates.  Stay away from protests and crowds; a selfie is not worth an injury. Late night walks in bad parts of town or the country  – any country – are a bad idea.  Keep in mind that the prosecution of crimes against tourists rarely leads to criminals in jail or compensation to the victim.  U.S. laws DO NOT apply to you in Mexico.

Security forces patrol Fifth avenue after another execution . (PHOTO: Diario de Yucatan)

I encourage passengers traveling internationally, including Mexico, to enroll in the U.S. State Department’s STEP – Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.  It is free.
1) You will receive information from the embassy about safety conditions so that you can make informed decisions.
2) It allows the U.S. embassy to contact you in emergency situations (natural disaster, civil unrest, family emergencies).
3) It will help family and friends determine if you are safe.

Q: The new State Department travel warning comes on the heels of an advisory last month that some of the alcohol served in Mexico may be tainted, and it might be what caused the death of a tourist from Wisconsin in July.

A: Bad alcohol and drugs in alcoholic drinks and subsequent assaults and robberies are unfortunately not new.  The tourist bureaus, resorts, and local police are polished in minimizing the impact and deflecting the issue.  Tourist money is important and drives the response.  For the same reason prosecutions rarely occur and follow up is lax.  Only when deaths or nationwide exposure (USAToday series) is there a credible response.  Businesses cutting financial corners is a tradition, but one with an occasional adverse expense, i.e. dead or injured tourist and tarnishment.   Refilling name brand liquor bottles with cheap or harmful alcohol are not new.  I stay with a beer in Mexico, with the top on.

Click here for full interview

Source: http://www.king5.com/

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