May 14, 2012 by Admin

Despite the hype, mexico is indeed safe for tourists

HSI’s Craig Morganson is working to dispel myths and repair damage to Mexican Tourism and its impact on travel companies. After an increase of violence among drug cartels and between drug cartels and Mexico officials in 2010, the U.S. Department of State issued the first in a series of Travel Warnings against Mexico.

According to the April 22, 2011 Warning, its purpose was to “inform U.S. Citizens traveling to and living in Mexico about the security situation in Mexico.” The Travel Warning goes on to claim that “While most victims of violence are Mexican citizens associated with criminal activity, the security situation poses serious risks for U.S. citizens as well.” Unfortunately, and at great expense to both the U.S. and Mexico, these statements are inflammatory.

So, in October 2011, Perspective Magazine interviewed Craig Morganson, CEO of Holiday Systems International (HSI) – and an active proponent of clearing up the misinformation – about the situation in Mexico.

What exactly is the current status?
As of this interview, the Travel Warning is still in place; however, as a result of a brief I presented in August, the Travel Warning status is being reviewed. But that’s not enough, so everyone reading this should help.

How would you assess the actual dangers to U.S. citizens, especially in comparison with travel to other nations or even within the United States?
First, Mexico is the number one vacation destination for U.S. citizens with approximately 20 million visitors every year enjoying safe, affordable, luxurious, friendly vacations. That’s hard to argue with. Mexico is safe for US Citizens. This statement is also supported by an undeniable volume of data from reliable sources, not the least of which are crime statistics. For example, while the State Department cites 111 murders of U.S. citizens in Mexico in 2010, this number must be viewed in proper context (e.g. 111 deaths of U.S. citizens against approximately 20 million U.S. citizens visiting Mexico, and an additional 1 million living in Mexico). Furthermore, it is important to note that these U.S. citizen crimes did not occur in major tourist areas, and the majority of these U.S. citizens were involved in illicit activities.

Additionally, when comparing Mexico crime to other countries, we see that Mexico is safer. For example, when considering crime per 100,000 inhabitants we see the following: Mexico is only 5th in kidnapping (1-Canada: 8.67, 5-Mexico: 1.2), only 7th in rape (1-South Africa: 120, 3-Canada: 73, 4-USA: 30, 7-Mexico: 14), only 6th in assault (1-South Africa: 1,200, 2-USA: 757, 3-Canada: 712, 6-Mexico: 170), and so on. Therefore, the facts demonstrate that Mexico is safer than many other countries where the State Department has NOT issued a Travel Warning.

New Orleans, Detroit, St. Louis, Baltimore, Newark, Oakland, Washington D.C., Buffalo, Kansas City and Cleveland are just a few of the many U.S. cities with much higher murder rates than most Mexico cities and that are far more dangerous than the major tourist areas of Mexico.

What are some of the specific inaccuracies within the Travel Warning?You wouldn’t have room to list them all, but I can name a few. One of the most viewed public-facing documents is the “Current Travel Warnings” section of the government website. Using language within that policy demonstrates the warning against Mexico is not justified:

  • • The criteria of “long-term, protracted conditions” cannot be justified against Mexico’s sporadic increases in violence.
  • • The statement “…that make a country dangerous or unstable lead the State Department to recommend that Americans avoid or consider the risk of travel to that country” does not apply to Mexico. The entire “country” of Mexico is NOT impacted. Violence is limited to specific areas, and not Despite the Hype, Mexico Is Indeed Safe for Tourists HSI’s Craig Morganson is working to dispel myths and repair damage to Mexican Tourism and its impact on travel companies Perspective Magazine North America November/December 2011 major tourist destinations.
  • • The criteria of “…due to the closure of an embassy or consulate or because of a drawdown of its staff” does not apply to Mexico. No embassy or consulate has closed in Mexico due to these reasons.
  • • In reviewing EVERY area where the U.S. has issued a Travel Warning, there is a large disparity between our friendly neighbor (Mexico) and all others. In fact, this discrepancy is so extreme the blatancy of it needs no explanation. For example, Haiti, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, etc.
  • • When viewing the listing for Israel, the warning clarifies (within the listing) its limitation to “the West Bank and Gaza”; however, the listing for Mexico is not clarified, despite the fact that the violence is limited to specific areas. This leaves the reader to unfairly assume the entire country of Mexico is dangerous.
  • • New Orleans is the most deadly city in the U.S. with 52-64 murders per 100,000 populations (depending on the source). When considering the overreaching nature of the Travel Warning, the impact is similar to not visiting Miami because of the violence in New Orleans.
  • Why are the warnings so severe then?
    This is something my brief deals with in more detail. For now, let’s just say the Travel Warning against Mexico is a case of overreaction, leveraging of tourism to manipulate Mexico, and flawed economics.

    How do the warnings impact U.S. businesses?
    Mexico is the number one vacation destination for U.S. citizens, generating hundreds of millions in revenues for travel and tourism business throughout the U.S. The Travel Warnings against Mexico have caused U.S. businesses to experience significant reductions in revenues. This revenue is often the deciding factor in keeping the doors open for many U.S. businesses. In Nevada alone, consider that In July of 2011, of the 182 businesses identified as providing travel to Mexico, 111 had recently gone out of business and 7 companies no longer provided travel to Mexico. To quantify this nationwide, I am currently engaging a research company to conduct a more detailed impact analysis.

    How do they affect the Mexican economy?
    The Travel Warning continues to deprive Mexico of income and tax revenue from tourism. Law enforcement is expensive and with a diminished tax base Mexico is forced to fight the U.S. drug war with fewer resources.

    What have you been doing to change Mexico’s status?
    I’ve had numerous meetings with high-ranking U.S. Government officials regarding the Mexico Travel Warning. I’ve also prepared a 76-page brief that is currently gaining ground in Washington. The arguments presented in my brief include crime statistics, economic impact, policy conflict and specific actions that are reasonable to execute. The bottom line is that there is violence in Mexico, just as there is in Los Angeles, and I am not suggesting that we do not inform U.S. citizens of this fact. What I am saying, is that this information is more appropriately disseminated through a less severe Travel Advisory (e.g., Country Specific Information) and that the language within the information be changed to be less overreaching and ambiguous.

    Tell me about why you are involved in this. What are your goals?
    I own several travel/tourism companies. The U.S. is currently struggling to recover from the worst economy in my lifetime. Travel and tourism is a big part of our global economy. The long-term economic damage caused by the U.S. Travel Warning against Mexico is greater than the benefits derived from the Warning. The State Department can accomplish its objectives by issuing details within its Country Specific Information, thereby properly cautioning U.S. citizens regarding specific areas and risks, while not injuring important economic balances, which is the result of the more serious nature of a Travel Warning. In fact, while the U.S. Travel Warning has been detrimental to the U.S. economy, the Mexico economy, and countless U.S. businesses, there is no evidence it has saved one U.S. citizen’s life. While we teeter on the brink of a global recession, the State Department needs to be more responsible when issuing Travel Advisories that hinder our economic recovery, yet do not save lives.

    What can individual travel companies and organizations do to help?
    Anyone who would like to assist me with the cost of the research I’ve been funding can contact me at Also, write letters to your Congressmen, Senators, etc. – but don’t just complain. Get their attention by demonstrating the economic impact within their constituency. Talk about jobs and votes, but also include intelligent arguments for the Travel Warning reduction so they can escalate your issue. Make it easy for them to help you. In most cases, they’re not going to know anything about the issue, so educate them. Any reader that would like a copy of my brief can contact me. If you’re not sure where to send your letters, send them to the Senate Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid, 522 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510.

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    November 6, 2013 by Admin

    Craig Morganson, a Friend of Mexico

    Mr. Craig Morganson, CEO of Holiday Systems International and head of the Mexico Image Committee, enjoying the celebration of Mexico's Independence at the Consulate of Mexico in Las Vegas. To his left, the new Consul of Mexico, Mr. Julian Adem.


    Historic Mazatlan goes for comfort over glitz.

    When it comes to making memories, Mexico's Mazatlan has your number.

    If it feels familiar, maybe it's because Mazatlan has been catering to tourists for half a century. If it feels comfortable, perhaps it's because it lacks the glitz of other, newer resorts. If the pockets feel full, it's because Mazatlan still pleases its visitors with very reasonable prices, unlike many Mexican resort towns.

    Mazatlan doesn't try to compete with the luxury of Cancún, the sexiness of Acapulco or the colonial quaintness of Puerto Vallarta. It doesn't need to.

    The popular destination, almost 1,300 kilometres south of Tucson, Ariz., on Mexico's Pacific coast, lies at about the same latitude as Hawaii.

    A port city of some 500,000 residents, Mazatlan happily swells to accommodate the 1.5 million vacationers, sport fishermen and snowbirds who flock to it each year.

    Its waters are neither turquoise nor crystal clear, but they are delightfully gentle and warm, and a pretty blue, with beaches stretching for miles.

    Mazatlan is one of Mexico's oldest tourist resorts and home to one of the world's three major Mardi Gras carnivals, comparable only to those in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro.

    Boasting the biggest commercial shrimping fleet in Latin America, with over 500 boats, Mazatlan also has one of the largest tuna fishing fleets in the world.

    Visitors, however, often feel they are in a small beach village rather than a large city, due to the way Mazatlan separates its commercial and business sectors from its resort areas.

    The city's existence doesn't revolve around tourism - it is a thriving metropolis. In fact, thousands of people live and work here without having anything to do with the travel industry. For tourists, however, Mazatlan offers an abundance of riches: One of the longest stretches of uninterrupted beaches in Mexico; water temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 24 degrees Celsius) year round; nightlife set to music ranging from mariachi to disco to piano bar to salsa; colonial architecture; a wealth of handicrafts; and an endless supply of sidewalk and seaside restaurants.

    The city, first settled in 1531 by the Spanish, began to really develop in the mid-19th century. To see Mazatlan as the Mazatlecos do, take one of the open-air jitneys (pulmonias).

    Or stroll the impressive 20-kilometre boardwalk (malecón) between Playa Olas Altas and Playa Norte. The breezy stretch, studded with impressive statues and monuments, is the pride of Mazatlan, running from one end of the town to the other.

    Here visitors will find the hotel zone, fishermen selling their catch at dawn, lovers embracing, locals gossiping and entrepreneurs selling coconuts, shrimp brochettes and mangoes on a stick, dripping with lime juice. The walk takes holidayers past Mazatlan's outstanding aquarium and into Old Mazatlan's Plazuela Machado (Machado Square) the heart of the city.

    On the north side of the plaza is a strip of open-air seafood restaurants. One of the most famous is lively Pedro y Lola's, named after two famous singers and actors from Mazatlan, Pedro Infante Cruz and Lola Beltrán.

    Pedro & Lola's wide variety of shrimp platters is reasonably priced and delectable. Grilled with butter and garlic, "camarones al mojo de ajo," downed with a good Mexican beer like the local Pacifico lager or the heavier Negro Modelo, is heaven after a day on the beach.

