Despite lingering concerns about drug cartel violence and occasional reports about Canadian expatriates being burglarized or worse, Mexico continues to be Canada’s most favoured travel leisure destination outside of the United States.
According to data released by the Conference Board of Canada (CBoC) and the Secretaría de Turismo de México (STP), Canadians made a record 1.6 million leisure trips to Mexico in 2016, and projections are that the trajectory will continue on the upswing.
The data show that Canadians are also spending more of their travel dollars on trips to Latin America—particularly Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panama, which together accounted for over 300,000 Canadian arrivals in 2016.
At the same time, Canadian arrivals to Cuba slipped in 2016 to 1.25 million, down from a record 1.3 million in 2015. The reduction is attributed largely to hotel room price increases of 15 to 20 per cent, which were implemented in anticipation of a surge of American tourists freed up by former President Obama’s trade embargo relaxation. The surge never fully developed and is now in stasis as the current U.S. administration considers re-imposing many parts of the embargo.
In response, some Canadian carriers shifted their schedules to Mexico, which also benefited from a favourable exchange rate, cheaper hotel room rates—on average—than Cuba or other Caribbean destinations, and growing availability of vacation options such as tours and people-to-people exchanges.
Snorkelling … or birdwatching?
A CBoC survey done in October 2016 showed that of Canadians asked about their travel plans to Mexico, 54 per cent said they were interested in taking guided city/sightseeing tours, 48 per cent intended to get involved in water sports such as snorkelling or surfing, 27 per cent planned to visit a national or state park, and 20 percent intended to do some wildlife-watching or birdwatching.
CBoC forecasts that by 2021 Mexico will welcome more than 2 million Canadians annually—half of whom will arrive in Cancun. In 2016, Canadians accounted for 53.8 per cent of all arrivals in Mexico.
But be cautious
Despite this enthusiasm for experiencing Mexico, Canadians—and all other visitors—need to be aware that parts of this country are extremely dangerous and must be avoided. Violence, much of it revolving about powerful drug cartels, is still a major concern for local government and police authorities and visitors need to heed warnings about unsupervised travel throughout the country.
Many areas, particularly the northern states bordering the U.S. and areas on the Pacific coast near Acapulco, have been designated as “avoid non-essential travel” zones by the Canadian government due to criminal activity, demonstrations, protests, and illegal roadblocks. For more precise locations of risk, consult the government’s travel advisories.
Travellers who journey into an area designated by the Canadian government as “avoid non-essential travel” or “avoid all travel” risk having travel insurance benefits invalidated if they encounter an emergency. That means in case of an accident, medical emergency, or travel breakdown, travellers may lose major segments of their coverage, with potentially substantial financial losses.
Travel insurance is a necessity for any leisure or business travel out of Canada—almost 75 per cent of all Canadians confirm they believe this, and most do buy private supplemental coverage when they travel abroad or to the U.S. But travel insurance comes with conditions and it’s important to know them before travel begins.
Heed the warnings. And here’s one more for Mexico, Latin America, and the entire Caribbean region: Travel Canada urges all pregnant women or those considering becoming pregnant to avoid travel to any of these areas due to risk of infection by the Zika virus.
Planning a journey down south? Don’t forget your travel insurance.