Cabo Has A Tourist Center!

It’s not always open, but when it is, lots of help is available

Cabo’s Centro de Asistencia Turística/Tourist Assistance Center (CAT/TAC) has had some trouble with consistency during its short run. It “opened” with a lot of fanfare earlier this year, but that was really just an excuse for the local tourism board to take a photo opp with politicians. The building wasn’t actually finished at the time, and it was several more months before it finally opened to the public.

With the exception of a name change (from the Center for the Attention and Protection of Tourists to CAT/TAC) things seem to go smoothly for the center for the next few months. And then Lidia hit, and the center closed for a few days, hurricane shutters nailed up. And for more than a month after the storm, the shutters remained up.

cattac.JPGThe shutters are now being taken down, so the next time you’re on the marina you can stop by the center to use the bathroom (for free), or for whatever you might need help with. The center was established to help tourists (both foreign and national) with just about anything they need; it’s designed to be a one-stop shop. The services the center (sometimes) provides includes everything from giving out free maps and restaurant recommendations to helping angry consumers file complaints against timeshare companies.

Located inside the center are offices for the municipal, state and federal police. If you need to report a crime or get help with a traffic ticket, you can do it all right there. Before CAT/TAC was built, you’d have to go all the way out to the edge of town, wait in long lines and hope whoever is helping you speaks English (or take a local with you to help translate). Trust us, this is not an experience you want to have while on vacation. The police services are available 24 hours a day, so if something happens to you in the middle of the night, you can go to the center to report it. (Sometimes).

The center also houses an office for Profeco, Mexico’s consumer protection agency. You can go to them if a tour provider takes your money but never gives you a tour, and they’ll investigate the case. Oscar Manriquez, the CAT/TAC director, says that 80 to 90 percent of the time, the tourists have a legitimate claim.

Oscar says the most common complaint from tourists are about – no surprise – timeshare companies. While CAT/TAC doesn’t directly get involved with the cases, they will help you fill out the necessary paperwork to file a claim, and then review it to decide who should handle the case, Profeco or the criminal prosecutor. And, since cases like this can take longer to wrap up than you have vacation time, CAT/TAC will stay in contact with you once you go back home, keeping you updated on how everything is progressing.

And to avoid getting sucked into a timeshare scam, CAT/TAC can help before you even go to a presentation. You can go to the center and check to make sure the timeshare company you’ve scheduled a visit is legal, legitimate and certified by Asudestico, which is kind of like a timeshare Better Business Bureau. It’s run by the Timeshare industry, so don’t hold out a lot of hope for help there.

And remember, CAT/TAC is there to help keep tourists from getting taken advantage of, not get them out of paying bills they legitimately owe. Oscar told us about one case where a tourist came to him to dispute an inflated hospital charge. Oscar saw that the tourist had a legitimate claim and worked with the hospital to get the bill down from $900 USD to $300. But, it turns out the tourist didn’t want to pay that either. He had just used Oscar as a way to prolong the payment, and left Mexico before the case was settled, not paying the hospital anything. So don’t do that; don’t be a bad tourist.

One big misconception some people have is that, if they lose their passports, they can go to CAT/TAC and get a new one. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. To get a new passport, you’ll still need to fly to Mexico City and go to the American or Canadian consulate. But before you do that, CAT/TAC can help you fill out forms, get your information on what to do and who to talk to, and even make calls to the consulate for you. The consulate may answer their calls, they sure won’t answer ours.

Although CAT/TAC has been opened for awhile, it’s still a work in progress, both in terms of finishing the building and figuring out what other agencies and departments will be part of the center. One thing planned for the future is a 911 emergency call center. The center can also be used as a hurricane shelter, as it was built to withstand category 5 winds.

The CAT/TAC building is located on the Cabo marina, between Captain Tony’s and the Dolphin Center (and right next to this rag’s locally famous worldwide headquarters). If you know how to dial Mexican phone numbers, you can reach them at one of the following: 624-105-1532; 624-105-0551; 624-105-0442; and 624-105-7237. ,