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Cancun Is Still The Top Destination For American Travelers Despite Travel Advisories

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Recent reports of violent crime in parts of Mexico may have caused a media furor in the U.S., but contrary to popular belief and what the latest travel advisories would have you believe, the country's major urban centers and resort strips are still perfectly safe to visit.

This includes Cancun, which remains the top destination for American travelers:

Beachgoers In Cancun Beach, Cancun Hotel Zone, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Riviera Maya, Mexican Caribbean, Mexico

How Dangerous Is Cancun For Tourists?

Some weeks ago, a group of four American tourists was kidnapped upon crossing the border from Texas into Matamoros, in the state of Tamaulipas. Having been mistaken for rivals of local gangs, two of them were murdered while the survivors sustained injuries.

The incident brought to light a string of murders and disappearances that have plagued border municipalities for years.

The Mexican Marina Patrolling The Beach In Isla Mujeres, An Island Off The Coast Of Cancun, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico

While these do not have an impact on security in faraway places, including Cancun, the bad publicity Mexico as a whole has attracted has proved detrimental to the city's reputation as a safe destination.

Criticizing the inflammatory rhetoric in American media and the travel warnings issued by U.S. authorities that often ‘generalize‘ security concerning Mexico, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (shortened to AMLO) went as far as claiming Mexico is ‘safer‘ than the U.S. in early March.

Now, AMLO is not only defending his country but openly challenging the common misconception that Mexico is ‘more dangerous', reminding the public that Cancun is ‘full' of American tourists for one very simple reason: it is remarkably safe.

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beach and hotels in cancun

In his own wording, the State Department may be overestimating risks when it comes to gang activity in the Mexican Caribbean.

Crime Is Actually Down In Mexico

Cancun is undoubtedly America's go-to vacation hotspot.

Last year alone, it set a new record by hosting over 30 million guests throughout the calendar year, having officially re-emerged from the health crisis in a much stronger position than it was in 2019.

Cancun airport sign

It has hundreds of resorts and entertainment options, with room availability having grown by more than 30% since 2016.

When it comes to flights, it now boasts more than 500 daily operations, making it one of the best-connected airports globally.

These are not only indicative of Cancun's relevance as a global hub but also a reflection of the surge in demand for package holidays in the Riviera Maya: millions of sun-seekers flock to its shores every year in search of sun, sand, and relaxation, in spite of an apparent rise in crime.

Woman walking along beach in Turks and Caicos

Ignoring their Government's own warnings, a growing number of Americans are now assessing safety risks by themselves and no longer feel discouraged from vacationing in Mexico.

As AMLO has put it, that is because ‘the reality in Mexico is something else‘ than that portrayed in the U.S.

High-profile criminal cases aside, federal crime has dropped by 30%, while kidnapping and intentional homicide are down by 64% and 11%, respectively. This proves crime is, in fact, reducing across Mexico.

What happened in Matamoros is an unspeakable, disheartening tragedy, but it is far from representing the overall picture.

No country is perfectly safe, and much like the U.S., where gang activity is prominent in some cities, Mexico faces similar challenges.

aerial view cancun hotel zone

However, American tourists are not generally a target, and an overwhelming majority still fulfill their vacations hassle-free.

AMLO is well aware of this trend, stating that, regardless of the State Department's travel warnings against 30 out of 32 Mexican states, ‘the country is full of Americans', particularly Cancun:

U.S. Government alerts say that it's safe to only travel [in the states of] Campeche and Yucatan. If that were the case, so many Americans wouldn't be coming in to live in Mexico City and the rest of the country‘.

No research has been carried out to establish whether the presence of a large expat community or migration trends in certain areas equal more safety, but it may be possible to infer that crime reports do not seem to deter Americans from vacationing South of the border, or even moving there permanently, based on arrival figures alone.

Colorful Cancun sign

Mexico is still the number one destination for American expats.

Cancun Authorities Ramp Up Security Efforts

Currently, Quintana Roo, the state where Cancun is located, is listed as a Level 2 destination by American authorities, meaning visitors must exercise ‘increased caution' when visiting due to crime and kidnapping. Interestingly, as we reported last year, only one kidnapping case had been registered in the entire state between January and September.

With these data in mind, AMLO was clear in his address: they will not condone foreign legislators advising their citizens against visiting Mexico, most notably the United States.

Police Officers Marching In Puebla, Mexico

Both countries entered a new dramatic diplomatic rift after Republican politicians in the States accused the Mexican Government of being lenient in the fight against crime, even though it has been anything but, having invested heavily in security and improving surveillance in resort areas.

AMLO does admit homicide has ‘cost the country dearly', but he has reaffirmed a large proportion of violent crime, or up to 70% of homicides, is directly linked to organized crime and rarely involves tourists.

Mexican Police Officers Patrolling Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Recently, the Quintana Roo Government has taken additional steps to strengthen security in the state, deploying more police officers to critical zones and patrolling units in tourist sites.

These efforts have not been in vain: unlike the states of Colima, Guerrero, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas, Quintana Roo is listed as a Level 2 destination, which means travel is not advised against, and crime rates are lower.

Other popular destinations that have been historically deemed as safe, such as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, all carry the same Level 2 badge.

Aerial View Of The Northern Side Of Cancun Hotel Zone, Cancun, Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo State In Mexico

In sum, Cancun is very safe to visit, and while some level of caution is urged, particularly when visiting peripheral districts where police presence is more limited, the main concern of Americans holidaying in the Mexican Caribbean remains inflated prices and scamming.

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