Vallarta Living | May 2009
|The Bay of Banderas: Be Here. Be Happy. Be Home.|
The Banderas Beat: Special Report
There is a good deal of Mexico bashing in the media. In this special episode of Banderas Beat, "The Bay of Banderas, Be Here, Be Happy, Be Home," video journalist Laura Gelezunas explores the truths - and the misinformation - and gives us an in-depth look at all the attention and its consequences.
|If you would like to learn how you can promote your Banderas Bay area business or event through a video press release on BanderasNews, please contact Laura Gelezunas at VideoDivaProductions(at)yahoo.com (Video Diva Productions)|
Many have watched the dramatic news unfold. Many people in the Bay of Banderas area have received numerous phone calls and emails from friends and family "back home" inquiring about the safety of living in, or traveling to, Mexico.
So Laura hit the streets to ask Puerto Vallarta locals what they think about what they are hearing in the news.
Part-time resident Jim Callan had this to say, "A great over-reaction, there are problems along the border in certain places, but most people fly inland, so it doesn't effect them at all."
Linda Ellerbee, another part-time resident, said, "I'm a journalist from the U.S. and I'm in Mexico watching the U.S. news on TV and I'm thinking, that's not my experience at all... One of the bigger mistakes I think the U.S. media makes is that they lump the whole country into one pot." Check out her article on the subject, One Journalist's View, right HERE on BanderasNews.
PV homeowner, Earlene Callan, added, "There's danger all over the world, I don't think Mexico is any more dangerous than the United States."
It's a question of geography. Many visitors don't make the distinction between a border town and a tourist destination, like the Bay of Banderas.
Edward Ramotowski, the U.S. Consul General in Guadalajara, says there is a serious surge in drug-related violence and other crimes in the border areas. However, there are currently no travel warnings for western Mexico. Authorities are constantly monitoring the situation in the states of Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit and Aguascalientes. Fortunately, there is nothing to report.
However, travelers should take advisories seriously. To check for travel warnings all over the world, visit travel.state.gov. This site reflects the best, most up-to-date information.
Now that we have made the distinction between border towns and the Banderas Bay region, let's look at how this adverse publicity has affected the local economy.
The top three money makers for Mexico: oil, "remesa" (the money that Mexican workers make in the US and send to their families in Mexico) and tourism. Numbers two and three change places frequently but these are all taking a big hit this season because of economics and negative media attention.
According to PVRPV vacation rental agent, Armando Sanchez, "It has affected us a lot, the situation with the economic downturn as well as the whole media thing, it's affecting the tourist planning and the traveling."
Casa Helga Villa Rental Agent, Helga Farrill, said, "It has affected me greatly and my business is almost at a standstill because of the... negative publicity that has been out on Mexico, not specifically Puerto Vallarta but that is the problem when the negative media is spread, they have to be more specific because not only have I suffered from the lack of tourism but also the local population and it's very sad to see some of the stores being closed."
According to the World Tourism Organization, Mexico has one of the largest tourism industries. In 2005 it was the seventh most popular tourist destination in the world, receiving over 20 million visitors per year.
Richard Zarkin of the Riviera Nayarit Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, "Overall we have had a good high occupancy rate, which would be about 72 percent, the Banderas Bay area is one of the less affected destinations by the current economic crises, so yes we have had a good winter season so far."
Not every business is closing its doors, and so far they are remaining in the black but anxiously await the next tourist season.
"We've been holding very well because people that are frequent players of Flamingos, they keep coming. We had some rough time at the end of the year but January, February and March, everything worked OK, thank God... You can actually play and find all kinds of golf in the area, and all with the best services... I believe next year is going to be even better," said Flamingos Golf General Manager, Claudia Formoso.
Despite the reported border violence, many choose to drive to the Bay of Banderas. The border between the United States and Mexico runs almost 2-thousand miles with 250-million legal crossings per year. Even though the border has been in the news, many have found the crossing and drive through the republic a pleasure.
"We have driven down several times and have had no problems, in fact we have had a very pleasant drive... we like to drive down, we like to go through the countryside and see the Mexico that is not on the borders and not on the ocean... you need to be as careful here as you are in your home town," said Puerto Vallarta homeowner, Jim Callan.
When asked about driving to Mexico, part-time PV resident Joe Van Pinxteren said, "It was a bit of a holiday. These states are very beautiful, Mexico is very beautiful... and talking about safety, I was never aware, I was never concerned, you are in your car you go through customs... I felt no hassle, really, they do their things, you learn that, you get in your car and you drive and you stop for gas and at the end of the day, (don't drive at night,) you get to your hotel/motel and it's fine. This whole safety issue that I hear expressed that there are great concerns... but it's no different than being on the road in Canada or the U.S., it's the same."