    Time is also well spent admiring the twin-spired cathedral (built in 1875,) the city's main plaza and the beautifully restored Angela Peralta Theatre (built in 1860.). The theatre is a beautiful, neoclassical-style building named after the beloved 19th-century opera diva who died after her only performance in Mazatlan, struck down by yellow fever.

    Strolling on the way to Playa Olas Altas, travellers pass by El Puerto Carranza, an old Spanish fort.

    The stroll can conclude at High Divers Park, where young men climb to a towering platform and plunge to the sea below. This happens in the late afternoons, typically but is not an everyday occurrence.

    The most famous beaches in Mazatlan are Playa Norte, popular with locals, Playa Sábalo and Las Gaviotas on the resort strip, Playa Olas Altas and Las Brujas for surfing and high waves and Playa los Cerritos, one of the city's finest uncrowded beaches on the north end of the hotel zone.

    Lively Sábalo Beach is perfect for jet skiing, windsurfing, parachuting, sailing, sport fishing, etc., while the adjacent Cerritos Beach and Playa Norte are known for clean sand and peaceful sunbathing. Mazatlan's Emerald Beach area to the north is being developed as a tony area with posh shops, hotels and restaurants. There's a beach perfect for every mood - romance, action, peace, adventure and people-watching.

    Like most sections of Mexico, this area is quite hot and humid from July through September, and likely to have strong rains. The weather from October through May is delightful. It is recommended to have a sweater handy in the evenings, which can be cool due to the humidity and ocean breezes.

    If you go

    Where to stay: ElCid Mega Resorts: Four different hotels make up this 1,068-room top quality resort which is more like a town in itself. 800-716-9800, (…).

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    October 6, 2013 by ANNE Z. COOKE AND STEVE HAGGERTY

    Mexico's Mazatlan is Getting its Mojo Back

    The atmosphere in the Plaza de Toros, hot in the afternoon sun, crackled like popcorn, leaving visitors wondering just how long the crowd, growing larger by the minute, would sit patiently and wait. But as late arrivals searched for the last free seats, their concerns melted away.

    Suntanned cowboys in big-brimmed hats spotted distant friends and waved. Vendors selling beer worked the aisles and ladies spread sunscreen on their children. Clean-shaven men, eyes hidden behind black Ray-bans, shook hands and strangers compared notes on the afternoon's event, the Carnaval Week bull fight.

    Weekly bull fights, a winter sport here in Mazatlan, on Mexico's Pacific Coast, run from Christmas through April. But the bull fight held during Carnaval, featuring world-famous "rejoneador," Pablo Hermosa de Mendoza, is the spectacle that packs the arena. Challenging the bull, the charismatic Hermosa and his horse - he travels with six trained Lusitanos - are super stars, leaping, dancing, and spinning, melding the crowd into a cheering, gasping, groaning, clapping, handkerchief-waving mass.

    While we waited for the first bull to enter the ring, I overhead a conversation behind me, a couple discussing their new house on the hill overlooking the beach. Another family moving to Mexico, I wondered? Immigrants heading south, instead of Mexicans coming north?

    A favored beach retreat since the 1940s, Mazatlan has been shunned lately, tarred by the same brush that paints the country as crime-ridden and unsafe. But this couple seemed to be ignoring conventional wisdom. Why? I wondered.

    "Are you living here permanently?" I asked, turning around to introduce myself. "Maybe you've met my friends. They live in that neighborhood, too, up on the hill."

    "Vacation for now, but permanently soon," said Edward Klop, a company owner from British Columbia, smiling and leaning over to shake hands. "Why? Because people here are so decent. Look at this crowd. I've never seen so much beer drunk by so many people who are so good natured," he said. "You don't find that very often. You've heard of the Vancouver riot, after the Stanley Cup match? People got drunk, turned over cars, broke store windows, looted merchandise. That doesn't happen here."

    "Mexicans are family people," added Yvonne Klop. "They take their kids when they go out to eat or to a concert. The kind of restaurants we'd like to eat at in Vancouver, or San Francisco or New York, don't allow kids. If there's a bar or they serve alcohol, it's illegal."

    Right about then, the crowd broke into cheers and Hermosa cantered into the ring mounted on a white Lusitano stallion. Whether you condone bullfighting, it's impossible not to watch Hermosa as he gets down to business, teasing the bull until it charges, then wheeling away, leaning and turning, whirling and circling the ring with the bull in hot pursuit, staying just inches away from the bull's horns. At the conclusion, Hermosa took a victory lap and the ladies tossed red roses. The fight committee awarded prizes and the crowd collected their things and filed peaceably away to the parking lot.

    The Klops, when they do move, won't be outliers, but part of a settled expat community, people that bring time, energy and expertise to the town. "There are more than 10,000 Americans and Canadians in Mazatlan," said Francisco (Frank) Cordova, secretary of tourism for Sinaloa, speaking by phone from a meeting in Miami. "They rent apartments and some even own houses. Now, if it wasn't safe, why would they be here?"

    Drug cartel murders are a fact, he conceded. They are, he said, the federal government's most pressing internal security issue. But most violence occurs far beyond the Golden Zone (the town's designated tourism area), in the mountains or along the U.S. border.

    "There isn't any crime in the Golden Zone, not that we've heard about," agreed Paul Petty, a 12-year resident. "Nothing violent, no drive-bys, no school shootings like we had at home. We feel a lot safer than we did when we lived in Los Angeles."

    It could be the bounce-back effect, but 2013 is shaping up as the town's best year in a decade. According to Carlos Berdegue, President and CEO of Mazatlan's four El Cid hotels, $6 million has been allocated for tourism from the U.S. and Canada, a promotion that's already filling the town's 12,000 beds. "Our group and convention programs have been very successful, the cruise lines are returning and the airlines are looking at creating more capacity," he said.

    The cruise industry, often the first to fold up and run when bad news hits the wires, agrees. After pulling out abruptly 18 months ago, Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Lines are returning to Mazatlan, adding 10 port stops to their Mexican Riviera route this year (in November and December) and 35 more during the 2014 season.

    "We'll be ready for them," said Cordova. "I've got a tourism budget of 400 million pesos (U.S. $32,541,000), half for the new cruise port and the rest for restoration and improvements in the historic city center."

    The cruise port and passenger terminal, a contemporary stunner designed for comfort - and for passenger security - has docking room for eight large passenger ships at once. Adjacent tour bus parking will allow passengers taking shore tours to board the buses without much walking. Travelers who'd rather stay on the ship or at the port will have shops, a restaurant, a tourist information center, and gift stores to explore.

    Shore tours in Third World ports, often the bete noir of cruise passengers, haven't been forgotten. "Funds are set aside to train tour guides to make sure every tour is unforgettable," said Cordova. Cognizant of first impressions matter, the adjoining neighborhood has also gotten a facelift. Seedy shacks are gone, cracked stucco was painted and vacant lots turned into gardens. "They've spent $3 million restoring the colonial buildings on the corridor between the port and the historic district," said Berdegue.

    Shore tours will visit several nearby 16th and 17th century-era villages, and the ancient pictographs on the shoreline. But visitors who opt for a stroll through the historic center's narrow streets and shaded plazas, dating to 1837, won't be sorry. It was these plazas where the first colonists gathered and where much of the time's social and civic life played out. Still popular gathering places, this is where people meet to walk, talk, work, eat out or sit and watch the world go by. Wander around and you'll find the Plaza Machado, the Cathedral, the elegantly restored Angel Peralta Opera House and the art museum.

    The Central Market, humming from early morning to late afternoon, is where housewives shop for food, teenagers for cheap purses and jewelry and travelers take photos. Covering a city block, the two-story iron structure (think late Victorian), houses hundreds of stalls selling fruits of every color and shape, vegetables, nuts, bread, tortillas, cheeses, woven hats, souvenirs, fish, shrimp, chickens (whole and butchered), pigs (everything but the squeal), beef ribs, cakes, pies, cookies, puddings and candy, not to mention soap, brooms, buckets and dish towels.

    If the past is prologue, the outcome is already written. Some cruise passengers okay)will make a beeline for the beach, sample real Mexican cuisine at Pancho's and take the sightseeing boat to Deer Island. On the second trip they'll dine by candlelight at Pedro & Lola's, sit on the Plaza Machado, meet expats from home and play golf. On the third visit, they'll check out the bullfights.

    After that, who knows?

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    September 10, 2013 by Rosemary McClure

    Mexico: Three cruise lines returning to Mazatlan

    The 1,350-passenger cruise ship Veendam will return to Mazatlán, Mexico, in November, the first major cruise ship in the last two years to stop at the Pacific Coast port. And others will follow. Mariachis will play, the governor will speak and a grand fiesta will take place as passengers disembark from the Veendam, a Holland-America Line vessel.

    The Veendam, sailing out of San Diego on a seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise, will be the first of three cruise lines returning to the port in the next few months. It will be followed by Norwegian, with its first ship, the Star, arriving in December, and Azamara Club Cruises' ship Quest arriving in February. City officials hope the three cruise lines will signal to other lines that Mazatlan is a safe, enjoyable port where the margaritas are large and luscious, the shrimp tasty and the scenery grand.

    Frank Cordova, secretary of tourism for Sinaloa state, has worked hard to persuade the lines they should return. When they departed, tourism declined sharply.

    "We didn't just sit around hoping they would return," Cordova said. "We made a lot of changes to upgrade security and improve the visitor experience."

    Among the improvements

  • A new $3-million tourism corridor between the Port of Mazatlan and the city’s historic center; the cobblestone promenade will make it easier and safer for cruise visitors to reach the heart of Mazatlán, Cordova said.
  • A crime crackdown that includes coordination between local police, state police and army, plus a $50-million investment in security cameras in the city.
  • Cordova, who visited Los Angeles during the weekend to participate in Mexican Independence Day events, hopes Carnival Cruise Line can be persuaded to return to his city. "They were the biggest [cruise passenger] feeder into Mazatlán, and we hope when they see their sister ships doing well in our port, they'll see what a good thing they're missing," he said. As for the Holland America line, "We're looking forward to sharing the beauty of Mazatlan with our guests as a part of their Mexico cruise vacation,” said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs for Holland America Line.

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    June, 2013 by Rosemary McClure

    Mexico: Tourism picture is brightening for Mazatlan

    Things are looking up for tourism in Mazatlan, Mexico. The Pacific Coast resort, with 20-plus miles of beaches and dozens of high-end resorts, has long been a favorite with American tourists. Mexico’s ongoing drug war, however, caused concern on both sides of the border. But recent infrastructure changes, coupled with an overhaul of Mazatlan’s police force, have quieted fears.

    Now the Mexican Riviera city has just had its best spring season ever and is poised to have a record-breaking summer season, according to tourism bureau statistics. The London Financial Times named it one of the Top 10 American Cities of the Future, rating it as Mexico's top medium-sized city in terms of its future economic expectations and cost effectiveness. Several upcoming improvements may increase Mazatlan's popularity as a tourist destination, including a new highway scheduled to open this fall will provide a high-speed land route between Mazatlan and the southwestern United States.

