by Michael J. Shapiro | September 29, 2017
When Los Cabos was named in the United States Department of State Travel Warning for Mexico last month, a lot of media outlets and travelers took note. Los Cabos typically hasn't been among the Mexican destinations getting much ink in such warnings, and the wording concerning the state that's home to Los Cabos was alarming: "Exercise caution," read the updated warning, "as Baja California Sur continues to experience a high rate of homicides."
 
The murder rate in Baja California Sur rose significantly year over year, and such incidents were occurring closer to the resort areas than they had in the past. "While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal-organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens," read the warning.
 
"It's important to put that in context," underscored Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board. "Even though the murder rate has increased, it hasn't been part of the tourism community. Most incidents haven't happened that close; they're on the outskirts of both Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, and they're not impacting tourists."
 
Despite that, a shooting on a beach in early August was too close for comfort.
 
Yesterday, the Los Cabos Tourism Board shared some details about its newly launched security action plan, which consists of five main points:
 
1. Creating a "Rapid Response Network," consisting of real-time communications among hoteliers, business owners and law enforcement to share information about suspicious activity or reported incidents -- and to ensure the authorities and law-enforcement officers know about the activity.
 
2. Accelerating the expansion of a security surveillance system, with the goal of installing more than 200 new cameras, especially in high-traffic tourist areas. There currently are 40 of these cameras in place; the goal is to have 250.
 
3. Building a new marine base, which will significantly increase the presence of the Mexican marine corps, who will manage the expanded surveillance system and beef up the law-enforcement presence. The base is scheduled to open in the second quarter next year.
 
4. Organizing a hotel-security committee, which will work with the hotels association and meet biweekly to address concerns, share best practices and update security protocols.
 
5. Setting new training and security protocols for local hoteliers and businesses, aligned with standards developed by the Overseas Security Advisory Council.
 
To date in 2017, the public and private sector have invested more than US$47 million to increase security personnel, equipment and infrastructure.
 
International tourist arrivals are up by 20 percent year over year in Los Cabos, and for the first half of the year, more than 20 percent growth was reported each month. Local officials, hoteliers and business owners recognize the importance of heading off any uncertainty that could result from the travel warning, as about 90 percent of the people who live in Los Cabos work directly or indirectly in tourism. Keeping people employed in tourism is the best way to fight the draw of criminal organizations.
 
And so, even as millions of dollars are invested in security measures, even more is being invested in luxury development. Los Cabos has become the luxury go-to spot south of the border. Nearly 4 in 10 travelers to Los Cabos (39 percent) earn more than US$200,000 annually, according to statistics from the tourism board. 
 
As such, luxury developers have not been scared away. "They are confident in the future of Los Cabos," noted Esponda. More than 20 hotel projects are in the pipeline, representing 16 international and national brands -- Ritz-Carlton, Nobu, Montage, Hard Rock, Four Seasons and St. Regis among them.