According to the Head of American Citizen Services at the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara, Janie Friedlein, travelers driving in Mexico should stay on the toll roads and should not drive at night. You might encounter just about anything after dark on smaller roads in Mexico, animals, pedestrians, construction - and criminals. Consulate officials also encourage everyone to check out travel.state.gov for information. Read up on the area you're visiting. Be informed. Also use good, common sense, plus, enjoy the ride.
Economic times are tough all over. But business leaders in Mexico are confident that tourism will help save part of their economy. Since tourism is the major source of income in this area, the government is doing all it can to ensure the safety of locals as well as tourists.
In the words of the Bay of Banderas area residents Laura interviewed:
Earlene Callan: "We find it safe."
Armando Sanchez: "I go to different places and it's always very safe."
Helga Farrill: "I feel as safe now as I have always felt."
Jim Callan: "We've always felt very safe here."
Now that we've heard from Banderas Bay area locals, let's take a look at look at what the government is doing to ensure everyone's safety, and keep tourists coming back for more.
According to Jose Carrillo of the Nayarit Tourist Police, "The tourist police take care of the visitors. We drive around the city and make a complete check of all the areas, with car patrols and motorcycles. We have a large force in the state. We keep an eye on the tourists, residents and part-time residents. Official government reports say, the amount of personal crime here is very low. There will always be theft, drugs and accidents, but we keep a handle on it."
Hesitation and fears among potential travelers to the Bay of Banderas area is a concern among local vacation rental agents, plus hotel public relations officials. They field hundreds of calls per week from worried travelers.
Local rental agent Armando Sanchez says, "They basically ask us what the government is doing, what are the patrols doing, and if you walk on the beach if there's security there, and we tell them that yes it's very secure, the government is very well organized in Vallarta and it has a lot of security... it has state police, local patrols and traffic patrols, so it is all very well taken care of."
The questions remains, why would a country that depends on tourism risk jeopardizing this vital source of income? Officials are vexed with the negative publicity about Mexico as a whole country and not just a few border towns.
Mexico is a large country, and in many areas you are as safe as you would be in any of the world's popular travel destinations. Recent statistics show the Banderas Bay attracts over 3 million tourists per year. According to Bay of Banderas tourism professionals, the number is estimated to double in the next 20 years.
Local residents tell us just a few of the reason why you should choose the Bay of Banderas for your next vacation.
"The quality of life is great, people are very friendly."
- Richard Zarkin, Riviera Nayarit Convention & Visitors Bureau
"Well, it's a beautiful spot... it's a very 'Mexican' city and we find the Mexican people to be just really wonderful."
- Puerto Vallarta homeowner, Earlene Callan
"This is a fine place, this is like paradise."
- Part-time PV resident, Joe Van Pinxteren,
According to local officials, the Mexican government is making the Bay of Banderas an investment priority. They hope to keep the infrastructure growing to accommodate the ever-increasing population. Electricity, water treatment, telecommunications, airports, and highways are just some of the areas being addressed.
"Nayarit is the second state in the country with the highest tourism investment, that means there is a confidence in the region. New developments coming up show how the private investment from Spain, U.S., Canada and Mexico are confident in building and creating new tourist points," says Richard Zarkin of the Riviera Nayarit Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"We came down here for a five day vacation 14 years ago and on the fourth day we decided we'd look around at some places to buy. On the fifth day, we actually were on the way to the airport, we wrote out an offer to buy a place, and indeed, we bought it. We've been coming down since then... every year a little bit more, spending a little more time here," said Jim Callan.
Helga Farrill commented, "I have been coming to Puerto Vallarta for the last 35 years... I think its still a small town in many ways, even though there's a lot of development going on... the people are the same, they are friendly, they are welcoming."
The Allure of Banderas Bay
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is tropical paradise with an average of 300 sunny days per year and a yearly average temperature of 85 degrees. There are over 40 miles of coastline offering lazy days on the beach, as well all types of water sports and all sorts of jungle activities. It's a destination of unsurpassed beauty and variety.
"It's a dynamic destination. Drive the coastline, the Banderas Bay area exhibits modern to colonia styles," says Richard Zarkin of the Riviera Nayarit Convention & Visitors Bureau.
In addition, there is a solid commitment of both the Mexican Government and international investors. The area is poised to become on of the most luxurious and important destinations for tourism and vacation homes in the world.
While all of this is going on, Mexico is getting a tough rap in the U.S. media.
"The thing is we're all more alike than we are different, it's just that our differences are so much more susceptible to definition to many people from the U.S. they look at Mexico and we see foreign instead of seeing neighbor," said U.S. journalist and part-time PV resident, Linda Ellerbee.
We all live on the same continent, Canada, the United States and Mexico. We are all neighbors and should treat each other as such. We're all in this together, despite what the media says. Do your homework before traveling anywhere, then visit the Bay of Banderas and enjoy your vacation.