    "The Mazatlan-Durango [Texas] Highway will boost domestic tourism from 30,000 cars per year to around 1 million," said Frank Cordova, secretary of tourism for Sinaloa state, home to Mazatlan. The new road "will provide a direct and safe route for tourists traveling from the southwest United States."

    The $1.2-billion highway, which crosses a region of rugged terrain sometimes called the devil’s backbone, will allow increased commerce and international trade between the U.S. and Mexico, and is expected to increase tourism and business activity between the two nations. The highway will cut drive time between Mazatlan and Durango, Mexico, from six hours to three. Travel from the U.S. border will go from about 13 or 14 hours to about 10.

  • A new $3-million tourism corridor between the Port of Mazatlan and the city’s historic center; the cobblestone promenade will make it easier, and safer, for cruise visitors to reach the heart of Mazatlan, said Cordova.
  • A crime crackdown that includes coordination between local police, state police and army, plus a $50-million investment in security cameras in the city.
  • Additional airline connections to Mazatlan. The city is negotiating agreements with airlines that will increase airlift by 40%.
  • Three major cruise lines are returning to the Port of Mazatlan this winter, starting with Holland America in November. Norwegian will resume service in December, and Azamara is to return in January 2014.
  • Mazatlan has about 12,000 hotel rooms in about 180 hotels and hopes to double that number in the next five years.
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    April 18, 2013

    Mazatlan to Top Ten Future Cities

    The London Financial Times, through its FDI Intelligence magazine, places to Mazatlan in Mexico number one position and fifth in Latin America as the city with the highest median economic and profitability expectation "Cost Effectiveness"

    In early April, the London newspaper The Financial Times, one of the most prestigious in the world economy, released the study "American Cities of the Future 2013-2014 "conducted by the division FDI Intelligence, a trade publication that puts Mazatlan in Mexico number one position and fifth in Latin America as the city with the highest median economic and profitability expectation "Cost Effectiveness".

    In the segment of "Cost Effectiveness" for medium-sized cities across America, appears to be the most competitive Mazatlan in Mexico, up from Durango and Saltillo, located in economic corridor in northern Mexico, in the same Latin American ranking is fifth, sharing positions with cities in Peru and Chile.

    To achieve this position, FDI Intelligence took into consideration several factors that favored positioning Mazatlan, such as income from its inhabitants, costs of office space rents and industry, electricity price, location 4 & 5 stars in the center, oil costs, the minimum wage, import and export costs, costs for establishing business and corporate tax rates.

    The result of this publication Mazatlan positions on the world stage and points to a major joint in business opportunities, particularly with the upcoming opening of the Mazatlan-Durango highway and introducing strategic projects natural gas, strengthening its location as Puerta Northern Economic Corridor.

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    December 3, 2012 by Mark Rogers

    Rosarito Reborn

    Rosarito, Baja California’s beachside favorite, welcomes guests back

    Rosarito Beach has been a popular vacation destination dating back to the birth of tourism to Mexico. Back in the 1930s, Hollywood types and just plain folks began making the drive across the border at San Diego to Rosarito for a Mexico self-drive getaway, only 35 minutes south of the U.S. border. They came for the sportfishing, surf and Mexican culture — especially the cuisine. Like many resort areas in Mexico, Rosarito has seen its ups and downs. When drug cartel violence in Tijuana escalated, nearby Rosarito suffered. Americans began thinking twice about visiting and tourism figures plummeted. Now that Mexico’s drug cartels have shifted their activities away from Tijuana, Rosarito is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

    "The passport restrictions in 2008 and increased security after 9/11 didn`t really affect our business," said Daniel Torres, director of marketing for the Rosarito Beach Hotel. "It was the reports of drug crime and kidnapping in Tijuana in 2007 that really made visitors from the U.S. think twice about visiting us."

    Torres noted that 2008 and 2009 were very slow, but as the violence moved out of Tijuana and the city became demonstrably safer, visitation improved in 2010 and continues its upward trend.

    Torres` family owns the Rosarito Beach Hotel which, at 490 rooms and suites, is the largest hotel in Baja California. The hotel dates back to 1925. There aren’t many hotels that can claim celebrities spanning the decades, from Jean Harlow to Britney Spears. A recent guest was Robert Redford, who stayed at the hotel while he was shooting the feature film, "All is Lost."

    "Robert Redford would come down to the lobby in his bare feet and walk on the beach without a bodyguard," said Torres.

    During a Baja California press conference, Redford talked about growing up in a largely Mexican neighborhood in Los Angeles and going to a Tijuana bull fight in his mid-teens. He said he had always loved enchiladas and joked that his favorite food is tequila.

    Redford also lamented that media focus on violence among rival drug cartels in Mexico had discouraged some people from visiting Rosarito Beach.

    "It`s unfortunate, since there are so many areas of Mexico that are safe to visit," said Redford. "More people should know."

    The beach is the main attraction in Rosarito, where popular activities include swimming, surfing, horseback riding and fishing off the Rosarito Beach Hotel’s pier. Torres noted that anglers staying at the hotel can rent fishing gear and have one of the hotel’s restaurants prepare their catch for an evening meal. Adventurous foodies will want to explore the street food scene in the town. One of the best open-air eateries is Tacos El Yaqui, only a few blocks from the hotel, where hungry locals and expats stand in line for tacos perrones, made from grilled beef.

    A landmark restaurant in town is El Nido, which means "the Nest" in Spanish. The 30-table restaurant opened 41 years ago and is still operated by the same owner, Guadalupe Perez. El Nido is linked to a farm, 15 minutes away, where deer, rabbit and quail are raised to eventually appear on the menu as Venison Machaca or Mesquite Broiled Rabbit. The restaurant is cozy and rustic, with open fireplaces and lighting fixtures fashioned from cactus. The restaurant also serves its own wine, which is made from grapes grown on the nearby farm.

    "We can arrange tours of the farm free of charge," said Oscar Manuel Saltero, the restaurant’s general manager.

    Additional attractions include the handicraft shops specializing in ceramics, tile, iron work and rustic furniture. Also noteworthy is the town of Puerto Nuevo, a 10 minute drive south of Rosarito, which is famous for its lobster grilled in the Mexican style.

    As Rosarito regains its tourism footing, there are bargains for visitors. At the Rosarito Beach Hotel, a Penthouse Suite sleeping 10 has a rack rate of $350 a night, while rooms are going for $69 a night. Though no one is going to confuse Rosarito with Maui, Cancun or La Jolla, the destination does present an alternative for families and groups of friends on a budget, especially if they live in Southern California. Word-of-mouth is key and as visitors from the U.S. return home with positive stories, it’s a safe bet that Rosarito’s visitation will spike.

    "I`d tell potential visitors that it`s a great time to visit Baja California,” said Torres. "It`s as safe as it’s ever been, with lots of new offerings, including our wine valley, which is an easy day trip from the hotel."

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    Nov 24th 2012 by Admin

    The rise of Mexico

    America needs to look again at its increasingly important neighbour

    NEXT week the leaders of North America’s two most populous countries are due to meet for a neighbourly chat in Washington, DC. The re-elected Barack Obama and Mexico’s president-elect, Enrique Peña Nieto, have plenty to talk about: Mexico is changing in ways that will profoundly affect its big northern neighbour, and unless America rethinks its outdated picture of life across the border, both countries risk forgoing the benefits promised by Mexico’s rise.

    The White House does not spend much time looking south. During six hours of televised campaign debates this year, neither Mr Obama nor his vice-president mentioned Mexico directly. That is extraordinary. One in ten Mexican citizens lives in the United States. Include their American-born descendants and you have about 33m people (or around a tenth of America’s population). And Mexico itself is more than the bloody appendix of American imaginations. In terms of GDP it ranks just ahead of South Korea. In 2011 the Mexican economy grew faster than Brazil’s—and will do so again in 2012.

    Yet Americans are gloomy about Mexico, and so is their government: three years ago Pentagon analysts warned that Mexico risked becoming a “failed state”. As our special report in this issue explains, that is wildly wrong. In fact, Mexico’s economy and society are doing pretty well. Even the violence, concentrated in a few areas, looks as if it is starting to abate.

    Mañana in Mexico

    The first place where Americans will notice these changes is in their shopping malls. China (with more than 60 mentions in the presidential debates) is by far the biggest source of America’s imports. But wages in Chinese factories have quintupled in the past ten years and the oil price has trebled, inducing manufacturers focused on the American market to set up closer to home. Mexico is already the world’s biggest exporter of flat-screen televisions, BlackBerrys and fridge-freezers, and is climbing up the rankings in cars, aerospace and more. On present trends, by 2018 America will import more from Mexico than from any other country. “Made in China” is giving way to “Hecho en México”.

    The doorway for those imports is a 2,000-mile border, the world’s busiest. Yet some American politicians are doing their best to block it, out of fear of being swamped by immigrants. They could hardly be more wrong. Fewer Mexicans now move to the United States than come back south. America’s fragile economy (with an unemployment rate nearly twice as high as Mexico’s) has dampened arrivals and hastened departures. Meanwhile, the make-up of Mexican migration is changing. North of the border, legal Mexican residents probably now outnumber undocumented ones. The human tide may turn along with the American economy, but the supply of potential border-hoppers has plunged: whereas in the 1960s the average Mexican woman had seven children, she now has two. Within a decade Mexico’s fertility rate will fall below America’s.

    Undervaluing trade and overestimating immigration has led to bad policies. Since September 11th 2001, crossing the border has taken hours where it once took minutes, raising costs for Mexican manufacturers (and thus for American consumers). Daytrips have fallen by almost half. More crossing-points and fewer onerous checks would speed things up on the American side; pre-clearance of containers and passengers could be improved if Mexico were less touchy about having American officers on its soil (something which Canada does not mind). After an election in which 70% of Latinos voted for Mr Obama, even America’s “wetback”-bashing Republicans should now see the need for immigration-law reform.

    No time for a siesta

    The least certain part of Mexico’s brighter mañana concerns security. This year has seen a small drop in murders. Some hotspots, such as Ciudad Juárez, have improved dramatically. A third of Mexico has a lower murder rate than Louisiana, America’s most murderous state. Nevertheless, the “cartels” will remain strong while two conditions hold. The first is that America imports drugs—on which its citizens spend billions—which it insists must remain illegal, while continuing to allow the traffickers to buy assault weapons freely. American politicians should heed the words of Felipe Calderón, Mexico’s outgoing president, who after six years and 60,000 deaths says it is “impossible” to stop the drug trade.

    The second black spot is that Mexican policing remains weak. If Mr Peña is to keep his promise to halve the murder rate, he must be more effective than his predecessor in expanding the federal police and improving their counterparts at state level. That is just one of several issues that will test Mr Peña. He cannot achieve his ambition to raise Mexico’s annual growth rate to 6% by relying solely on export manufacturing. Upping the tempo requires liberalising or scrapping state-run energy monopolies, which fail to exploit potentially vast oil and gas reserves. Boosting Mexico’s poor productivity means forcing competition on a cosy bunch of private near-monopolies—starting with telecoms, television, cement and food and drink. That means upsetting the tycoons who backed his campaign.

