TORONTO — Despite last week’s headlines about burning cars and gunfights in Mazatlan, Mexico, travel agents, for the most part, are keeping their cool and, more importantly, keeping their clients calm and excited about future travel.
The wave of violence, which began last week following the arrest of an alleged cartel leader, led Canada to issue a shelter-in-place order for Canadians in Sinaloa state, as well as a non-essential travel advisory to several areas in Mexico. The Mazatlan airport, which is serviced by Sunwing and WestJet, was temporarily closed.
Since then, Mazatlan Mayor Edgar Gonzalez, in a news release that was translated and posted to Facebook, has reassured Canadians and other foreign visitors that the city remains safe and that tourists are currently being seen “in the restaurants, in the streets, in the galleries, on the boardwalk, everywhere completely relaxed, calm.” His claims were backed up by several expats currently in Mexico, who posted to a social media group that the violence appeared to be limited to isolated areas.
Although Gonzalez assures that it’s business as usual in Mazatlan, there are concerns that the negative headlines will impact tourism in other areas of Mexico. Are travellers second-guessing their last-minute winter getaways and upcoming March Break plans? Are top destinations like Cancun, Mayan Riviera and Puerto Vallarta seeing any impact from the turmoil in Mazatlan?
Travelweek reached out to several travel agents to get their take on the situation, and ask them what advice they’re giving clients about travel to Mexico:
Valerie Murphy, Vision Travel, Waterloo, ON
“We have had a few calls from clients concerned about travel to Mexico but we haven’t had any cancellation requests. I am concerned that we will start getting those. We have explained to clients the distance from Mazatlan to places like the Mayan Riviera – that’s about all we can do right now. Tour operators are not offering flexibility on other Mexico destination bookings.”
Marianne Vogel, Just for You Travel & Consulting, Dundas, ON
“I have a number of passengers going to Mexico in February that are panicking completely, not realizing that Mazatlan is a 36-hour drive from Cancun. I had the same thing happen a while back with Jamaica. All I can do as the travel professional is reassure them that the situation does not affect their destination and is far away from where they’ll be, and that their hotel/resort is secure and will do their ultimate best to keep them safe. I am suggesting that they not venture off the resort, but if they do, have the resort look after their arrangements and to take their advice on safety.”
Cindy Gaudet, Fareconnect Travel, Winnipeg, MB
“I do have clients impacted by the situation in Mazatlan and we have managed to rebook them to a different destination immediately and save their vacation. We have had a lot of questions referencing Mexico in general. Everyone reacts differently, and I explain to clients that the location they are travelling to, like Puerto Vallarta, is a wonderful choice and is not affected. We’ve had no cancellations.”
Tony Santelli, FunRexAlcyon Travel, Laval, QC
“I do not have clients in Mexico but if someone asked to go to that area, I would refuse to book their reservations. I am no longer recommending or promoting destinations where there’s a higher risk of danger, or destinations ruled by dictators or regimes that do not respect human rights. That’s just me. If enough countries issued travel advisories to avoid travel to Mexico, you can rest assured that the Mexican government will once and for all get tough on the cartels and clean up the corruption.”
Joanne Saab, Curated Travel, Ancaster, ON
“Since I am based in Ontario, Mazatlan is not a destination I sell a lot of, but I did have clients travelling this coming week to Mazatlan. They called on Friday requesting to change their location, and they were able to make a change to Mayan Riviera. I have not had other clients asking about the situation although Mexico tends to be a destination that clients seem to love or be fearful of in general. Personally, I continue to love Mexico and to recommend it as a preferred winter destination. As always, ensuring that our clients have some sort of travel protection (both travel insurance and the supplier-offered cancellation waivers) ensures that they are more easily able to make changes and/or cancellations when needed.”
Scott Penney, The Travel Agent Next Door, Stewiacke, NS
“Fortunately, I do not have any clients currently impacted by the issues in Mazatlan and do not have any currently booked to the area. It’s quite interesting since I was just there in early December on a cruise and it’s sad to see this happening in such a beautiful area of Mexico.
“I have been receiving a few calls from clients who are booked to travel to Mexico, primarily to Cancun and the Mayan Riviera, in the next few weeks and months. They do have some concerns about their safety. I did have one client who ended up cancelling his trip in early February due to concerns about the current situation and rising COVID-19 cases. I think most of the time, clients just want to feel assured, and rightfully so as it is very concerning. However, I assure them that this is happening in a totally different area of Mexico than where they’re travelling to, and many of them won’t be travelling for a while so I’m sure the situation will calm down in a few days. I also advise my clients to always follow and check the Government of Canada advisories regarding travelling. Most of our suppliers have very flexible rebooking options should clients add this to their booking, and I also encourage my clients to make sure they have adequate travel coverage should we need to cancel.”
Teresa Simon, Vision Travel Solutions, Paris, ON
“I have a ton of bookings to the Mayan Riviera and Costa Mujeres for this winter and so far none of those clients have reached out. I would definitely still travel there – sometimes downtown Toronto is far scarier! I wouldn’t purposely put myself in danger but I don’t believe the other areas in Mexico are at risk. I actually just booked myself on a Princess cruise to four ports on the Mexican Pacific coast.”
Gary Rams, Crowfoot Travel Solutions, Calgary, AB
“For once, I don’t have any clients that are affected by the situation in Mazatlan. Now, it’s just a matter of waiting and seeing what will happen in the future for some of my clients who are interested in Mazatlan. But with all that has happened in travel over the past few months, Mazatlan is not a concern for my clients. There is something to be said about too much news. Not one single person has mentioned the issues in Mazatlan when talking about their trips.”