Tourism Board Fights Against Travel Warning

A five-point plan to increase security is in the works

When Los Cabos was named in the U.S. State Department’s travel warning last month as a no go area, local authorities and merchants, as well as the state’s tourism department, launched a PR campaign to counter the possible negative effects on tourism.

Yes, the murder rate in our state rose significantly over last year, but only a handful of those crimes occurred in tourist areas (one on Palmilla Beach and two others in downtown San Jose), and not one foreigner was killed, one foreigner was slightly injured.

"It's important to put the travel alert in context," says Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board. "Even though the murder rate has increased, it hasn't been part of the tourism community. Most incidents haven't happened that close; they're on the outskirts of both Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, and they're not impacting tourists."

However, they are impacting tourists’ plans. The Los Cabos Hotel Ass. recently reported 35,000 hotel room cancelations for the upcoming holiday season. These cancellations represent a loss of just over $11 million USD to our hotel sector.

The tourism board swung into action and hasshared some details about its newly launched security action plan, which consists of five main points:

1. Creating a "Rapid Response Network," consisting of real-time communications among hoteliers, business owners and law enforcement to share information about suspicious activity or reported incidents, and to ensure the authorities and law-enforcement officers know about the activity.

2. Accelerating the expansion of a security surveillance system, with the goal of installing more than 200 new cameras, especially in high-traffic tourist areas. There currently are 40 of these cameras in place; the goal is to have 250.

3. Building a new Navy base, which will significantly increase the presence of the Mexican Navy, who will manage the expanded surveillance system and beef up the law-enforcement presence. The base is scheduled to open in the second quarter of next year.

4. Organizing a hotel security committee, which will work with the hotel association and meet biweekly to address concerns, share best practices and update security protocols.

5. Setting new training and security practices for local hotels and businesses, using standards developed by the Overseas Security Advisory Council.

International tourist arrivals are up by 20 percent year over year in Los Cabos, and for the first half of the year, more than 20 percent growth was reported each month, but there is concern for this high season coming up.

 Local officials, hotel staff and business owners recognize the importance of heading off any uncertainty that could result from the travel warning, as about 90 percent of the people who live in Los Cabos work directly or indirectly in tourism. To date in 2017, the public and private sectors have invested more than $47 million USD to increase security personnel, equipment and infrastructure.

Hotel developers have not been scared away by the warning. "They are confident in the future of Los Cabos," noted Esponda. More than 20 hotel projects are in the pipeline, representing 16 international and national brands, incuding Ritz-Carlton, Nobu, Montage, Hard Rock, Four Seasons and St. Regis.