Two months before the reopening of Los Cabos International Convention Center, Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of Los Cabos Tourism Board, is welcoming a new travel advisory system and related map released by the U.S. State Department. The new four-tier rating is designed to be easier to understand, and more nuanced.
Countries rated Level 1 are places to “exercise normal precautions” and Level 4 as “do not travel.”
Reasons for advisories can be as diverse as widespread violence to terrorism, natural disasters or health risks. Esponda points out that the Level 2 Travel Advisory issued for most of Mexico calls for exercise of increased caution and contains no restrictions for travel in Baja California Sur, which includes the tourist areas of Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo and La Paz.
The classification comes five months after a travel warning was issued last August for those vacation destinations in the aftermath of a gang shooting, a warning that did not seem to impact decisions to visit—the destination posted an 18 percent increases in hotel occupancy. Over the same period, Los Cabos added 550 new rooms and continued to host massive events, including Los Cabos Open of Tennis ATP 250 and the Los Cabos Film Festival.
Los Cabos is the fastest-growing area in Mexico, and 1.8 million of its 2.4 million visitors a year come from its neighbor to the north. Thus, reassuring U.S. planners that their attendees will be safe is a priority for Esponda. This is particularly true now that the 72,000-square-foot convention center is scheduled for a March opening, after being cleaned up and updated in the wake of a 2013 hurricane. Also set for ribbon cuttings in 2018 are a new 122-guest room Montage Los Cabos, a 115-guest room Zadun, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve property, a 1,000-acre Four Seasons Resort and Residences Los Cabos at Costa Palmas, a 200-guest room Nobu Hotel Los Cabos and a 639-room Hard Rock Hotel Los Cabos. In total, 3,800 new rooms are expected between 2017 and 2021, and Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) will open a new terminal this year.
Esponda calls the decision by the U.S. to issue a Level 2 Advisory “a recognition of the work the public and private sector has done to keep people safe.” A five-point security action plan developed in 2017 for Los Cabos includes formation of a rapid-response network for hotels, airports, transportation and the government. It also features an expanded surveillance system, with more than 200 cameras in tourist areas, including downtown, and plans for a Mexican Marine Corps base nearby. More than $47 million was invested last year to increase security.
Five other Mexican states—Colima, Guerrero, Michoacan, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas—are listed as “do not travel” areas, due to organized crime activity.
All advisory levels warn there is risk in any international travel, and that conditions can change at any time. To stay up to date or search the advisory listings for specific countries, planners can receive updated travel advisories through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Recommended Security Precautions in Mexico
- Use toll roads when possible and avoid driving at night
- Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclub and casinos
- Do not display signs of wealth, such as expensive watches or jewelry
- Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs