Mexico's Resorts Still Popular for Spring Break
By Kitty Bean Yancey
Mar. 12, 2009— The hottest destination for spring break is Mexico, say many travel bookers, because of the dollar's strength against the peso, the drinking age (18) and the country's many bargain all-inclusive resorts.
Cancun, the Riviera Maya and Los Cabos are in demand. However, violence linked to drug cartels has been making headlines, prompting some cancellations, warnings by universities and the impression that South of the Border is the Wild West now.
The U.S. Homeland Security Department's attache to Mexico, Alonzo Pena, told Congress on Thursday that violence in the country is in isolated areas and only affects the people involved in criminal activity, not U.S. citizens visiting Mexico.
Pleasant Holidays CEO Jack Richards says he recently met with officials in Quintana Roo, the state where Riviera Maya and Cancun resorts are located.
"They understand that tourism is their bread and butter, and they are doing everything to protect tourists."
What's lost in the uproar over the headlines, he says, is that the big spring break resort areas haven't been affected.
Richards says more than 50% of his clients have chosen Cancun and the Riviera Maya for spring break. In this uncertain economy, he says, people "want a fixed-price vacation" at an all-inclusive resort and to know the bottom line before they go.
Hotwire.com says hotel bookings for Mexico are up 37% vs. the same time last year. It has been offering $87 a night for a four-star hotel in Cancun. Mexican all-inclusives can be booked in the $100 daily range.
Mark Noennig, general manager of Apple Vacations, says the dollar � worth about 15 pesos vs. 10 last year � is lowering costs and driving business.
Determined to keep guests arriving, hoteliers are dropping rates. Some Cancun lodgings, which had been discouraging spring break business to create a more upscale image, are checking them in again.
"Now that things are so tough, we go for all the business," says Oscar Fitch, CEO of the Mexico Tourism Board. "But we can have spring-breakers in an orderly fashion."
Meanwhile, Mexican tourism officials remain on high alert. Last week, Acapulco announced it would add extra policing and security to ensure the safety of the more than 25,000 students expected during spring break.
Fitch says the country is committed to its "mi casa es su casa" hospitality.
"Feel safe to come here, and we will take care of you."