    This newspaper gave Mr Peña a lukewarm endorsement before July’s election, praising his economic plans but warning that his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ran Mexico in an authoritarian and sometimes corrupt manner for most of the 20th century, has not changed much. Facing down interests within his own party may be Mr Peña’s hardest task. The head of the oil workers’ union is a PRI senator. The teachers’ union, which is friendly with the party, is blocking progress in education. A new labour reform has been diluted by PRI congressmen with union links.

    Mr Peña, a good performer on the stump, should appeal beyond the PRI to a broad consensus for change among Mexicans. Time will tell if he measures up to the task. But the changes in Mexico go beyond the new occupant of Los Pinos. The country is poised to become America’s new workshop. If the neighbours want to make the most of that, it is time for them to take another look over the border.

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    11/28/2012 8:34 am by Roque Planas

    Mexico Violence Not High By Regional Standards (SLIDESHOW)

    Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto didn't come to Washington just to talk about drug war violence.

    On his first official visit to the United States Tuesday, he tried to convince Americans that there’s more to Mexico than the drug war launched by his predecessor,President Felipe Calderón. Instead, Peña Nieto points to Mexico’s growing middle class and economic ties with the United States as agenda items. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, he writes:

    Although tourism spending and visitors have dropped considerably from early in the last decade, those numbers are starting to climb back from the depths of 2009, Tintos hastens to point out.

    To build a more prosperous future for our two countries, we must continue strengthening and expanding our deep economic, social and cultural ties. It is a mistake to limit our bilateral relationship to drugs and security concerns. Our mutual interests are too vast and complex to be restricted in this short-sighted way.

    That’s a tough sell for most Americans. A survey released by Vianovo consulting firm earlier this month found that 72 percent of Americans think Mexico is unsafe. Some 65 percent viewed the country as “dangerous and unstable.”

    But Peña Nieto has a point. While Calderón’s frontal assault on Mexico’s drug cartels has left some 60,000 dead, the country is not exactly the violent free-for-all that newspaper headlines imply. By regional standards, it’s actually about average.

    Mexico had a murder rate of 23.7 per 100,000 residents last year, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. That’s roughly equal to the murder rate in Brazil and less than half as high as that of Detroit.

    Several Caribbean island tourist havens suffer much higher homicide rates without alarming foreigners. Jamaica, with a murder rate more than double Mexico’s, at 52.2 per 100,000 residents, hasn't been the recent subject of a State Department travel warning.In fact, tourism is booming there growing almost 6 percent last year, according to the Jamaica Observer.

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    November 27, 2012, 7:00 a.m. by Rosemary McClure

    Mexico: 86-passenger yacht-style boat to sail Gulf of California

    Nature lovers waiting for their ship to come in might enjoy sailing into the Baja California sunset aboard the Safari Endeavour, an 86-passenger yacht-style boat that in December will begin cruising the islands of Mexico's Gulf of California.

    The InnerSea Discoveries ship, which is new to Baja, was renovated this year and will sail a new itinerary that includes a stop in Loreto, plus stops at Isla Espiritu Santo, Los Islotes and Isla San Francisco and Bahia Agua Verde. Cruises begin and end in La Paz, Mexico.

    The Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, is known for its rich marine and bird life. Parts have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve.

    Besides seeing wildlife, InnerSea Discoveries cruisers have the opportunity to snorkel, kayak, paddleboard and hike on shore..

    "We explore colorful desert islands in a sea teeming with marine life," said Tim Jacox, spokesman for InnerSea Discoveries. "We increased our guest capacity four times by replacing the 22-guest Safari Quest with the Safari Endeavour. The acquisition of a larger boat allows us to share this remarkable destination with more adventurers.“

    Cruises are scheduled from December through April. The weeklong tours range from $2,995 to $6,795 per person, double occupancy, including on-board meals, spirits, transfers and activities. Special photography cruises are planned in February and March.

    Info: InnerSea Discoveries, (888) 862-8881.

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    November 5, 2012 by Admin

    The New San Ysidro to Tijuana border crossing(also known as "El Chaparral") has 22 lanes equipped with the latest technology for fast access to Mexico.


    Vehicles headed southbound on 1-5 will turn right once they reach the border, into the modern facilities of the new San Ysidro to Tijuana border crossing."El Chaparral" features 22 lines equipped with cutting-edge technology, creating a more convenient crossing into Tijuana and other destinations.

    "El Chaparral" also connects to a set of new bridges leading to tourist destinations like Rasarito Beach, Ensenada (it is recommended travelers take the lanes on the right hand side and look for the sign "Playas de Tijuana - Ensenada Cuota") as well as DownTown, Avenida Revolucion, Zona Rio and different areas of Tijuana.

    This new crossing conveniently facilitates the movement of residents and visitors.

    For more information on these changes, visit or dial 078 while in Mexico for tourist assistance.


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    November 04, 2012 12:00 am by Tim Johnson Mcclatchy Newspapers

    As violence ebbs, sense of security ticks up in MexicoTim Johnson Mcclatchy Newspapers Arizona Daily Star.

    MEXICO CITY - Gradually but notably, the mood of Mexicans has brightened about their personal security and the broader war on crime, a shift in this country's state of mind that coincides with a sharp reduction in bloodshed in once violent regions.

    Roberto Borge, governor of Quintana Roo, the Mexican state that includes Cancun, visited Austin May 16 to encourage Texans to head south.

    Ciudad Juarez, the border city across from El Paso, that was once one of the most violent in the world, registered only 30 murders in October, the lowest monthly number in five years.

    On 14 days last month, no one was murdered at all.

    The better mood provides 11th-hour solace to President Felipe Calderón, whose legacy after he leaves office Dec. 1 likely will be tainted by the bloodshed that began to surge at the beginning of his term when he deployed some 50,000 soldiers and federal police to take on well-equipped narcotics cartels.

    "Mexico is emerging triumphant against these adversities," Calderón said last week as the clock wound down on his six-year term.

    "Mexico saw already in 2011, the highest point, an inflection point (on violence), and probably, for example, the homicide rate in 2012 will be lower not only than that in 2011 but even probably lower than in 2010," Calderón told Jewish leaders on Monday at Los Pinos, the presidential palace.

    Along much of the 1,970-mile border between Mexico and the United States, levels of violence that peaked in 2011 have fallen steadily, even dramatically. The area from Ciudad Juarez west to Tijuana has seen homicides plummet, allowing cities to spring back to life.

    Ciudad Juarez, once dubbed "Murder City," tallied fewer homicides in October than Chicago, which chalked up 36 murders.

    While something as intangible as the public's perception of the nation's security is difficult to measure, surveyors from the National Institute of Statistics have been asking Mexicans for their views in recent years..

    The questions include: How do you see your personal security as compared to a year ago? How do you see it next year? How about the security in the nation as a whole compared to a year ago? And what's your level of confidence in walking alone near your home between 4 and 7 p.m.?

    October's public security index hit 104.4, the fourth straight month in which people voiced greater optimism than the baseline month of April 2009, before violence really spiraled upward in Mexico. The lowest month, according to the index, was November 2010, when the index stood at 92.

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    05.20.12 09:45 am by MELISSA GASKILL

    I love to travel to Mexico and do so fairly often.

    Yes, thereʼs all that scary (and true) news about warring drug cartels. But Mexico is a big country, as is the U.S. There are places I wouldnʼt go in the United States, and places I wouldnʼt go in Mexico. But those are few and far between.

    Roberto Borge, governor of Quintana Roo, the Mexican state that includes Cancun, visited Austin May 16 to encourage Texans to head south.

    “Mexico has 112 million citizens,” he said. “Are there more good Mexicans than bad? Yes. There are more than 2,500 municipalities in Mexico, and the majority of violence is in 12 of them. Has one tourist been involved in that violence? Not one.”

    The state of Quintana Roo, he added, is bigger than the entire country of Belize. It is situated 1,000 miles from the state of Nuevo Leon, which the Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid, and 1,800 miles from Tijuana, where travel warnings say to "exercise caution."

    Travel warnings advising U.S. citizens against traveling to Mexico are, not surprisingly, a huge problem for the travel industry — in Mexico and in Texas. Sixty percent of tourists to Cancun come from the U.S. and Canada, and Texas generally ranks first or second on the list.

    “This hurts Mexico, where tourism is the third largest sector of the economy, but it also hurts people working in Texas in the tourism industry,” Borge said.

    The governor doesnʼt expect the U.S. to stop issuing these warnings. The problem, he said, is that those warnings are too general.

    Earlier this year, Mexican authorities asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make warnings specific to certain towns, highways and areas. That gave visitors information they could use to make choices, Borge said. Then, as the spring break season neared, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a warning against travel to Mexico. That caused a significant drop in travel to popular destinations such as Acapulco, Mazatlan, Los Cabos and Cancun.

    “Texas has the right to issue travel advisories,” said Borge, who also met with Governor Rick Perry while in Austin. “We just ask that they do it in the right way — by including specifics.”

    According to Borge, FBI figures on violent offenses show that in 2010, there were 227 in New York City, 184 in Chicago, 90 in Houston; that's compared to 80 in Cancun and three in Cozumel.

    At the same time, Borge acknowledged that illegal drugs are a problem in Mexico. “But,” he asked, “which country is the largest consumer of those drugs? The U.S.”

    Good point. Perhaps if we took some of the billions being spent on our “war on drugs” and made quality drug rehabilitation cheap (or even free) and easily available to anyone, any time, we might change that fact.

    Why not try something new — reducing demand — instead of constantly escalating the same efforts at stemming the supply? And how about taking a serious look at legalizing marijuana, which would likely have the same effect on related illegal activity as ending Prohibition did on illegal alcohol activity? As long as marijuana is illegal, it will continue to generate obscene amounts of money for drug cartels, and tie up incredible amounts of law enforcement and legal resources in our country.

    In early May, I spent a week traveling alone on the East Cape of Baja California. I felt as safe as I do in my Central Austin neighborhood. In the summers of 2004 and 2005, I took my kids to spend a month in Baja, the second time driving from Austin to the tip of the peninsula. I admit I wouldnʼt drive through Tijuana today, but I would otherwise repeat the entire trip.

    Our family also spent a week at an all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen in 2002, enjoying long walks alone on the beach and bike rides through nearby towns. I traveled alone to Cancun in 2009, and hope to do so again soon. After all, you can catch a 9 a.m. flight from Austin and be on the beach shortly after lunch.

    In short, Borge's visit reiterates that most of Mexico remains safe, just as does much of the U.S. In my experience, the Mexican people are friendly and welcoming — and have never once laughed at my Spanish. The food is great, the culture rich, the landscape absolutely beautiful. Simply crossing it off our travel list is a loss for everyone.

