Should you travel this summer to Mexico amid safety, algae and political concerns?

Should you travel this summer to Mexico amid safety, algae and political concerns?


The travel and tourism industry is a major economic driver for the Mexican economy, with over 44 million visitors expected in 2019. 

However, the current U.S. political climate toward Mexico, safety and security concerns even in tourist areas, the dismantling of the national tourism board in May and reports of massive amounts of algae washing up on some beaches may leave some travelers with doubts on whether to travel to the destination. 

And whether tourists should travel to Mexico may depend on where they’re going and how they prepare. 

In May, YestoMexico, a U.S. nonprofit organization that seeks to educate travelers about Mexico in order to encourage visitation, surveyed a network of U.S. travel agents and professionals in the Mexican tourism industry about the perceived impact of media reporting in the U.S. on Mexico’s reputation. Of the more than 200 people who responded, 93% said they felt that Mexico’s reputation as a tourist destination has been at least slightly impacted as a result of constant news reports on immigration and border security issues.

Political backdrop

In a deal announced Friday, Mexico agreed to increase security along its southern border with Guatemala, where many Central Americans are crossing into Mexico on their way to the U.S.

In addition, Mexico has agreed to take “decisive action to dismantle human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as their illicit financial and transportation networks,” according to an overview of the agreement released by the U.S. State Department. 

President Donald Trump had threatened 5% tariffs on all Mexican imports unless officials there figured out a way to crack down on the flow of Central American migrants. 

“The ongoing politics surrounding what’s happening at the U.S.- Mexico border is a factor that can’t be ignored, says Tom Brussow, president of YesToMexico and Sunsational Beach Vacations, a travel agency based in Wisconsin. “While the constant news flow, which often generalizes Mexico unfairly in a negative light, surely affects how Mexico is perceived, the truth is Mexico’s most-popular tourist destinations are hundreds of miles away and are unimpacted and uninvolved in the political issues driving these headlines.”

Dissolution of the national tourism board

Medano Beach in Los Cabos (Photo: Photomexico/Francisco Estrada)

In May, the Mexico Tourism Board, known as the Consejo, was hit with drastic cuts.

“The decision by Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), to disband the Mexico Tourism Board is unfortunate for those of us who want to promote and share the wonders of Mexico with the world,” said Zachary Rabinor, CEO of Journey Mexico, a network of travel agents and travel planners specializing in Mexico. “It is great to see AMLO’s passion for investing in the Mayan Train that will traverse the Yucatan Peninsula, but promoting Mexico as a world-class travel destination is equally important.”  

Funding is being diverted from the tourism board to the Mayan Train project, which aims to create more comprehensive transit for local communities.

The individual states of Mexico are now reliant on their own funding to promote themselves to foreign tourists instead of centralized government help.

“The dissolution of the Mexico Tourism Board has affected us by not having a promotional umbrella campaign for the entire country and different segments in the country, the majority of which have always promoted the Quintana Roo destinations,” Dario Flota Ocampo, Director of the Quintana Roo Tourism Board told USA TODAY. Quintana Roo includes the hot spots of Cancun, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.

“The greatest impact has been on budget. For example, participation in international trade shows and fairs now costs us five or six times more than what it cost before,” Ocampo said.

“Following the dissolution of the Mexico Tourism Board, the Jalisco State (capital is Guadalajara) has begun to work more closely with neighboring states, like Guanajuato and Mexico City in order to join resources and use them in more efficient ways to promote their destinations,” Germán Ralis, Tourism Secretary of the Jalisco State told USA TODAY.

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