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Posts Tagged ‘safety’

Safety & Crime in Playa del Carmen Mexico ~ 2012

Posted by Tony & Cheri on January 5, 2012

Tulum MexicoAs the last year came to a close and the new one has begun, many people considering a trip to Playa del Carmen still have the same question…is it safe?

We know this because the top phrases by which people are finding our blog include safety and crime in Mexico. We also know it from comments on internet forums, by the questions people ask in e-mails and by talking with our guests who invariably say they were warned by friends and family not to go to “dangerous” Mexico.

So even though we have blogged about this issue several times before, we thought it would be good to start the new year with a clear statement: Playa del Carmen and Mexico’s Caribbean coast are safe to visit.

Mexico is America’s Favorite Vacation Destination

One way to judge the safety of Mexico is to look at how many people come here without incident. In 2011 Mexico continued to be the first choice for travel among Americans visiting foreign countries for vacation.

“Put the numbers in statistical perspective. Mexico is the United States’ #1 foreign tourist destination, and more people will visit Mexico before noon today than visit London in a year. With more than 50,000 people a day visiting Mexico your chance of being involved in a violent act in Mexico are less than half that of being struck by lightning and more unlikely than winning Powerball!”, Looking at the Facts, Dec. 31, 2011 Update.

There is every reason to believe this will continue, as several travel publications and websites have listed Mexico as one of the most desirable vacation destinations for the coming year. For example, tourist industry giant Frommer’s has listed Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula (which includes Playa del Carmen) as one of the Top 10 Travel Destinations for 2012:

“It [the Yucatan Peninsula] remains the safest region in Mexico, with far less crime than travelers are likely to encounter at home. Even so, the Yucatán offers all that is best about Mexico — sublime beaches, a unique cuisine, joyous fiestas and exotic wildlife.”
Frommer’s, Top Destinations 2012

A Geography Lesson

Yes, there is crime in Mexico. And yes, there are areas of Mexico where drug wars have created a real danger to the people who live there. But as we have previously pointed out on this blog, the geographical area where that problem exists is far from the beaches of Playa del Carmen.

“Without a solid understanding of the geography (761,606 square miles) and the nature of the drug wars many foreigners assume that all of Mexico is a war zone. But it isn’t.”
Washington Post, Mexico: A Guide to Which Parts are Safe

The distance in driving miles between Ciudad Juarez (heart of the cartel violence) and Playa del Carmen (heart of Mexico’s Caribbean coast) is approximately equal to the driving distance between Chicago and San Francisco. Would you skip visiting America’s Pacific coast because of crime thousands of miles away in the country’s midwest? The same comparison can be made about Mexico.

Crime Exists in Everyone’s Hometown

Yes we have crime in Playa del Carmen. And there is crime in the city you live in. No matter where you live, there is crime in your own hometown. But in truth, Playa del Carmen probably has a crime rate lower than most North American cities.

NBC’s cable affiliate recently indicated that visiting the Riviera Maya may be safer than going to Disney World:

“Most tourist-popular areas, such as Mexico City and the resorts of the Riviera Maya, are considered safe for travelers. (In fact, statistics show that these regions saw even less crime in 2010, per capita, than Orlando and Washington, D.C.)”, To Go or Not to Go

Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya (Cancun to Tulum) are actually safer than a lot of American cities. In 2010 (the latest available statistics) the entire State of Quintana Roo (where Playa del Carmen and the all of the Riviera Maya is located) had fewer murders per 100,000 people than many US cities including Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Memphis, Miami, Newark, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Tulsa and Washington DC.(based on FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics for the US and the statistics of the National System for Public Security of Mexico.)

Last Year in Playa del Carmen

BUT…some folks will say…there is violent crime in Playa del Carmen. Just last year wasn’t a tourist killed? Didn’t drug cartels murder the chief of the city’s police to stop his anti-drug campaign? Wasn’t the mayor assassinated? The answer to all three questions is “no.”

Last year there were two shootings in Playa which caused many people concern. We have discussed these previously. In short, a man from central Mexico who was involved in money laundering for the cartels stole money from them and then fled here to the coast, not as a tourist but to hide from his employers. His employers found him and killed him.

