San Antonio, Texas - A Mexican tourism official has met with Texas officials to head off a potential warning against visiting Mexico during the lucrative Spring Break and summer vacation seasons. The meeting followed a recent robbery of several Carnival Splendor passengers on a jungle walking tour near Puerto Vallarta.
"This was an unfortunate and isolated incident and is in no way a reflection of the security in the area," according to Rodolfo López Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board.
The incident, which involved the holdup of twenty-two passengers on a bus outside the town of El Nogalito, drew media attention by some quarters to concerns over security in the popular tourist area.
However, both the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board and tour operators reject the notion that safety in the area remains a serious issue.
In a statement released shortly after the event, the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board called the robbery "an extremely rare incident" while praising the destination’s officials, as well as the US Consulate, who took "swift action" to ensure the health and safety of the tourists who were affected.
"Minutes after we learned of the incident, representatives from the local and state government, tourism leaders and tour operators were ready to provide assistance to those involved," the statement read.
"Mexico received 22.7 million tourists last year," Lopez Negrete said in an interview. "In addition to that, we received at least 5 million passengers who came through the different cruise companies through a number of ports of call in Mexico. If you take into account the volume of tourists that Mexico receives every year, compared to the number of instances that we have had, it is a miniscule, miniscule part."
Additionally, the authorities in the Vallarta area are "constantly working on enhancing safety measures" employed by the local police and private security officers, including new international standardized training.
"We are also making renovations to the city’s streets and popular tourist zones which will better serve our guests and their safety," the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board added.
In a recent interview with e-Travel Blackboard, Journey Mexico president Zachary Rabinor said that concerns over security in the country, and Puerto Vallarta, have been unjustified.
"Most of the beach destinations in Mexico are safer than potential customers’ home cities and the hard facts often have a sobering effect on the more emotional and ignorant perceptions that travelers hold," Mr Rabinor explained.
"My wife runs alone in the early morning three times a week, and my two year old and 6 year old children take the public bus, with an adult, throughout Puerto Vallarta."
The US, and Texas in particular, is vital to Mexico’s tourist trade, which is the nation’s second largest industry. About 60 percent of tourists who fly into Mexico are Americans, and one third of those fly through Texas. In 2009, Texas officials urged Texans to avoid Mexico, a warning which significantly damaged the tourism industry.
López Negrete said this is his third trip to Texas to meet with state officials. He wants any new travel advisory, which he expects to be issued next week, to be 'proportional.'
In fact, a recent article from USA Today, stated that "even the US State Department, which recently raised its warning regarding 14 of the 31 Mexican states, exempts Vallarta and the surrounding areas on Banderas Bay from it's official travel warning regarding unsafe areas of Mexico.""We should not be perceived as a dangerous country overall, because we’re not. We have a challenge and we are combating that challenge," he said.