Chac Mool beach, Quintana Roo Photo: Aquaworld Cancún

After Mexican officials discovered eight bodies in Cancun last week, the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for the country. Not surprisingly, the incident has caused some travelers to reconsider vacationing on the Yucatán Peninsula. However, security experts and tourism officials say the area remains safe for foreign visitors.

The incident took place in Cancun – located in the state of Quintana Roo – in a downtown neighborhood miles from the tourist area of Zona Hotelera. Dario Flota, director general of the Quintana Roo Tourism Board, said foreigners typically do not venture into this part of town. Most travelers congregate along the 14-mile-long beach strip dense with high-rise hotels, restaurants and clubs.

“In general, there have been no incidents near the tourist area,” he said.

Flota said security forces keep a watchful eye on Zona Hotelera and Playa del Carmen, another popular beach destination on the peninsula. Federal police and Navy personnel patrol the beaches; the police and Army monitor the highways. The government has installed surveillance cameras between Cancun and Playa del Carmen as well as at the ferry piers, where visitors board boats to Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. Officials inspect bags and have used dogs for an additional layer of protection.

Cancún (Photo: Cancunmio.com)

“The tourist zone is a much safer area,” said Ben West, a security expert with Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence firm. “It has tighter security.”

Cancun’s limited access – one entrance, one exit – also helps keep dangerous elements away. (In Cozumel, the jungle acts as a security fence.)

“Cancun is easy to control,” Flota said. “It is well-protected.”

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