In a second unrelated incident the chief officer for the Tourist Police unit (not the chief of the city police) was killed. His killers escaped, and no motive for his murder has been discovered. The police officer was not part of any drug investigating unit, nor has any drug cartel claimed responsibility. These crimes targeted specific individuals for specific reasons. They were not random acts that threatened the general population–local or tourist.

A third incident which occurred last year was almost laughable in how the media and the internet reacted. It concerned an alleged shooting involving the mayor’s security team. It seems that after a trip by Playa’s mayor to Cancun, bullet holes were discovered in the SUV driven by the security team which accompanied the mayor. A local newspaper speculated about an armed attack on the mayor and the internet quickly was full of stories of an assassination attempt. Some even reported a successful assassination of the mayor. However, subsequent inspection revealed the shots came from inside the vehicle! It appears that a security team member’s gun accidentally discharged. No attack. No assassination. No crime.

But despite the fact that no tourists have been involved or injured in any of the incidents we mentioned, and despite the fact the predicted introduction of the drug war to Playa never happened, many people reading exaggerated comments on the internet have been left with the impression that Playa is now a war zone. That is simply untrue.

Playa del Carmen is Not a Small Village

No one likes violent crime in their city. People in Playa were shocked and saddened by the crimes that took place. But keep in mind that Playa is not a small town. The most recent population number listed by the Municipio of Solidaridad lists the population of the Municipio at 173,266, with an annual growth rate of 6.8%. This doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit here each year.

Playa del Carmen and the surrounding municipality is larger than both Green Bay, Wisconsin and Topeka, Kansas. Playa is also larger than either Tempe, Arizona or Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It is about the same size as Providence, Rhode Island and as Knoxville, Tennessee. Playa is not a small village; it is a good sized city. And in any city of this size, regardless of the country, one would expect to find some incidents of violent crime. Yet overall Playa del Carmen continues to be free of the crime seen in central Mexico or even in some places north of the border.

Don’t Listen to Rumors

While we were writing this blog, we saw an individual on an internet forum state that she worried Playa was too dangerous to visit because there had been an assassination attempt on the mayor! And in that post we realize the real reason for Mexico’s reputation as being too dangerous to visit: Public comments by those ignorant of the facts, always founded in speculation and often based in prejudice, have created a popular but false perception that all of Mexico is dangerous.

We will say it now as we have repeatedly said it in the past. Do NOT listen to the opinions of your neighbors who have never been to Playa telling you to stay home, or the speculation of people who post on the internet with no expertise or experience who advise you to stay hidden behind resort walls. If you have questions, turn to the experts…those news agencies and governmental offices whose job it is to keep us informed with facts; and blogs written by people who live and work in the area. A list of articles, blogs and sources that we believe are reliable can be found in our previous blog on this topic: Safety & Crime in Playa del Carmen Mexico 2011: The Truth. And you can always find up to date information about Playa del Carmen and the surrounding area on the Facebook page of the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar.

Mexico is More than Sensational Headlines

Finally people also need to remember that Mexico, like the US and like any other country in the world, is a complex place, and no one part of it should be seen as representing the whole. We would not condemn the entire US as dangerous because of a crime wave in one section of the country. Yet that is what happens repeatedly with regard to Mexico. Last year when 14 people were killed in 14 days in Dallas, Texas not one person suggested America was too dangerous to visit. Can you imagine the outcry in the media if a similar crime wave happened in Playa?

Most of us view other places with a different perspective than we do our own country or home. And while that may be understandable it isn’t always fair or factual. Mexico is not black and white, good or bad. It is a tapestry of different lives, cultures and experiences. It would be a shame if people continue to paint all of Mexico with one brush and deny themselves the opportunity to experience the greatness that this country has to offer.

We have lived and worked in Mexico for almost seven years, and we can say with absolute conviction that this little bit of paradise known as the Mayan Riviera is beautiful, relaxing, welcoming and above all…safe.

And on that note we will leave you with this video made by the Tourist Board of Mexico about the Riviera Maya. We think that without saying a single word it explains perfectly why we and so many others think of Mexico as someplace very special.

This is where we live…come visit us at the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar.