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    May 20, 2012 at 12:01 a.m by Anne Z. Cooke

    Seeking truth in a mission to mazatlan

    Tourist finds no dangers in weeklong visit to beach city

    MAZATLAN, Mexico — Mexico might seem a strange place to lose your heart. But when you’re young enough, that first encounter with our southern neighbor’s warmth and charm — the smell of roasting corn drifting from the sidewalk vendor’s grill, the red and pink bougainvillea drooping over adobe walls, vegetables piled high on tarps laid over the ground and women in multicolored shawls carrying jars on their heads — changed my 8-year-old world view forever.

    Mexico does that to people. Last year more than 15 million Americans crossed the border, searching for the perfect beach or shopping for handmade crafts. Some were touring Mayan ruins; others simply were going to work. But with the U.S. State Department’s travel advisories earlier this year warning about the drug cartels and the continued violence, even I, an admitted addict, was worried.

    Was Mexico safe? I needed to see for myself, so I booked a week in Mazatlan, in the state of Sinaloa on the Pacific Ocean’s golden beaches. The trip was less of a vacation and more of a mission. Were the headlines coming from Mexico telling the whole story? The only way to find out was to talk to people who live there.

    Where is it most dangerous to be, and what can travelers do to stay safe? Can visitors to Mazatlan count on security if they book a hotel in the “Golden Zone” (Zona Rosa), the beach-side district with hotels, restaurants and beach facilities developed specifically to accommodate visitors? Will the same rules of caution that you or I follow when we travel to cities around the world be enough to avoid trouble here?

    Waiting in the airport lounge I found myself sitting next to Kurt Miller, a jolly 50-something man from Oregon who laughed when he heard my question. “That’s what all my friends want to know,” he said. “But we don’t know anyone who’s had any kind of problems. We love our house and we’ve got great neighbors. Here, take a look,” he added, pulling out his computer to show me photos of his house in the El Cid Marina.

    I’m glad I came to see for myself. This port city’s sandy beaches are broad and clean, the water is warm and the surf rolls slowly up on the sand curling into tiny waves gentle enough for kids to play in. Changing into beachwear for a stroll along the Malecon — the sea wall — was near the top of my list. Drifting out to deep water was next.

    I spent a day exploring the historic downtown area, a square-mile area adjacent to the shore, where enterprising Americans and Mexicans have invested both money and time, restoring the colonial structures still standing after 150 years. Artists and artisans have opened studios and set up shop in ground-floor spaces.

    After wandering through the Plaza Machado, sneaking looks into private courtyards, I peaked into the recently restored Teatro de Angela Peralta (you may know it as the Opera House). In the ballet studio next door, 21 teenage girls in toe shoes and one boy were at the barre, practicing their routines. As the pianist banged out a tune, the maestro herself — stern and imposing — went from one to the next, raising a leg higher there and arching an arm back here. The scene spoke of a tranquil lifestyle. But it didn’t mean I had forgotten to stay alert.

    Whether I’m traveling in Paris, Buenos Aires or New York City, I don’t walk out alone at night or look for fun in seedy joints. I stay in busy, well-lit neighborhoods and leave at the first whiff of drugs. In discussing the details of several recent crimes here with the locals, there was a feeling that some victims had been careless.

    “It’s safe here in the Zona Rosa,” said Ruben Salazar, a waiter at the El Cid Marina Hotel, one of a dozen people I interviewed. “But Sinaloa is famous for its mountains, where anybody can hide. I wouldn’t go there. I live 20 minutes away and I drive to work at 5 o’clock in the morning. The road is empty, but I’ve never had trouble.”

    Many here believe it’s drug users in the United States who’ve created Mexico’s crime wave. If the demand for drugs stopped tomorrow, the cartels would vanish.

    If you go, remember to visit the Fish Market, where Mazatlan’s signature shrimps — caught in the early morning and sold before noon — are heaped in ice-filled buckets next to Pacific lobsters and crabs. During the season, from September through January, shrimp dishes top the restaurant menus.

    Wandering through the Zocalo (the old-town square) gardens, we walked around the bandstand, snapped photos and had our shoes shined by a man with a step-stool, polish and brushes. After touring the newly painted Cathedral we crossed the street to the open-air Central Market, still housed in the original 19th-century iron arcade. You can buy everything there, from fabrics, straw hats and kitchen ware to vegetables, fruits, slabs of beef, and whole chickens hanging by the feet.

    When I had the chance, I asked people if they felt safe. “I have to live,” said Salazar, shrugging his shoulders. “I have an 8-year-old son; he plays baseball and I take him two nights a week and to tournaments. We don’t worry.”

    Of the many people I met, it was the Alvaros, a retired Mexican couple from Guadalajara — staying in their own condominium near my room in the El Cid Marina Hotel — who said it best. “Yes, safety is a concern for some,” said Jose Alvaro. “But not when you visit a place like this, where people are on vacation ... You shouldn’t worry. Gangsters want to avoid the police.”

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    Friday, May 4, 2012 by Tovin Lapan

    Mexican officials hit road to promote Baja tourism

    Hugo Torres, the former mayor of Rosarito Beach, Mexico, is on a mission to “replace fear with facts” and again lure U.S. tourists to his beloved Baja California.

    Torres and Juan Tintos, Baja California’s secretary of tourism, were in Las Vegas on Thursday as part of their tour across the Southwestern United States, spreading the word that the Mexican state just south of San Diego is full of great spas, wineries, restaurants, beaches and other attractions.

    Thanks to increased border security, travel advisories from the U.S. government and negative perceptions of ongoing violence from drug cartels built over years, U.S. tourists are not traveling south of the border at the same rate as before the Mexican drug war caught the attention of international media.

    While violence does exist in Baja California, it rarely touches the state’s tourism community, Torres and Tinto told the Las Vegas chapter of the American Marketing Association during a presentation at Bali Hai Golf Club.

    The number of tourists entering Mexico by plane hit 22.7 million in 2011, the most ever, according to statistics released in February by the Bank of Mexico. Yet, air travel to Mexico from the United States dropped 3 percent last year. The gains came from other countries such as Brazil, Russia, Peru and China.

    Torres said that as news of the war between Mexican authorities and rival drug cartels spread in 2008, tourism from the United States to Baja fell off a cliff — 70 percent, to be exact. Torres said the region had since recovered about 20 percent of that figure.

    “The city of Rosarito had its lowest crime rate ever in 2010, but that is not the perception in the United States,” Torres said. “People hear about violence in Juarez and the thought is that all of Mexico is dangerous. Americans don’t know Mexican geography.”

    Torres also pointed to long border waits to re-enter the United States and a new regulation mandating U.S. citizens have passports to visit Mexico that took effect in 2010 as deterrents to increased tourism. One Las Vegas travel adviser acknowledged wariness about travel to Mexico.

    “We are getting a lot of questions on safety in Mexico, and I would say we didn’t see as many college students asking about Mexico for spring break as we used to see,” said Donna Steele, a AAA Travel counselor. “There is a reticence to go to Mexico. People are wary, and I think parents have been telling their kids, ‘No,’ when it comes to Mexico.”

    Steele and other travel agents in Las Vegas said they discouraged travel to border areas, including Tijuana, but have generally told their clients that most tourist areas, including Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City, are safe to visit.

    The most recent U.S. State Department travel advisory on Mexico, issued in February, cautions against travel to northern, but not southern, Baja and 18 other states.

    “You should exercise caution in the northern state of Baja California, particularly at night. Targeted TCO (Transnational Criminal Organization) assassinations continue to take place in Baja California. Turf battles between criminal groups proliferated and resulted in numerous assassinations in areas of Tijuana frequented by U.S. citizens. ... During 2011, 34 U.S. citizens were the victims of homicide in the state. In the majority of these cases, the killings appeared to be related to narcotics trafficking,” the advisory states.

    Tintos said he had met with U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and had discussed the travel advisory. “We told him what goes around comes around,” said Tintos, who estimated that Nevada sends the third highest amount of U.S. tourists to Baja after Arizona and California. “If they lift the advisory and we get more tourists, then our economy will be healthier. In turn, our residents will have the money to visit the United States.”

    The new campaign includes video testimonials from U.S. citizens and celebrities who live in and visit the Baja peninsula. The state hired a U.S. public relations firm and is touting attractions like wineries, top-flight restaurants, bicycle and automobile races, fishing and surfing. The campaign also involves the “road show,” which visited 18 U.S. cities last year and has already landed in six in 2012.

    The Mexican state also is promoting its film industry. The largest water tank in the world for use in filmmaking is in northern Baja —James Cameron sank the Titanic there —and several films are made in Baja each year. If Baja is safe enough for Hollywood, the thinking goes, it should be safe enough for U.S. tourists.

    In one testimonial, celebrity chef Rick Bayless talks about filming an entire season of his show in Baja. “I encourage everybody to come and explore,” Bayless says.

    Other initiatives the state has advanced and is promoting to prospective tourists are new border crossings and improvements at existing ones, an “enhanced” California driver’s license that would allow holders to use that for U.S. re-entry in place of a passport, development of convention centers and resources for large events in the region, and medical tourism.

    Rafael Villanueva of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority attended the presentation Thursday and said he was open to collaborative efforts that would draw more tourists from Mexico to Las Vegas and vice versa. Measuring the market is problematic, he said, because those who drive from Tijuana to Las Vegas most likely enter in San Diego and are counted as Southern California visitors.

    “We’ve never negated the fact that there’s violence,” Tintos said after his presentation. “It is just like any other tourist destination in the world; you have to take precautions and be smart. I was mugged in Philadelphia. It can happen anywhere. ... We have a lower crime rate than many U.S. cities.

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    May. 02, 2012 by Admin

    Mexico attracts over half a million visitors over spring break vacation!

    More than 562,000 foreign tourists visited Mexico's sun and beach destinations over the recent Spring Break period, including the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, according to Mexico's Ministry of Tourism. This figure includes nearly 77,000 spring breakers which marks a 7.2 percent increase in spring breakers, year over year.

    Despite travel warnings issued by certain US jurisdictions, 382,376 Americans traveled to Mexico over the holiday period marking a 7.3 percent increase. Beach destinations were the principal vacation spots chosen by American travelers aged between 16 and 25 years old.

    The number of spring breakers which visited these particular sun and beach destinations during the recent holiday season totaled 76,886 tourists.

    The most visited destinations were Cancun and the Riviera Maya which attracted more than 50,000 spring breakers, an increase of 8.4 percent. Puerto Vallarta and Nueva Vallarta, welcomed 15,503 tourists, an increase of 7.3 percent.

    For the third consecutive year – despite an aggressive travel warning issued by the Government of Texas – the world famous Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders chose Mexico's beaches for the production of their 2013 calendar.

    During their time in the Riviera Maya, the 29 cheerleaders recorded two programs which will be broadcast on national television as well as local TV stations in Dallas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

    Images of the cheerleaders in different locations around the Riviera Maya will also be used in magazines, official publications and social media outlets.

    SOURCE Mexico Tourism Board

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    May. 02, 2012 by Robert Reid

    Are Americans safer in Mexico than at home?

