HOUSTON -- Mexico’s tourism board hopes a splashy ad campaign including white sandy beaches and turquoise blue waters will lure Americans back this summer.
In one commercial, as sweeping scenes of historic and cultural spots fill the screen, the announcer concludes, “Mexico, the place you thought you knew.
These days, Americans probably know more about drug violence in Mexico. Unprecedented bloodshed in some parts of the country has dominated the news. Mexico's tourism board and tourism industry officials want to change the perception the entire country is dangerous.
Tourism is a major source of income for Mexico, and Americans are the country’s top customers. Ten million visitors flew into Mexico in 2010. Of those,6 million were from the U.S. But as the drug war has escalated, fewer Americans are traveling to Mexico.
Now, as summer vacation season begins, Mexico is working to woo Americans. The plan includes the ad campaign, combined with high-level personal visits to the U.S. to tout Mexico as a safe destination.
Rodolfo Torres Negrete, the head of Mexico’s Tourism Board, met with Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade and several Department of Public Safety officials in Austin on Wednesday to discuss Texas' travel warning.
Mexico wants the advisory to be more specific about the risks rather than a blanket warning to avoid the country. On March 1, Texas warned students to “avoid traveling to Mexico during Spring break and stay alive."
There have been more than 35,000 killings in Mexico since 2006, when President Felipe Calderon took office and the drug war escalated.
Mexican tourism officials have acknowledged some border areas of the country are dangerous, but argue there is no evidence tourists at resorts are in danger of getting caught up in the drug violence gripping other regions.
During a visit to the U.S. in May, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon told a gathering at the Global Travel and Tourism Summit in in Las Vegas, “ I saw thousands of spring breakers in Mexico having fun. My understanding is the only shots they received were tequila shots and lots of them.”
On a recent morning, the vice president of sales and marketing for Barcelo Resorts and Hotels during a breakfast with a group of travel agents in Houston asked, “How do we get the message across to the consumer that in these tourist destinations life and business is normal or better than normal?"
The company has five resorts in prime beach locations throughout Mexico including Cancun, the Maya Riviera, and Los Cabos.
“These destinations are thousands of miles apart from where problems are occurring," said Zboznovits.