Read our other blog entries about safety by choosing the “Safety in Mexico” category in the right column of this page, or simply click:
Safety in Mexico Blog Entries ~ Luna Blue’s Playazone

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Posted in Safety in Mexico | Tagged: , , , , | 17 Comments »

Playa is Open for Business…Still No Flu in Sight

Posted by Tony & Cheri on May 1, 2009

The last 24 hours have been a whirlwind of activity in Playa del Carmen. Rumors have run rampant here and on the internet and have covered the gamut of possibilities. Some of the rumors had all of the businesses on Fifth Avenue being shut down, others had bars being closed, and some had the entire city–including government offices and private businesses–being shuttered for the next week. As a result we were inundated by inquiries by telephone and email asking whether it was true that Playa was now a ghost town, closed down because of the swine flu. The answer is a resounding NO. NOT NOW, NOT NEXT WEEK.

We’ve said it before and we’re going to say it one more time: THERE HAVE BEEN NO REPORTED CASES OF SWINE FLU IN PLAYA DEL CARMEN, THE STATE OF QUINTANA ROO, OR EVEN THE YUCATAN PENINSULA. While the government is taking rational and reasonable steps to prevent any outbreak of H1N1 (swine) flu, life continues to go on in this beautiful Caribbean town as it does every spring. There are tourists in the streets, the restaurants and bars are open, and the beaches are full of vacationers.

Once again, we want to make the point that we understand people’s concerns during this medical situation. We’re sympathetic when people say they don’t want to travel to any place in Mexico because of the swine flu outbreak in Mexico City. Our response is pretty simple: are you traveling in the United States? There are now more reported swine flu cases in the US over a greater geographical area than there are in Mexico. Yet the Centers for Disease Control still advises avoiding nonessential travel to any part of Mexico, even those where the outbreak has never touched. Yet they offer no advisories against travel between states where there are swine flu cases confirmed. We think the reason for this has more to do with politics than health concerns. But regardless, we still stand by what the World Health Organization is saying: that travel restrictions will not affect the spread of this disease. So we are telling anyone who asks that Playa is indeed open for business, free of any sign of the swine flu and that people should ignore the rumors.

To make the point that it is business as usual in Playa, we contacted government officials, ecoparks, local restaurants, beach clubs and stores to confirm what was open and what was not. Here’s what we found:

ECOPARKS – Xcaret and Xel-Ha are open, despite rumors to the contrary.

SUPERMARKETS – Walmart, Mega, Sam’s, Chedraui, San Francisco, etc. are all open.

RESTAURANTS – Walking 5th Avenue we’ve seen no restaurants closed. The same is true for the rest of Playa. All of our favorites are open, including Babe’s, Antica, El Fogon, HC de Monterrey and La Pesca. We didn’t see a single restaurant closed.

BANKS – All of them are open. They will close tomorrow for the national holiday of Labor Day but will be open again on Saturday and/or Monday, depending on the specific bank’s normal banking days.

BARS – All bars are open, including the world famous Luna Blue Bar. 🙂 And don’t forget, if you are going to be in Playa del Carmen on May 5, we’re having the biggest, the best and probably the only CINCO DE MAYO PARTY in town. Live music, Tony’s cheeseburgers, girls in bikinis and Lenny the Wonder Dog. Please stop by and say hello.

BEACH CLUBS – In North Beach we went down to check and saw that Mamita’s, Kool and Blucacao were all open and operating with normal capacity crowds. We checked with our friend Jez who runs Zenzi Beach Club in central Playa and he tells us they were full and the rest of the beach was open with normal business.

NIGHT CLUBS – The clubs that have been closed temporarily are those with the capacity of over 1,000. This includes Dubai, Coco Bongo and Mambo Cafe. Santanera’s indoor facility has been temporarily closed, but its beautiful outdoor terrace is open for business. Other clubs are open for business as usual.

TOURS – All of our tour operators are open and operating. We have heard of no closures.

Government offices will be closed tomorrow for the national holiday. Schools will remain closed through next Wednesday. The archaeological zones (Tulum, Cobá and Chichen Itza, etc.) will be closed until further notice.

