Drug violence chills Cancun as 'fun, sun' hot spot

Long thought to be isolated from the gruesome killings that plague Mexico, even this resort city is now feeling threatened.

By Bruce Kennedy Apr 16, 2013 8:59AM

Tourists take a walk on Medano Beach, May 11, 2012, in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico (© PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GettyImages)It seems things couldn't be better for Mexican tourism. Cancun's Convention & Visitors Bureau says the recently concluded Easter Week was one of its most successful spring weeks ever. Hotel occupancy rates in the resort area ran at 90% or better, and Cancun International Airport handled more than 500 flights daily.

"Cancun remains the top international destination for North American tourists," said Cancun CVB CEO Jesus Almaguer in a recent press release, "and continues to meet and exceed expectations in terms of service and the general appeal of this full-fledged destination."

But for the second time in two months, Cancun -- which generates over one-third of Mexico's overall tourism revenue -- has been the site of a mass killing. The bodies of seven people were discovered on Sunday in a shack on Cancun's outskirts. And just last month, seven people were killed and four others wounded in a shooting at a bar frequented by taxi drivers.

Located on the Yucatán peninsula in southern Mexico, Cancun had seemed removed from the drug cartel violence that has plagued Mexico in recent years -- and has frightened tourists away from other ocean resorts like Acapulco.

But the brutal and seemingly random violence has gotten to the point where global intelligence company Stratfor recently issued a list of security risks and travel tips for spring break vacationers in Mexico. According to Stratfor, there's an ongoing misconception by U.S. tourists that the Mexican drug cartels avoid interfering with their country's profitable tourism industry and target only Mexican citizens.

"Nothing in the behavior of Mexican cartels indicates that they would consciously keep tourists out of the line of fire or away from the gruesome displays of their murder victims," the company notes. "Violence related to the cartels is spreading, and while tourists may not be directly targeted, they can be caught in the crossfire or otherwise find themselves in situations where their security is compromised."

And according to Stratfor, Cancun's port is an important transit point for South American drugs entering Mexico on their way to the U.S.

Industry analysts say once tourists stop feeling safe in a resort and start staying away, it can take years for the local economy to recover from the decline in hotel occupancy rates.

"What we've found even in just recession periods, when properties and even more so markets have major rate drops that are widespread, it takes five, sometimes longer years to recover from that and get back to where you were before the big rate drop," said David Corsun, director of the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver.

Corsun added that a "fun and sun" destination like Cancun, where the main attractions are the beach, the local hotels and the resorts, is competing against similar destinations for tourist dollars -- both in Mexico and elsewhere.

"And when people have to make a choice, almost regardless of price, of being somewhere where they feel safe and being somewhere where they don't," he noted, "they're going to choose safe."

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Apr 16, 2013 11:57AM
Mexico used to be a great place to vacation even though I got shaken down by the policia on every trip.Now, the policia are no less crooked and the druggies wouldn't think twice about murdering you for lilttle to no reason. I am outta there for all time.
Apr 16, 2013 10:37AM
Drug cartel violence starting to chill Mexico's tourism as a whole, collateral damage and kidnappings can be a biotch. Go to Hawaii or other less risky destinations and enjoy, maybe more expensive but better safer than dead.
Apr 16, 2013 1:33PM

I've been to Cancun twice but that was years ago.  I chose it (Club Med) because it was a nice resort and the closest to me (Florida) and among the least expensive due to the short travel and availability and price of flights.   But I can't see a reason to go back with the way things are now. Too dangerous.


this is one of those situations where the Mexican government needs to step in with the military and eradicate the cartel scum. not try to arrest them. just wipe them out. make is so bad to be a drug dealer that whomever manages to escape just quits being a scumbag. And tell them as much. Stop being a scumbag and killing people or we will wipe you out.

Apr 16, 2013 2:11PM
Just returned from a short vacation in Cancun.  I will say that I did feel safer there than I do in my own small town in Oklahoma where there is a gang shooting or stabbing most every weekend and that is no exaggeration.  Cancun is a nice, inexpensive place for those of us not able to afford the Caribbean or Europe.  If you stay in the tourist area, you are no more likely to experience violence than you are at home.  That being said, the world is getting to be a dangerous place and it makes you think twice before even going out your own front door. 
Apr 16, 2013 1:42PM
Mexico is a shiphole that produces all the poverty America can handle. Their people come to America and soak its citizens as a rule not the exception. Wake up.
Apr 16, 2013 2:36PM

Who the hell wants to go to a country where the police force shakes you down on the highways leading to the airport??????


