My cousin left for Cancun last weekend. She works at many UN conferences and was happy to be headed to a warm destination for the climate talks that followed last year’s ineffectual Copenhagen summit.
I recommended places on the Yucatan Peninsula for her to visit in her off time, such as the Colonial city of Merida, Tulum, Lake Bacalar, Uxmal or Valladolid near the Chichen Itza ruins.
A recent article in The Economist, entitled Tourism in Mexico, Can’t keep them away, began with “Sun, seas and severed heads.” Mexico, a country that counts on tourism dollars, has had a miserable couple of years, first with the swine flu, then the ongoing drug wars. More than 30,000 people have died in the last four years.
Despite this dreadful spell, tourists are still flocking south of the border. Lured by deals, however, visitors are spending less than they did a few years ago. Places like the Yucatan are considered as safe as France, so European and American tourists don’t seem deterred by the bad press. Most of the violence is centered near the U.S. border, although it has hit elsewhere, including Acapulco, which these days mostly caters to Mexican tourists. Even Chiapas, home to the Zapatista rebels, has turned it’s armed campaign into big bucks, as some of the hottest souvenirs are now Subcommandate Marcos shirts and chotckes.
Mexican tourism authorities are optimistic about a few new highways under construction and research is being done on how to cater more to “Los Baby Boomers,” as aging travelers are looking for different experiences than previous generations of retirees. Officials are also planning to beef up the nightlife, looking to Egypt for some insight. Nighttime sound and light shows at the pyramids may inspire Mexican ruins to maximize their attraction.