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(Smart) People Aren’t So Scared of Traveling Anymore

traveling in Mexico

The Mexican gangs may not be busted, but Mexican tourism is going gangbusters.

Apparently 23.7 million tourists came to Mexico last year, up 3.5% from their previous record year in 2008. Yes, that was six years ago, so it’s been a climb up after a big drop, but a steady, fruitful climb in the face of tough circumstances at home and abroad. The vast majority of those visitors were from the USA.

I started this cheap travel blog back in 2003, when the word “blog” was still very much a novelty and I knew people still using AOL dial-up. Sometimes I like to go back and look at those original posts to see how much has changed. I may be reading the cues wrong, but it seems like in the past decade, travelers—especially Americans—have gotten a lot better about putting fear in perspective.

Ten years ago I wrote a post called How Safe is International Travel? It was spurred on by my father saying he and his wife were scared to get in an airplane to go to Europe so they were going to drive somewhere instead. That led me to ranting about how much safer you are in a plane than a car. But I was also addressing the larger issue of people watching too much TV news instead of getting the real story from more reliable sources. And not comparing the risk of where they’re going to the risk in their own home town. Fear of the unknown has a huge impact on travel plans.

But maybe, just maybe, it’s having less of an impact than it used to.

Last week I was at the annual Mexican tourism fair called Tianguis, and despite all the fear-mongering that goes on about my adopted home, Mexican tourism officials are very happy right now. They’re seeing steady increases from the traditional markets (US, Canada, UK) but downright dramatic increases from other countries, especially Latin American ones. Specifically, Mazatlan tourism is up 18% in three years, Los Cabos is up 25% in two years, Cancun/Riviera May hotels were running at nearly 90% occupancy levels the first week of May. That region alone hosted 36 thousand weddings in 2013. And on it goes with a dozen other destinations both coastal and in the interior.

Mexico travel fears

Sure, the Ciudad Juarez booth at that tourism fair had one poor lonely girl playing on her phone most of the time and you couldn’t pay me enough to be the tourism PR person for Tijuana. Overall though, considering all the inflammatory bad press the country gets and the constant news stories asking whether it’s okay to travel to this destination, no wonder the Mexican tourism industry is feeling fortunate.

Maybe travelers are getting less afraid of what lies beyond their borders. Just maybe they’re realizing that 81 total Americans killed in Mexico in an entire year–counting Mexican/American citizens in the drugs or guns trade—looks pretty darn good compared to D.C., New Orleans, or Chicago.

Next stop, Egypt…?

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Monday 19th of May 2014

As long as you stay away from drugs and talk to the locals about dangerous places and other safety considerations, there is very little to fear ... great post!


Wednesday 14th of May 2014

Positive news! I think Mexico gets it particularly bad with US travelers, so if numbers are up there I assume that means even greater gains for international travel in general for US citizens?


Wednesday 14th of May 2014

TJ is fine, I haven't been down in a little over two years but that's self-imposed financially not due to any fears of my personal safety. In fact I was in Mexico City back in May 2013 for a few days and never experienced anything negative but some cellphone related stuff which is not important.

Americans are an easily scared bunch and this ties right into our Foreign Policy/Military Industrial Complex.


Wednesday 14th of May 2014

There have been several articles lately about Tijuana looking up. I can't remember where I first read it, but here's a piece about the improvements:


Tuesday 13th of May 2014

If you told me 10 years ago Americans would be traveling to Burma, Colombia, Croatia, Turkey, and Namibia in significant numbers I would have told you to get over your delusions. Eventually they wake up, but it takes a while. As a whole, I think my countrymen are easily deluded by that flickering screen they sit in front of all night.