Mexico ad campaign targets Canadian travellers
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, November 18, 2011 9:47AM EST
TORONTO - After a spate of tourist tragedies that have left some Canadians wary of travelling to Mexico's sun-kissed beaches, tourism officials in that country are reaching out with an offensive aimed at convincing travellers the destination is much safer than headlines suggest.
The country's Tourism Board has launched an ad campaign that includes a taxi candid camera filming returning tourists who are asked by the driver about their experiences.
The Mexico Taxi project is creating a lot of buzz because it removes the intermediary and lets travellers hear from fellow Canadians.
It's also a campaign tourism officials hope will help remedy what they say is a skewed perception about safety and security in the country after several Canadian were assaulted, robbed or killed while away.
"I would say that certain media outlets in the U.S. have been a little bit unfair when it comes to Mexico (and) because of the influence of the U.S. media worldwide it has, in a very disproportionate manner, kind of exploded. It can get out of context," Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, chief operating officer of Mexico's Tourism Board, said in an interview.
"We don't have research that validates the fact that we're losing business from Canada because of the perception situation, however, we do know that we could be growing at a faster pace and increasing our share out of the Canadian market if we close that gap between the perception and reality."
Mexico is the second most popular destination for Canadians travelling abroad after the U.S., and tourism from Canada to Mexico doubled between 2005 and 2010, when 1.6 million Canadians visited.
Still, many Canadians express apprehension over visiting the country after a rash of tragic tourist deaths, including a blast at a Mayan Riviera resort last year that killed five Canadians -- a case in which a Mexican judge decided to dismiss criminal charges.
One of the cases to garner the most media attention was that of Domenic and Nancy Ianiero of Woodbridge, Ont., who were found with their throats slit in February 2006 at a resort near Playa del Carmen, where they had gone to celebrate their daughter's marriage.
Since then, nearly two dozen Canadians have died in the country, some fatally shot, others taking falls from hotel balconies to their deaths.
In one case, Mexican police said 19-year-old Adam DePrisco was killed after stumbling in front of a car while drunk. His family and friends claimed he was beaten to death.
In May, a 62-year-old man from B.C. living in Mexico was stabbed to death in the resort town of Puerto Vallarta in a presumed robbery, and earlier this year, businessman Daniel Dion's body was found in the trunk of his burned-out rental car in the state of Guerrero.
Mexico has also been embroiled in a deadly drug war that has killed more than 35,000 people since 2006. The turf wars have often led to sensationalistic stories of gruesome violence, although much of that has been concentrated along the Mexico-U.S. border.
Lopez Negrete argues that episodes of violence in Mexico, just like in every other country "are being experienced in very specific pockets of cities and municipalities in Mexico, and those are not for sure the tourism destinations."
Mexico, he adds, is a country the size of Western Europe, and the distance between a border town in Mexico in the eastern part of the country and Cancun is the same as the distance between Houston and New York.
While he acknowledges there have been incidents at tourists destinations, he notes those could happen anywhere, and they aren't the norm in Mexico.
Mexico City, for instance, has a lower crime rate than Miami.
David McCaig, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies, said there's been an improvement when it comes to safety, especially in places like Acapulco.
"I personally wouldn't have any issue travelling to Mexico and haven't felt that way for a long time," McCaig said, noting there's no statistics that show that Mexico is any more dangerous than any other destination.
"They're doing what they can to make it better, and there hasn't been any major crisis for quite a while."
Travellers also have to be aware of their surroundings, he said, and be careful in common-sense situations, such as if someone offers them a ride to a party in an unknown part of town at 1:30 in the morning.
"In any resort holiday consumers can forget about common sense sometimes," McCaig said.
"They drink too much, they party too much, they stay out, they get dehydrated and then they end up being in areas they shouldn't be in. But that goes for any country."