Not even the C.I.A. is safe in Mexico!!!!

Apr 16, 2013 2:23PM
Been there four times, but the last time saw law enforcement folks wearing bulletproof vests and carrying machine guns. That did it for me....
Apr 16, 2013 12:02PM

Their unwillingness to crack down on cartel violence, securing both their people & boarders, has forced a ban on all travel to this corrupt country.  Eastern Caribbean islands are more scenic anyway. (IMO)


Is a US invasion our only viable solution? 

Apr 16, 2013 2:36PM

Another self serving advertisement that Mex is unsafe so they can sell you something.

Go to their (stratfor) and see where they offer a service as long as they and our BS (USA) govt say Mex is unsafe. Even going so far as to use 2006 stats.

Truth: more people are killed in Detroit per 100,000 than Mex.

Is there a State Dept warning for Detroit?

We love Cabo and the Mexican people.

Apr 16, 2013 4:24PM
Been to Mexico 16 times. It is safe and the people are loyal.  Just use common sense and you will be okay. Miami is far worse in crime than Cancun, but they don't share that, do they?
Apr 16, 2013 3:15PM
What does the article mean by "seemingly random violence"? Both of the incidents reported here have been revealed on other news sites as being exclusively between people involved in the drug trade (independent dealers and taxi drivers with a bad rap), and both occurred in a horrible part of town where nobody in their right mind would go.

This is just bad guys killing bad guys an hour away from the Hotel Zone, far far away from anywhere Cancun tourists or respectable locals might go. I've been living here 8 years and still feel safe in Cancun.

Ridiculous fear-mongering from the American media, as usual.

Apr 16, 2013 3:39PM
We go to Cancan almost every year for the past 8 or 10 years. We stay longer each visit, last year we stayed 3 weeks. We have never felt threaten in Cancun and walk around anywhere on the island day or night. Planning on going back again next year for 4 weeks. We would  much rather go to Cancun than Jamaica,Punta Canta or the Bahamas. People are much friendly in Cancun and no way  we felt safe going off our resort in those other countries. 
Apr 16, 2013 4:46PM

Mexico has some of the toughest gun laws in the world, and look what's happening to them.  It hasn't stopped the criminals from getting all the firepower they want. 



Apr 16, 2013 1:55PM
Oh yeah vacation time hahahahaha   , i can not believe people are still going to mexico for vacation . wow.
Apr 16, 2013 1:12PM
No need to worry.  It is only in Mexico and Cancun.  It is not here in Bullymerica.  Homeland security keeps us safe here, but we have to give up a few of our rights.  Well worth it!  There is no violence from drugs or anything else in Chicago, Boston, Pittsburg, Philldelphia, Los Angeles, Detroit or Miami.  All these places are safe.  You can let your kids play in the streets if they wish.  Homeland security keeps them safe, as they did in Boston.  Of course, we'll need more money for additional cameras needed by homeland security to keep the country safe.  A few more hundred dollars each year from the 47% already paying the taxes is nothing compared to the safety we feel of homeland security.  Just think, we used to hear of illegals crossing the border.  Homeland security stopped 'em!!!
Apr 16, 2013 3:53PM
Mexico was never that safe, even before the increased drug cartel violence. Be careful where you go. 
Apr 16, 2013 1:04PM
Gee I wonder why all of the Peons are trying to escape into America. I'm starting to think it's not just for the welfare money. I watched tree cameras catching drug runners (mules) entering the U.S by walking across the border. Go figure.
Apr 16, 2013 2:58PM
Sorry to hear that but . . . . . let's not blame all on Mexico. If  "certain people in the USA  and other countries  were not consuming these drugs these cartels would not exist.  I am sure that many spring brakers  look for and consume stuff while on vacation so there must be spike in demand there during spring brake  as a result  these suppliers get into disagreements and there you have the results.......
Apr 16, 2013 2:54PM

Rocky Point is also suffering, not from violence directly, but from a lack of visitors.

Hotels are laying off service personnel and restaurants are downgrading both food quality and service in hopes of weathering the storm. It will be several years before we will be willing to return after this winter's trip.

Apr 16, 2013 2:13PM
I was there once, I felt that was one time too many and will never go back unless it is a stop over on the way to better place. Not real friendly, especially if you expect a feel good get-away.
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