The point of all of this is to reassure people that if they are coming to Playa del Carmen, they will find the resort facilities and businesses open and welcoming. And you won’t be alone if you do come. While we certainly have had some cancellations, we have also had a lot of reservations. A number of guests with existing reservations have emailed us to tell us of their intention to keep them. And, regarding the CDC’s suggestion that non-essential travel to Mexico be avoided, one person emailed us with the comment that his upcoming vacation was “essential” to his sanity. 🙂

Of course, we are hearing from people that they are afraid to come based upon the continuing reports in the news media. We’re puzzled by the fact that Mexico alone is singled out as a place to avoid, rather than New York, California, Canada, and numerous other cities, states and countries where this flu has surfaced. It appears that once more, poor Mexico is being used as the whipping boy by other countries and cultures. We’re going to blog about that more in the future. All we can say is that if you are refusing to travel to Mexico because of swine flu, you should be refusing to travel anywhere, because the virus exists all around the world at this point. The good news is that it still does not appear to have a high fatality rate or be a particularly destructive virus. To read more about the swine flu, we suggest this Los Angeles Times article: Scientists See this Flu Strain as Relatively Mild.

We will be blogging more about Playa and the effects that this unfair travel ban has had on it over the next couple of days. Right now we’re just going to offer some pictures of our adopted home to show you what it looks like as of today. Before we do that, one personal note: We’ve removed a certain individual’s comments from our blog twice now. We did so because we thought the comments were exactly the type of irresponsible statements about swine flu that we’ve been reading all over the internet and seeing all over the television and have been trying to counter balance. There are plenty of public forums on the internet where anyone with this individual’s views can set forth whatever claims he or she wants, regardless of their veracity. But this is our blog, and it is not available for abuse by others. We intend to keep it a place for rational and factual information during this circumstance. We hope our regular readers understand and approve.

Now, here are some photos to illustrate that Playa is open for business and being enjoyed by locals and tourists alike:

The parking lot at the supposedly empty and closed Playa del Carmen Walmart

Looking inside the Playa del Carmen Walmart

The checkout stand at Walmart. Yes, it was crowded enough we had to wait.

Fifth Avenue showing tourists moving from shop to shop and restaurant to restaurant

Another view of tourists on Fifth Avenue

Playa Norte in front of the Kool and Mamita’s beach clubs

Another view of Playa Norte

More Playa Norte

Finally, for you guys out there who cancelled your vacation that was supposed to start in Playa del Carmen today, here’s a little taste of what you missed:

By the way, while we were writing this, we heard Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s Countdown interview Dr. Roy Gulick, Chief of Infectious Diseases at New York Presbyterian Hospital, who said that at this point the swine flu seems to be no more dangerous than the standard influenza that we see each year. Is it time to start talking about overreaction???

For a link to other other blog entry on this topic, click here.


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Posted in News & Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Playa del Carmen, Is it Safe?? Part II…the Swine Flu

Posted by Tony & Cheri on April 28, 2009

We thought it time we said something about the swine flu in Mexico. First let’s deal with the current situation in Playa del Carmen as we know it.

As of this morning there have been no reported cases of swine flu in Playa del Carmen or in the larger area of Quintana Roo, the state in which Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Tulum reside. In fact, to our knowledge, there have been no reported cases of swine flu in the entire Yucatan peninsula, comprising the eastern portion of the country of Mexico. This somewhat contradicts the statement of a so-called medical expert on MSNBC TV last night who proclaimed with wild eyes that the virus had “spread through the entire country of Mexico.”

Playa del Carmen itself is calm, except for the kids who seem to be everywhere today. Mexico in its wisdom has closed all of the schools nationwide until next Wednesday. As a result, the kids have a holiday and are making the best use of it. Kinda like snow days we remember from our own childhood. 🙂

There are no other closings or restrictions to our knowledge. Stores and restaurants, clubs and tours, business offices and governmental buildings are all open for business. We haven’t seen anyone wearing a mask. There is no sense of hysteria or even anxiety about this. The main concern is how the economy will react to the sudden drop in tourism, since so many people earn their living from that industry.

We were disappointed to see the travel advisory put out by the Centers for Disease Control suggesting that non-essential travel to Mexico be curtailed. We appreciate the CDC and Homeland Security are doing their jobs, and we applaud them for it. However, the travel restriction seems to have more political foundation than health concern. There is an advisory against traveling anywhere in Mexico, not just the areas which have reported cases of swine flu, which is primarily Mexico City. While the US government is advising individuals not to travel to Mexico, there are no advisories against travel witihin the US, despite the fact that there are a number of swine flu cases there over a broader geographical area. And of course, when India, China and the European Union advises its citizens not to travel to the US, our government responds” ‘that’s not necessary.’ As we say, there is a lot of political emphasis here as the different countries weigh in on this issue.

