Spring break is the horizon for many college students across the U.S. and many students will be enjoying their time off in Mexico, one of the most popular tourist destinations for spring breakers. According to Student City, a company that specializes in Spring Break travel planning, this year some of the most visited cities are expected to be the Mexican tourist destinations of Acapulco, Cancún, and Puerto Vallarta, where students can enjoy beaches and resorts and take part in a wide variety of entertainment, and nightlife. But many parents wonder if Mexico is a safe place for young adults to spend their vacation, especially given the negative image that Mexico has received in the media regarding its issues with violence and insecurity.
While the U.S. Department of State has issued a travel warning to citizens traveling to Mexico due to violent crimes in the country such as “kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery” in several Mexican states, the report mentions that these types of violent activities vary by region and that not all Spring Break tourist destinations are major risks. According to Forbes, Mexico remains the most popular travel destination for U.S. tourists despite the country’s problems with crime, insecurity, and drug violence. The U.S. Consulate in Mérida reports that over 100,000 American students travel to Mexico for Spring Break each year.
Regarding the safety of Mexican tourist destinations, the Department of State mentions that the Mexican government takes measures to protect tourists and that U.S. tourists and residents have not been targeted by Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs). Further, resort and tourist areas have not seen elevated violence and crime related to drug trafficking as have other parts of the country.
Currently, the Department of State reports “no recommendation against travel to Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta” and according to Forbes Puerto Vallarta has avoided much of the crime and violence elsewhere. Cancún has no travel advisory at the current time and in Acapulco travelers are advised to “exercise caution and stay within tourist areas.” Similarly, Shannon K. O’Neil, an expert in Latin American studies at the Council for Foreign Relations admits that drug trafficking does occur in Cancún, but in tourists areas Americans can usually expect to be safe, according to a 2013 CNN report.
Although not all American college students travel to Mexican tourist destinations for Spring Break in order to party –some go to perform volunteer work or to continue their studies abroad, a form of “alternative Spring Break” promoted by some universities–, the Spring Break “party scene” itself perhaps poses one of the greatest risks for college students.
According to the U.S. Consulate in Mérida, alcohol is to blame for the “vast majority” of the accidents and unfortunate situations in which some some American students who travel to Mexico for Spring Break find themselves. Some of these unfortunate situations include becoming victims of violent crime, rape, or even death, according to the Consulate’s website. The Consulate notes that Mexican tourist destinations receive over 100,000 U.S. students for Spring Break each year.
By Amber Workman
U.S. Consulate in Mérida