Even with recent news of violent attacks against tourists in parts of Mexico, some travel experts say Canadians shouldn’t dismiss an entire country due to some events.
“Those travel warnings are broad in a sense and not for all of Mexico,” says travel expert Barry Choi of Toronto. These incidents are very, very isolated and it doesn’t make sense to block off an entire country.”
Choi says traditionally when there are acts of violence in popular destinations in the Caribbean or other resort-friendly hot spots, the government will issue a travel advisory cautioning tourists. He says what often ends up happening though is the public takes an incident in one part of the country and assumes all of it is dangerous.
READ MORE: Alberta man carjacked, abducted in Mexico offers harrowing warning for Canadians
“People are afraid when they hear about violence and crime, but think about how many people travel there and how safe people are. It’s just like people who are scared to fly,” he tells Global News.
Last week, Canada issued a travel warning for Playa del Carmen after a ferry explosion, cautioning Canadians to avoid tour ferries and travelling to the region until further notice.
READ MORE: ‘I will never go to Mexico again’: Ontario man claims he was attacked, robbed in Playa Del Carmen
According to the government’s latest advisory board, Canadians should exercise a high degree of caution in some parts of the country due to crime, protests and occasional illegal roadblocks, as well as an ongoing warning for Playa del Carmen.
The government is warning against non-essential travel to Mexico’s Northern and Western states due to the high levels of violence and organized crime.
Since the news of a Calgary man dying in a Mexican hospital in February and the ferry explosion later that month, there have been several incidents involving Canadian tourists.
Recently, an Ontario man claimed he was attacked, robbed and left for dead in Playa Del Carmen after hopping into a cab to go back to his hotel at night. And on Thursday, an Edmonton man, who has been an on-and-off tourist to the country for 50 years, said he was carjacked and abducted.
Peter Grosser, a travel agent of Escapism Travel, based in Burlington Ont., recently came back from Mexico and says he never felt unsafe there.
“I’ve been travelling to Mexico two to three times a year for 25 years,” he tells Global News. “I am very cautious about safety and I always found it safe enough to take my family.”
Like Choi, Grosser says when we hear about acts of violence, we have to consider how often it happens and where.
“It’s an over-generalization. [People] take one incident from one part of the country and don’t fully understand the geography of Mexico and how large the country is,” he says. “No country is completely 100 per cent safe. You need to take that into consideration.”
He says lately, he does have people come into his business and ask for sunny beaches or all-inclusive resorts, but steer clear from Mexico due to the news.
“They have this predetermined decision and they don’t feel comfortable,” he says, adding as an agent, it is his job to ensure his customers feel safe wherever they go.
And although, according to his research, most resorts in Mexico continue to be fully booked and agents in his network don’t see trends in price reductions or discounts for travel, Grosser says it’s unfair to avoid hot spots that don’t have any warnings just because of some incidences in other parts of the country.
He says while the local hotel industry in Mexico is also aware of the fear, the industry will do anything to keep their tourist dollars coming in — tourism continues to be one of country’s largest markets.
“It’s a matter of using common sense and not putting yourself into situations [where] you become vulnerable,” he continues. “Sometimes when we’re on vacation we let our guard down a little bit and do things we would never do here, not clearly thinking of what we’re doing. There is no problem going out and experiencing the culture, nightlife or restaurants, but just be vigilant and use common sense.”
Safety while travelling
Choi says there are general rules all tourists should follow if they end up travelling to Mexico or other countries with isolated events.
“You always gotta think about your personal safety,” he says. “I would never flag down a random cab in certain countries, the locals will tell you the same thing. If you need a cab, book it through your hotel or through a local cab company.”
READ MORE: Canada issues travel warning for Playa del Carmen, Mexico after ferry explosion
And although he doesn’t discourage tourists from using local buses or cabs, always talk to hotel management first. You can also do research on your own before you get there.
For excursions or activities, you can either book at the hotel or through a local company. While local vendors tend to be cheaper, Choi suggests doing the research online beforehand for the best recommendations.
“At the same time you don’t want to make yourself look like a target, don’t flash your money.”