    Every week or so I get asked, ‘Is it safe to go to Mexico?’ I had always said, if you’re thoughtful about where you go, yes. But after my most recent trip there, I’m changing my answer… to a question:

    Do you think it’s safe to go to Texas?

    To be clear, violence in Mexico is no joke. There have been over 47,000 drug-related murders alone in the past five years. Its murder rate – 18 per 100,000 according to this United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime report – is more than three times the US rate of 4.8 per 100,000. Though Mexican tourism is starting to bounce back, Americans appear more reluctant to return than Canadians and Brits (5.7 million Americans visited in 2011, down 3% from 2010 – and, according to Expedia, more than four of five bookings were adults going without children). Many who don’t go cite violence as the reason.

    What you don’t get from most reports in the US is statistical evidence that Americans are less likely to face violence on average in Mexico than at home, particularly when you zero in on Mexico’s most popular travel destinations. For example, the gateway to Disney World, Orlando, saw 7.5 murders per 100,000 residents in 2010 per the FBI; this is higher than Cancun or Puerto Vallarta, with rates of 1.83 and 5.9 respectively, per a Stanford University report (see data visualization here, summarized on this chart, page 21). Yet in March, the Texas Department of Public Safety advised against ‘spring break’ travel anywhere in Mexico, a country the size of the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy combined. Never mind that popular destinations like the Bahamas, Belize and Jamaica have far higher homicide rates (36, 42 and 52 per 100,000). Why the singular focus?

    Before you nix Mexico altogether, consider these five things:

    1. Mexico may be more dangerous than the US overall, but not for Americans.

    According to FBI crime statistics, 4.8 Americans per 100,000 were murdered in the US in 2010. The US State Department reports that 120 Americans of the 5.7 million who visited Mexico last year were murdered, which is a rate of 2.1 of 100,000 visitors. Regardless of whether they were or weren’t connected to drug trafficking, which is often not clear, it’s less than half the US national rate.

    2. Texans are twice as safe in Mexico, and three times safer than in Houston.

    Looking at the numbers, it might be wise for Texans to ignore their Public Safety department’s advice against Mexico travel. Five per 100,000 Texans were homicide victims in 2010, per the FBI. Houston was worse, with 143 murders, or a rate of 6.8 – over three times the rate for Americans in Mexico.

    3. And it’s not just Texas.

    It’s interesting comparing each of the countries’ most dangerous cities. New Orleans, host city of next year’s Super Bowl, broke its own tourism record last year with 8 million visitors. Yet the Big Easy has ten times the US homicide rate, close to triple Mexico’s national rate. Few go to Ciudad Juarez, a border town of 1.3 million that saw 8 to 11 murders a day in 2010 (accounts differ – CNN went with 8). It’s unlikely to ever be a tourism hostpot, but things have been quietly improving there. By 2011, CNN reported, the homicide rate dropped by 45%, and the first six weeks of this year saw an additional 57% drop, per this BBC story.

    If that trend in Juarez continues all year, and it might not, the number of homicides would have dropped from over 3000 in 2010 to 710 in 2012. Meanwhile New Orleans’ homicide rate is increasing, up to 199 murders last year, equivalent to 736 in a city with the population of Juarez.

    4. By the way, most of Mexico is not on the State Department’s travel warning.

    The best of Mexico, in terms of travel, isn’t on the warning. The US warns against ‘non-essential travel’ to just four of Mexico’s 31 states (all in the north: Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango and Tamaulipas). The warning goes on to recommend against travel to select parts of other states, but not including many popular destinations such as Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, the Riviera Nayarit, Cancun, Cozumel and Tulum. Meanwhile, 13 states are fully free from the State Department’s warning, including Baja California Sur, Yucatan, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guanajuato and others.

    5. Malia Obama ignored the Texas advice.

    Of all people, President Obama and first lady said ‘OK’ to their 13-year-old daughter’s spring break destination this year: Oaxaca. Then Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum made snide remarks over that, perhaps overlooking that Oaxaca state has a smaller body count from the drug war than his home state’s murder rate (Oaxaca’s 4.39 per 100,000 to Pennsylvania’s 5.2).

    Oaxaca state, not on the US travel warning, is famed for its colonial city, Zapotec ruins and emerging beach destinations like Huatulco. Lonely Planet author Greg Benchwick even tried grasshoppers with the local mezcal (Malia apparently stuck with vanilla shakes.)

    So, can you go to Mexico?

    Yes. As the US State Department says, ‘millions of US citizens safely visit Mexico each year.’ Last year, when I took on the subject for CNN, one commenter suggested Lonely Planet was being paid to promote travel there. No we weren’t. We took on the subject simply because – as travelers so often know – there is another story beyond the perception back home, be it Vietnam welcoming Americans in the ’90s or Colombia’s dramatic safety improvements in the ’00s. And, equally as importantly, Mexico makes for some of the world’s greatest travel experiences – it’s honestly why I’m in this line of work.

    So yes, you can go to Mexico, just as you can go to Texas, or New Orleans, or Orlando, or the Bahamas. It’s simply up to you to decide whether you want to.
    Robert Reid is Lonely Planet’s New York–based US Travel Editor and has been going to Mexico since he was three (most recently to Chacala).

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    18 Abril 2012 by Andrea García

    Drew Barrymore in the Guadalupe Valley The American actress sees in Baja California the possibility of having her own vineyards.

    The actress Drew Barrymore has searched all of her life for emotional adventures of food and beverages, she found them at Guadalupe Valley in Baja California, according to the state's official site of tourism.

    On the Facebook account, "Descubre Baja California" (Discover Baja California), it was mentioned the idea of having her own vineyard, a quote that appeared in the LA Weekly blog as part of an interview with the actress.

    Since Anthony Bordain referred to Baja as a little Tuscany, the attention of many people in the United States has focused on the region and Barrymore isn't the exception.

    She is well known in the world of cinema but, why take the route of wine as another activity?

    Drew Barrymore thinks the closest experience is drinking beer any night on LA but drinking wine is something else than having vodka or other beverages.

    Since she started her travel in the world of wine, the Pinot Grigio grape caught her attention with its pink color; actually, she already started her own wine brand with her friend Shepard Fairey.

    Barrymore, who could be expecting her first child, is walking slowly into the project since she wants to produce different kinds of wine, before opening a bar somewhere.

    Original text : Andrea García; Translation: Brenda Colón Navar

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    March 22, 2012 by ELISABETH MALKIN

    A Class Trip Meant Much to Mexico

    MEXICO CITY — After weighing the risks of traveling to Mexico, the parents of one American teenager decided to allow her to join a school trip to Oaxaca, where students volunteered at an orphanage, visited archaeological sites and sipped vanilla milkshakes on the honey-colored town plaza.

    The fact that the parents were President Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama, and that the teenager was their daughter Malia, thrilled Mexican tourism officials, who are trying to redefine the country’s image as it has struggled with drug violence.

    “It’s a compliment that the daughter of President Obama and her friends have decided to live the experience of Oaxaca,” said José Zorrilla, the state secretary for tourism and economic development, slipping into promotion mode.

    Each updated travel advisory from the United States State Department is painted as an affront here. Especially galling to Mexicans was the spring break warning issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety suggesting that Texans avoid Mexico altogether.

    Plenty of Americans are ignoring the government warnings. Last year, Mexico reported a record year for foreign visitors, 22.67 million, and most of them were American.

    Malia, 13, attends Sidwell Friends School in Washington, which has been organizing trips to Oaxaca for years, said Ellis Turner, the associate head of school, who pointed out that there was no State Department travel warning for Oaxaca.

    Although the White House asked English-language media to remove articles about the visit from their Web sites this week, the visit was never a secret in Mexico. “The reality is that Oaxaca isn’t that big and it isn’t that easy to hide 10 girls and that security,” said Mr. Zorrilla, the tourism official.

    On Monday, the group sat down for lunch at Terranova, a family restaurant behind the porticos lining Oaxaca’s central plaza. The headwaiter, José Victoria, said they ordered bottles of water, vanilla milkshakes, pizza and spaghetti. Malia opted for cheese quesadillas, which he said she ordered in Spanish.

    Along with their work at the orphanage, which Mr. Turner did not identify, the teenagers trooped through all the tourist spots in Oaxaca, a handsome colonial city set in a blue-green valley steeped in pre- Columbian culture. They toured Zapotec archaeological sites and visited nearby villages famous for producing black pottery and fantastical wood carvings called alebrijes.

    But what the group is most likely to take back may not be a souvenir but the memory of a strong earthquake that prompted the White House to lift its news blackout, acknowledge Malia’s trip and assure everybody that she was safe.

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    2/24/2012 12:50 AM by TMZ STAFF

    Hillary Clinton Close Encounter at Sea with MASSIVE Whale

    This is a Hillary Clinton whale tail -- yes, the Secretary of State put her life on the line ... going face-to-face with a giant creature, and TMZ has the pics.

    Hills was in Los Cabos, Mexico last weekend for the G20 summit -- but before the snooze fest kicked off ... she went whale watching!.

    Madam Secretary was taking in the sights with a bunch of diplomats ... when one of the massive mammals rocked her world by rubbing up against her dinghy. Based on the photos, Hillary's lucky she made it back to shore.

    Thar she blows!!!

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    2/24/2012 12:50 AM by Edward Owen

    Carnival to invest $150 million in Mexican port infrastructure

    One cruise line doesn't seemed overly concerned about the future of cruise travel in Mexico, despite reports of violence toward passengers the past few months, and repeated warnings from US officials about traveling there.

    Carnival announced this week they'll invest more than $150 million to help expand port infrastructure in Mexico. Investments will take place on both the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts, and includes nine new projects. These include a cruise terminal in Cozumel and another in Baja California Sur state.

    On hand for the ceremony in Cozumel were representatives of Carnival, and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, as well as Mexican tourism industry officials.

    The company has already invested $100 million so far on the projects.

    Carnival President and CEO Gerald Cahill said, "Mexico is an attractive destination for the development of tourism business".

    Cancun tourism leaders called on Calderon to back a campaign they've developed to counter alerts constantly being issued by US authorities. The campaign, is called the 'Stop Warning, Our
    Tourists Are OK' campaign.

    Relations between the cruise industry and Mexico have been strained of late, with Princess and Holland-America removing some cruises from Pacific based destinations, and reports of robbery in some ports. Both of those cruise lines recently announced they are returning some of their cruise dates.

    In addition, last week Texas authorities issued a warning for students to not go to Mexico this spring break due to the possibilities of violence. Cancun and the Riviera Maya welcome an average of 50,000 students from across the United States during spring break each year.

    Subscribe to my daily Examiner Cruise updates, and forward reports you find interesting through Facebook, Twitter, Google + and other social media. Follow me on Twitter - @BigBlueMan (personal) or @TheCruisePaper (cruise info only).

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    March 20, 2012 by Jonathon M. Seidl


    From the beginning of the administration, the White House has asked news outlets not to report on or photograph the Obama children when they are not with their parents and there is no vital news interest. We have reminded outlets of this request in order to protect the privacy and security of these girls.

