The crime rate in sections of Mexico has caused the US State Department to issue a series of warnings related to travel within Mexico, The body count from the various internal drug wars keeps rising. Yes, in figures just released by the Mexico Tourism Board, travel to the country actually grew by 2% in 2011, the country’s best ever year for inbound visitors. That translated to just under 23 million tourists last year. How did that happen?

The latest State Department Advisory, issued February 8th of this year, is much more precise about identifying areas of the country that tourists are best advised to avoid. We think Acapulco should be highlighted on that list. But with that possible exception, the resort areas of Mexico have been largely exempt from acts of gang violence or crime directed toward tourists. But when you dig more deeply into the 2011 statistics, you find the real reason for the growth of tourism despite fears about travel south in our own media.  The largest increase in visitors to Mexico was from Brazil, up an amazing 66%. Tourists coming from Russia jumped 55% and the Chinese upped their number of vacation visitors to Mexico by 30%. There was also double digit growth in visitors from Columbia, Italy, and Australia.

What can we conclude from these numbers? Perhaps our State Department bases its “warnings” on illogical “let’s cover our butts” reasoning made by bureaucrats whose office desks would appear to fit under the beds where they spend most of their time in mortal fear of travel.  Mexico is safe for a resort-based vacation and it is an incredible value. But countyry-wide self-drive visitors need to be extremely well prepared for their travels in the country and there are potential dangers down the road.

We are not particularly aggressive in encouraging travel to Mexico. But that has less to do with perceived crime dangers than our concerns of widespread corruption of the policing entities throughout the country. If you cannot trust the police to treat valued tourists fairly, then perhaps another country is more deserving of your tourism dollars.