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Rapes of tourists are latest blow to Mexico tourism

February 06, 2013|By Hugo Martin

Despite past assurances that tourists are safe in their country, Mexican tourism officials are again faced with trying to explain away another report of crime against foreign visitors.

The latest incident took place in the resort town of Acapulco, where six Spanish tourists on vacation were raped Sunday by masked gunmen.

Unlike many crimes involving drug violence in the country's interior states, the rapes took place near the beach, where the tourists were renting bungalows near four-star hotels.

Mexico's secretary of tourism issued a statement expressing sympathy for the tourists and said local authorities would investigate the crime.

Crime tied to drug violence has reduced the number of tourists from the U.S. to Mexico in recent years but Mexican tourism officials have responded by targeting travelers from countries such as Russia, Brazil, Peru and Colombia.

Despite the violence, Mexico predicts it will host 24.7 million foreign visitors in 2012, surpassing last year's record of 23.4 million.

But the latest crime report will only make it harder for Mexico to shrug off the incidents of crime in tourist towns as isolated and rare, experts say.

"It doesn't matter if Mexico is safe or not because the perception is they are not," said Carl Winston, director of the school of hospitality and tourism at San Diego State University.

But some travel agents say they have not seen a drop-off in tourists from the U.S. booking trips to Mexico.

Coastline Travel Advisors in Garden Grove is in the process of booking a group of 30 people to visit Loreto in Baja California.

"We haven't had anyone afraid to visit Mexico or ask if it is safe," said Kate Malczynski, a spokeswoman for the company. "Our agents know what is best and what areas are safe."


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Follow Hugo Martin on Twitter at @hugomartin

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