    The Blaze first noticed the disappearing stories Monday afternoon, when accounts of Malia and 12 friends visiting Oaxaca with 25 Secret Service agents mysteriously began turning into broken links.

    However, in admitting to “reminding outlets” about not reporting on the Obama children when there is “no vital news interest,” the White House has also tacitly admitted that Malia is (or now maybe was) in Mexico for spring break. Additional evidence has surfaced confirming that. One site has published a photo of the Obamas going to church on Sunday.

    That site has also posted alleged photos of the vacation, but we have decided not to repost those.
    As The Blaze noted on Monday, a vacation for Malia in Mexico raises a slew of questions considering the State Department has warned American citizens against travel there.
    In fact, the language contained in the State Department’s travel warning is quite ominous.
    “[C]rime and violence are serious problems throughout the country and can occur anywhere,” the warning reads. “U.S. citizens have fallen victim to TCO activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery.” [Emphasis added]

    The rising number of kidnappings and disappearances throughout Mexico is of particular concern. Both local and expatriate communities have been victimized. In addition, local police have been implicated in some of these incidents. We strongly advise you to lower your profile and avoid displaying any evidence of wealth that might draw attention.

    Additionally, the warning (dated February 8) notes that “U.S. government personnel and their families are prohibited from personal travel to all areas described as ‘defer non-essential travel’ and when travel for official purposes is essential it is conducted with extensive security precautions.” However, it adds that ‘USG personnel and their families are allowed to travel for personal reasons to the areas where no advisory is in effect or where the advisory is to exercise caution.”

    According to the release, no specific warning has been issued for Oaxaca, where Malia is said to be. However, there have been concerns about that area in the past.

    This is a breaking story. Updates will be added.

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    March 20, 2012 by Bill O`Reilly


    We have been watching your show for years, agree most of the time with you, but the other night and others like it are enough for us to write to you that you are wrong about Mexico. We have lived here for 4 years and some still call us “newbies”. There are Mexicans, Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders, Australians, and Great Britain living in our little town called San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico. The town is about a population of 20,000 people. We can walk at night down at the Malecon without fear of anyone or anything.

    San Felipe is about 125 miles from the California border. When coming down we go through Mexicali. We all stay away from places like Tijuana, Nogales, Juarez, where we know there is so much violence, as do our Mexican friends.

    There is no need for you to criticize a whole Country because of a few bad towns. What if everyone looked at the United States from the perspective of Detroit, The Bronx, Oakland or good old Watts in Los Angeles?

    I guarantee you that if Mr. Waters came down to our town and spent one day he would not want to leave. He would have no fear of violence or drug dealers or the Cartel. Twenty miles north of San Felipe there is a Military stop that all autos, busses have to stop and be checked out. The men all carry AK47. They are checking for weapons and drugs going in or out of San Felipe. We don’t mind getting out of the car and have our car searched; it is one of the many things that keep us safe and free.

    Our home is in a gated community called El Dorado Ranch, about 5 miles north of town. We have a golf course, swimming pools, restaurant, game room, and tennis courts.

    We have had absolutely no problems with the Mexican people and those of us that just can’t seem to learn their language we are still able to communicate what we want or what we need.

    You, Mr. O’Reilly, always try to find the facts out before you put the information on the air. If 123 Americans were killed last year in Mexico, have you checked what they were doing when they got killed? Which towns they ere in and why were they there?

    Don’t worry about the corruption down here, there is enough up there.

    Thomas and Joan Callender
    San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico
    Pilot Hill, CA

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    March 14, 2012 by Admin

    Traveling to Mexico is NOT a Bad Thing!

    Tammy & I love to travel to Baja California, Mexico. In the recent past the press has given Mexico a bum rap. Especially Baja, California and the wonderful towns and cities you can certainly visit safely.

    As it is currently written, the Travel Warning’s broadness is equivalent to warning travelers not to travel to Miami because of the crime rate in New Orleans. Mexico is comprised of warm people, a fascinating history, a hospitable culture, amazing beauty, and numerous friendly and SAFE vacation destinations. Most of which are safer than major U.S. cities!

    English is spoken fluently in all of Mexico’s major tourist locations. The resorts in Mexico are some of the most magnificent in the entire world. A visitor can choose from a cultural experience or a fully Americanized mega resort. Options include all-inclusive and non-all-inclusive resorts, hotels and boutique properties. The climate in Mexico is a big attraction for Americans. The major tourist locations are along the coast and are warm year-round. Inland communities at higher elevations such as Guadalajara (5200 ft. above sea level) and in particular close-by Lake Chapala, are much dryer and more temperate. Mexico City (Ciudad de Mexico), with its much higher elevation of 7545.93 ft. (2300 sq. meters) above sea level, can reach freezing temperatures in the winter.

    Yes safety! Mexico is a friendly ally to the U.S. Mexico is one of the SAFEST country’s an American can visit! In fact, Mexico is safer than many U.S. cities and the tourist areas within Mexico are safer than most major U.S. cities. US-Mexico Tourism Alliance cautions Americans to beware of U.S. media stories when they sensationalize and “spin” crime stories regarding Mexico. Most mature, well-traveled Americans will be the first to point out that the U.S. media is the least accurate and most bias in the world. We all remember when the U.S. media wrongly blamed Mexico for the Swine Flu (H1N1), as just one example. And did you know that most U.S. citizens killed in Mexico were involved in illicit activities? It would nice to be able to say that about visitors killed within the U.S., but we cannot. The inaccuracies go on and on. Instead, look at the crime facts regarding Mexico.

    Les Kincaid

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    March 14, 2012 by Bart Allen Berry

    BAJA. A Safe Pressure Release Valve For North America.

    Fear is an interesting thing. It has the capability to block rational thought. Fear of parts of Mexico, such as Juarez, is rational. I wouldn't want the job of promoting tourism there. Unfortunately, Americans and others lump all of Mexico into one big basket, and use the extremes of occurrences in one area, to develop impressions and judgments about the whole country. Understandable, but basically ignorant.

    Fear is an interesting thing. It has the capability to block rational thought. Fear of parts of Mexico, such as Juarez, is rational. I wouldn't want the job of promoting tourism there. Unfortunately, Americans and others lump all of Mexico into one big basket, and use the extremes of occurrences in one area, to develop impressions and judgments about the whole country. Understandable, but basically ignorant.

    The rational analysis about Baja is clear, however. Baja is the safest state in Mexico. Many Americans are ignorant about that. On one trip to Oman (It's in the middle east), my friends would email me and say "aren't you worried about all the war fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, don't you think you'll get blown up or something?" I would answer with a simply geographic analogy- "It's like I am in the Florida Keys and the war is happening in Maine". Most people will not take the trouble to get out a map, much less use the legend to calculate distances. So it is with many Americans who live in a country so large, they barely get the chance to travel outside of their own state.

    Americans have little exposure to other cultures and languages, as Europeans do for instance. With many countries so small and close together in Europe, it is natural to know several languages- and to also be exposed to the richness of one another's cultures on a daily basis. This cross cultural exposure is in evidence in places like San Diego California, where proximity facilitates the exchange of language, food, music, art and even street names which could be found anywhere in Mexico. Baja is a great nearby destination that represents a golden opportunity to experience another culture, but really offers much, much more.

    Americans and others who do make the effort to come to Baja are handsomely rewarded with a warm welcoming atmosphere, people who have gone to more trouble to learn English than Americans do to learn Spanish, tourism and commerce that welcomes the US Dollar, infrastructure that mirrors American culture from Costco and Home Depot to highway and street signs in English, and of course a magnificently beautiful natural place with nearly 2000 miles of warm coastline where you can still feel free-and yes, safe. Baja is easy to get around.

    In a recent travel advisory issued by the US State department, the only area in the state of Baja or Baja Sur mentioned at all is Tijuana. The advice is "Exercise extreme caution, particularly at night". Tijuana is the most visited city in the west. With more than 5 million people, the surrounding metropolitan area has become a major industrial and dominant regional center in northwestern Mexico. Currently one of the fastest growing cities in Mexico, Tijuana maintains global city status.1 Big cities like Tijuana, where poor people immigrate from all over to find jobs, there will be all kinds of crime. All cities have a bad side of town, and Tijuana is no exception. Being careful at night is common sense. There are criminals and the drug trade and all manner of bad things happening in many American cities as well- New York, St Louis, Fort Worth, and yes, in your city too.

    As someone who has had an office in Tijuana in years past, I know that many of the negative impressions of TJ can be countered by the culture and sophistication, the international business activities, world class manufacturing industry and more happening in Tijuana that most people never hear about. I go to great restaurants and shows at night, but I stay away from the bad side of town just like I would in New York City or Los Angeles or the city where you live. To discover the wonderful parts, you have to make the effort however-even in Tijuana.

    I acknowledge Tijuana as a part of Baja, but understand that it is not generally for most, a tourism destination for much more than curious day trippers whose experience is limited to shopping or an evening of partying too hard. US cities all have places where you can do that too. If Tijuana is not your interest, you can just keep driving and in a matter minutes you will be introduced to the rest of the Baja peninsula, which is a comparitive 'safe zone' as far as the US State Department is concerned.

    Partly due to it's unique geography and landscape, Baja is isolated from much of the rest of Mexico. This, and the extremes of climate, mountains and desert have helped keep it more natural and undeveloped, (read: better for tourism). Rather than having every square inch labeled and administered with rules and regulations, regimented places to park and restrictive laws about whether you can step foot in a particular area, the Baja feels wide open, natural and dare I say it? More free. The multitude of recreational, cultural and lifestyle offerings here in Baja are hard to find in this concentration anywhere else on the planet.

    More than just a great place to visit for a weekend or extended vacation, lower prices for real estate and waterfront property make it an ideal place to live or retire as well. Californians who have seen their net worth cut in half, the bottom drop out of their home values, and millions of job losses are wondering how they are going to make it, and to maintain a quality lifestyle. Baja offers a wonderful quality of life for perhaps less than a third of the cost.

    What many who have a second home in Baja, or who have settled here permanently understand is that it is easy to travel back and forth and basically have a footprint in both the US and Mexico at the same time. Many people are working part time in the US to make money and spending it in Mexico, where it goes a lot further. With more than 300,000 border crossings a day at Tijuana/San Diego, many are travelling between both countries every day, much like the Europeans do. There is an obvious economic benefit

    To be able to sample 45 wineries roughly an hour and a half from the border, or visit a remote surf spot or hot springs, to ride your motorcycle or ATV through hundreds of miles of mountian roads, to listen to a classical guitar maestro play amazing music for you just three feet away and so much more that Baja offers- will add richness to your life, if you are brave enough to seek it out. Ignorance is largely caused by a lack of experience.

    Experiencing Baja is one of the 'softest' international travel experiences you can have. In most cases, someone will speak English, and be quite patient and understanding with you, no matter what your level (or lack therof) of Espanol is. Much different from places like China or France for that matter. Without the hassle and expense of international air travel, you can drive right across the border in the comfort of your own car. Dollars are accepted most everywhere. Many radio stations broadcast American music and do many of their commercials in English. Baja is simple to navigate with a very well maintained artery running from end to end. Well known tourism spots, hotels and resorts are abundant, as well as RV and more primitive camping if that is your thing- often times right on the beach.

