Is spring break travel to Mexico safe?

Despite the insistence of Mexican officials that it’s safe to vacation in Cancun, Cabo San Lucas and other destinations that have lured Americans in large numbers, Texas said it’s too risky given the level of violence among drug cartels and by other criminals, according to a Reuters news report.

While acknowledging that the Mexican government has made “great strides in battling the cartels,” Steve McCraw, Texas public safety director, said violence and criminal activity “represent a significant safety threat, even in resort areas.”

Mexico called the alert from its U.S. neighbor “outrageous.” Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, chief operating officer of the Mexico Tourism Board, told Reuters that 22.7 million tourists visited his country last year and few were in areas known to be violent. "This warning is exceptionally aggressive," Lopez Negrete said.

The number of Americans killed in Mexico increased to 120 last year, from 35 in 2007, according to the U.S. State Department. Mexico reported 47,515 people killed in narcotics-related violence between Dec. 1, 2006 and Sept. 30, 2011, with 12,903 narcotics-related homicides in the first nine months of 2011.

Texas said Americans represent about 60 percent of Mexico's visitors, and half of them travel through Texas to get to Mexico. Texas officials say they're concerned because the violence is widespread and unpredictable.

While the State Department acknowledged that drug cartel-related violence, including killings, kidnappings and carjackings, is a major problem in border regions, the agency has not issued warnings for several popular tourist destinations.

According to the latest travel warnings issued in February from the agency’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, there are no advisories in effect for Cancun, Cozumel Playa del Carmen and other resort areas in the Mayan Riviera south of the Yucatan Peninsula. There is also no advisory for Cabo San Lucas in southern Baja California.

Tom Beebe, owner of Uniglobe Five Star Travel in Atlanta, said his agency is aware of the Texas advisory and that he regularly fields calls from clients worried about travel to Mexico.

“The majority of the travel from Atlanta to Mexico is not to those areas that have experienced these gun battles and drug wars,” Beebe said Wednesday. “The primary destinations are to Cancun and the Mayan Riviera, which are a thousand miles away from the violence.”

The State Department also said violence in resort areas tended to be low.

“Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes,” the State Department said in a February advisory.

The agency advises travelers to “lower your profile” and avoid displaying any evidence of wealth that might draw attention and travel on roads only during daylight hours and not in remote areas.

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