First there were the kidnappings. Then came the swine flu. Now a deadly gunfight in the seaside resort of Acapulco is raising new concerns about the safety of travelers in Mexico.
Eighteen people – 16 gunmen and two soldiers – died during the shootout in a neighborhood a few miles from the main tourist strip. Three bystanders were among the nine wounded, but no tourists were injured, according to initial media reports.
The Los Angeles Times reported 3,000 shots were fired and 50 grenades exploded during the four-hour shootout. The violence was connected to the Mexican government’s ongoing war against drug cartels.
This latest incident adds to a growing list of troubles plaguing the Mexican tourism industry this year. In February, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert in response to escalating violence, including kidnappings, against foreigners in the country. The alert noted that most of the violence was occurring in the northern part of the country.
“Mexican drug cartels are engaged in an increasingly violent conflict – both among themselves and with Mexican security forces – for control of narcotics trafficking routes along the U.S.-Mexico border,” the department reported.
The violence has all but eliminated tourism in some formerly popular places to visit, like Tijuana.
In April, the swine flu outbreak in Mexico dramatically curtailed tourism traffic to resorts like Cancun and Cozumel. Cruise ships canceled visits and airline bookings also were down.
Acapulco, a favorite getaway for Mexico City residents, weathered that storm fairly well, but may be harder pressed to survive this latest blow. Americans, in particular, will likely be skittish about returning to the resort and may opt for warm-weather destinations that appear safer, such as Caribbean islands.