Above the fray of nationalized attitudes, the World Health Organization has taken a different tact. The World Health Organization says that restriction on travel will have absolutely no affect whatsoever in controlling or eliminating this disease. According to the most recent WHO travel updates on swine flu, “WHO does not recommend to restrict international travel. As usual it is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention.”

Concern in this situation is legitimate and a natural response, but hysteria is not, and hysteria seems to be building, primarily through an overabundance of sensationalized news coverage. There is a difference between reporting the facts and creating a sense of overwhelming danger and impending doom. The other night FOX News led its evening broadcast with a split screen showing Mexico City on one side and the disaster movie Outbreak on the other!

But FOX is not alone in its overhype of this situation as a medical disaster. And that’s not just our opinion. “Of course we’re doing too much to scare people,” said Mark Feldstein, a former correspondent for NBC, ABC and CNN who teaches journalism at George Washington University. “Cable news has 24 hours to fill, and there isn’t 24 hours of exciting news going on. If you scare people, they’ll tune in more.” This quote comes from an excellent article by Howard Kurtz in today’s Washington Post. You can find it here.

Another good article can be found on from David Whelan of Mr. Whelan makes the point: “Hysteria and exotic-sounding disease outbreaks go hand in hand. Whether it’s anthrax, mad cow disease, foot-and-mouth disease, bird flu or, going back to the 1990s, ebola—news of an outbreak generates fear that’s disproportionate to the risk of catching the disease. In each of these cases deaths, if they occurred at all, were minimal.” He also goes on to say, “…in every year this decade—between 30,000 and 50,000 American deaths were recorded from complications related to the seasonal flu. Another 40,000 people died in automobile accidents. And each year, gunshot wounds account for 30,000 deaths, around 4,000 people drown while swimming or boating and 60 people die from lightning strikes.”

This is not to say that people should not be concerned. They should. This is a health issue they should pay attention to. But at this point in time, we have a virus that has been reported in only 65 people in the US (according to the CDC official report) . There have been no fatalities and only one hospitalization, and all seem to be on the road to recovery. There have been deaths in Mexico City, but only 20 have been conclusively linked to swine flu at this time. In a city of 22 million.

So we are suggesting some perspective and some calm. If you’re worried and don’t wish to travel at this time, that is obviously your choice. If you are canceling an existing reservation with a hotel, an airline or a travel agent, you should contact them immediately to see what your options are. Truthfully, most will tell you that you have no options and will forfeit your deposit. The reason for that is simple. They have no more control over medical circumstances and governmental advisories than you do. Trust us, your cancellation will cost them much more money than your forfeited deposit will cost you. They will still have to pay their employees, pay their overhead expenses and try and continue their business. We know this from personal experience. However, it never hurts to ask, and some businesses in the travel industry are creating some alternative plans for people who are wishing to change or delay their travel. Of course, this is another reason we always recommend people purchase travel insurance.

At our own Luna Blue Hotel, we have had some cancellations, some delays, and a number of new reservations for the upcoming weeks. We are certainly not in a position to tell people they should or should not travel during this time. But we are informing people that in our opinion travel to Playa del Carmen is safe, and we continue to accept and honor reservations. We’re trying to be understanding of our guests’ situations at this time, and so we have modified our cancellation policy to allow guests to change their reservations if they want to come later in the summer.

If you’re planning a trip to Playa del Carmen now or in the near future, we hope this has been of some help. Despite all the hype and fear, the Caribbean Sea is still a beautiful blue, and the skies are sunny. And if you are going to be in town the 5th of May, don’t miss our blowout Cinco de Mayo party at the Luna Blue Bar.

For more recent information on this topic, Playa is Open for Business…Still No Flu in Sight.

Read our most current blog entry about safety:
Safety in Playa del Carmen Mexico ~ 2012

Visit our Facebook page and become a fan of Luna Blue Hotel & Bar!

Posted in News & Politics, Safety in Mexico, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 49 Comments »