    Lower prices than the US on most things in Baja range from government regulated gas prices and ridiculously cheap car mechanic work, to fresh seafood. Many ex-patriate communities have popped up throughout the Baja in places like Todos Santos, Punta Banda, Los Barriles and San Felipe where it is hard to find a Mexican resident. Most of these gringo dominated communities combine activities and retirement with culture, a cheap cost of living and beautiful scenery and natural environment. Oh yes, and then there's the meditereanean climate.

    Most who visit Baja fall in love with a lower stress level and all that there is to experience here, but it is this author's prediction that this will not stay a secret for much longer. With global economic crisis married to continual population increases and the aging baby boomer demographic- people will seek out somewhere they can live within their economic means, with a quality of life, dignity and peace. Many who have left the big mortgage behind to settle in Baja count it as one of the best decisions of their lives. As more and more learn about the safety and comfort and economic security that Baja offers, then Baja should see a much larger migration of gringoes.

    The best part is, it is possible to start with a small footprint in Baja and 'test it', perhaps with a simple weekend place. Many who start this way begin questioning why they wouldn't spend more and more time in the south. Everytime they go back to the States they feel their stress levels increasing again. In this day and age, with the support of internet technology, international banking and ease of mobility between the US and Baja, you actually can live in both places. Many smart folks have been doing this for years, taking advantage of the best of both countries.

    If you are reading this could you be one of those who are afraid to step outside of the comfort of your familiar exisitence? Do you take dramatic stories about Mexico as gospel and apply an uninformed and generalized point of view to the entire country? Have you been here? Are you willing to stretch a little to get to know the beautiful experiences and culture that await you and the warm welcome from your neighbors to the south?

    America is lucky to have such a great neighbor in Mexico. Imagine instead that Uganda, or Serbia or even Columbia shared the entire US southern border. Those who look down their noses at Mexico and label it a 'third world nation' out of their own ignorance should know that Mexico is projected to be one of the top four economies in the world by 2050. When the dollar begins to fall further with all of the US Federal and State-wide debt, having a Peso account in Mexico might suddenly look like a good idea. If and when things get even worse in the world, more and more will find their refuge in Baja.

    Take the advice from someone who is here, feet on the ground in Baja, living it. Baja is one of the safest, easiest and most beautiful places you can live. The pressures and psychologically crushing responsibilities to manage and maintain in the North will be significantly reduced in Baja. Why do you think people come here on vacation? Many feel that they are reclaiming their time, their freedom and their lives when they come to
    Baja, and they certainly wouldn't stay if they didn't feel safe.

    Baja is an easy international experience to sample, with so much to offer. Similar levels of wilderness and nature, culture and adventure, lifestyle and fun cost so much more elsewhere and are so much further away.

    Baja's warm welcome is waiting for you and it's close.

    Bart Allen Berry

    1 - Sociologist Saskia Sasse, in reference to her 1991 work, "The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo"

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    March 14, 2012 by Bekka.

    Reasons for living in Mexico

    I always say to people who are moving to Mexico and ask me my opinion. To make a list of the pro’s and con’s, as if they are doing it in a relationship that is falling apart.
    I say this as many people move here merely for the great weather and low living expenses.
    But the really wonderful thing about living in Mexico is the lifestyle.

    Some have a difficult time adjusting to getting up at 6 am as they did in the US and finding everything closed, or things not getting done on time.

    But those of us who love the life style of Mexico and moved here to get out of the rat race of the United States and the political & economic situation there. Have adapted to enjoying that we can sleep in and mix business with pleasure.

    We show up late, or don’t get things done on a schedule as we cannot even walk across town without meeting several people we know and stopping to chat. Business also always starts with first asking about your family and being familiar.

    The great thing about living in a X pat community is that you make friends easily and everyone gets along so well. Even when we live in a large city or Puebla in Mexico we are a small town, as we are a town within the town. You find yourself meeting great friends with whom you have much in common. In the US due to Geographic, cultural, social & economic factors you would never have come in contact with them or found the time to know them. This broadens your circle of friends and business partners.

    Family is important in Mexico. Neighbors look out for each other. You don’t walk down the street looking over your shoulder or worrying about your purse or briefcase or pick pockets.

    We have a wonderful health care system, great restaurants, many charity possibilities. The highways are in great shape making travel within this beautiful country great for day trips, weekend trips, week long trips. There is no drive in Mexico that you don’t see mountains along your journey. The vistas are magical.

    There is always a photo op along your trip. There is no reason to travel anywhere else once you’re here, except of course to travel home to visit friends and family in the US. However, they usually prefer to visit us here. Also we travel to shop for those items you cannot find here and cannot live without. That list becomes less and less as you discover other products that are here.

    You find yourself healthier here as we eat fresh vegetables & fruits and free range meat. We walk everywhere instead of driving our cars. Everything is within walking distance and each walk you meet friends and stop to talk. Or you come across a street festival or something that stops you to observe or to photograph. I live in San Miguel de Allende and people ask me what gym I use. I say the hills of San
    Miguel and at first they believe that is a club.

    The country for X pats is like one large Cheers bar. As you're never alone. You may want to spend a night alone or with one special friend, but suddenly it is a party and you run into friends from another X pat community you know.

    You find yourself no longer watching TV as your life is full with rich experiences and many friends. There seems to be no reason to be home alone. For me I am a single woman and there is such a support group of strong, independent, self sufficient women to go out with. A friend recently commented to me that women do not move here to meet men. I know that is true as I run a singles site and I know the demographics that there are more women here than men. The reasons are many. We move here for a change of life style and great support system of friendship.

    There are people who come here year after year for the same week or month or summer or winter. They all return and they all end up moving here. As Mexico becomes you and calls you back. Here in San Miguel de Allendewe are geographically the Heart of Mexico. But for me I like to think that we people living here are one heart beating as one.

    San Miguel de Allende is a artist community. Everyone is either a writer, artist, actor, musician, dancer, jewelry designer, photographer or even produces edible art. I sometimes wonder if San Miguel draw artists to move here or does it bring the artist out in us.

    When I got my first drivers license in Jalisco, the person testing me told me that he was Mexican but his parents moved to the US when he was 6 months old. He came back at age 30 on vacation and decided not to go back. He told me that although he makes in one year less than he made in one month in the US, his pay went further so his lifestyle was improved. My son has 4 friends who did the exact same thing and gave up the US for Mexico after all their parents had gone through to move to the US and make sure that they were legal residents of the US.

    You find yourself within a new larger family group of many friends here. Life is wonderful.

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    January 6, 2012 by John Gibbins

    Trying to bring back Baja's tourists

    When Juan Tintos returned in 2010 to his old post as Baja California’s tourism secretary following a nine-year hiatus, he faced a daunting challenge: reviving the state’s ailing tourism industry, stricken by persistent fears related to drug wars and crime.

    Today, Tintos is bullish about Baja California’s prospects for much more robust tourism, fueled in part by growth in spending among tourists living in Mexico, as well as Hispanics north of the border.

    Although tourism spending and visitors have dropped considerably from early in the last decade, those numbers are starting to climb back from the depths of 2009, Tintos hastens to point out.

    For starters, his office sought out a public relations agency to help the state channel the mindset of American tourists. In addition, an “image committee” of expatriates was convened to zero in on redefining the public’s perception of Baja.

    In San Diego recently, Tintos spoke about his strategy for energizing tourism on a number of fronts that he hopes will convince Americans once again that Baja California is a compelling place to visit.

    Question: In the wake of a difficult decade for tourism in Baja California, what specific initiatives have you taken to induce more people to cross the border for getaways and vacations?

    Answer: We did a perception survey last March in eight Southern California destinations. They had heard about good things happening but still had some reservations about coming. There’s still a need to provide accurate information (and clear up) misinformation. This is my 18th trip to California, Arizona and Nevada. Besides the Anglo and growing Hispanic market, we’re focusing on our domestic market.

    Before this whole situation, I would say tourism expenditures in Baja were about two-thirds Americans or foreigners. That fell to one-third at its worst. So now we’re at 60 percent from the national market (within Mexico), but we’re not out of the woods yet.

    Question: Rather rely strictly on the tourist traffic of the past — Americans heading to Baja California beaches — what new niches are you exploring to boost tourism revenue?

    Answer: You have the largest concentration of maquiladora plants, and that generates business tourists who come and stay two, three nights. We’ve also grown in medical tourism. We have 450,000 people, mostly from California, mostly Hispanics, who come to Baja for dentistry, eye care, cosmetic surgery, and that generate $86 million a year. We have a calendar of over 300 events, and more than half are sports like the Rosarito-to-Ensenada bike ride.

    Question: How important has the region’s culinary boom and maturing of its wine region, Valle de Guadalupe, been in boosting visits from San Diegans?

    Answer: This year we doubled the number of events in the wine region. We’ve had 4,000 to 6,000 people at concerts. Instead of the Bullring by the Sea, people prefer to be in that area surrounding by beautiful scenery. Another thing that has helped is the famous Baja Med cuisine. We just had the baja culinary festival in October where we had 29 events in five days and chefs from the U.S., Europe and South America. And the federal government is going to launch 10 tourist routes, and the wine region will be one of them.

    Question: San Diego’s cruise ship industry has suffered a huge setback as more and more ships have pulled out of Southern California that were formerly going to the Mexican Riviera. The lines said they did so because of the crime issue and lack of diversity of ports. What is Baja California doing to entice the cruise lines to return?

    Answer:Yes, the verdict was that the Mexican Riviera was tired and needed to be rejuvenated. We did a study that told us you have to have more attractions and better presentation of your destination, train your taxi drivers, look for more genuine arts and crafts.

    We eliminated the tugboat fee (that was assessed) whether you used it or not. We’re putting in a new sewer treatment plant at La Bufadora. We’ve got the Chamber of Commerce and association of merchants to make sure that only authentic merchandise is sold. We don’t want tourists to go back unsatisfied. We used to have 325 cruise ship arrivals a year. We reduced half of that, and we’re working slowly on increasing that. There’s an expression in Mexico: You don’t know what you’ve had until you lose it.”

    Juan Tintos

    Title: Secretary of tourism, Baja California

    Personal: Age 52, born in Tijuana, married with two sons, one daughter

    Education: Graduate of University of Baja California with a degree in tourism

    Professional career: Assistant director of Tijuana Cultural Center in the 1980s; secretary of tourism from 1992 to 2001; CEO of a Baja California-based travel and hotel corporation. Returned to tourism secretary post in September of 2010.

    Baja tourism by the numbers

    361: Cruise ship arrivals in 2008

    169: Cruise ship arrivals in 2011

    25.1 million: International visitors to Baja in 2008

    24.2 million: International visitors to Baja in 2009

    24.8 million: International visitors to Baja in 2010

    Source: Port captain's office in Ensenada, Banco de Mexico

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    Baja at a Glance

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