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by Michael J. Shapiro | June 01, 2011
Mexico Hot Zone map

Mexican tourist areas have responded to the U.S. De­part­ment of State's expanded travel warning issued in April, differentiating their locations from those that have suffered drug-related violence.

In the updated warning, U.S. citizens are urged to avoid nonessential travel to parts of the states of Sonora, Zacatecas, San Luís Potosí and Jalisco, as well as the six states named in previous travel warnings. Nayarit also is mentioned. The warning specifies sites that have experienced violence and the nature of the incidents.

Without careful reading and a knowledge of Mexican geography, however, the state department alert could be confusing, agree many in the nation's tourism industry. "These warnings are not that specific," noted Mexico's Secretary of Tourism, Gloria Guevara Manzo. "With a country the size of Mexico, that's quite a challenge."

Puerto Vallarta, a Pacific resort town in Jalisco, is trying to clarify matters. The local tourism board issued a statement specifying that the warning does not apply to Puerto Vallarta; it singles out the Jalisco towns of Colotlán and Yahualica as having experienced drug-related violence. "Puerto Vallarta is located more than 300 miles away from these cities," reads the statement, "the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco." The town also is more than 1,200 miles from the violence-plagued cities along the Mexico/U.S. border.

While the state of Nayarit is mentioned in the warning, referring to crime in and around the city of Tepic, the coastal resorts to the west are safe. "Riviera Nayarit welcomed 3 million visitors last year," noted a Riviera Nayarit CVB spokesperson. "There have been no notable negative incidents involving our tourists."

"It is very helpful to talk about specific destinations," said tourism secretary Guevara. "It's very different to discuss Cancún or the Riviera Maya vs. Juárez. Would I recommend going to Juárez? Perhaps not."

See this month's Checklist for travel safety tips.