This week’s update to how the State Department issues travel advisories brought some changes for how Los Cabos is rated. Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board, spoke with Travel Agent on what the changes mean for the destination’s tourism.
“I think it’s encouraging, that this underscores our belief that Los Cabos is a safe and secure destination,” Esponda says. “I think the decision reflects our commitment to dedicate all the resources that we have to make sure Los Cabos remains a safe destination.”
Under the new travel advisory system, Los Cabos is rated Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution, out of a possible four levels. This level advises travelers to “be aware of heightened risks to safety and security,” and, in the case of Los Cabos, specifically notes that “turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. cities. Bystanders have been injured or killed in shooting incidents.”
Esponda says that the new system, which can assign different security ratings to different regions within a country, gives much clearer information to potential visitors.
“Everyone now has a clear number,” Esponda says. “It’s a quantitative number versus a qualitative concept. Before, there was a lot of room for interpretation.”
Last August, the State Department had included Los Cabos in an updated travel warning for all of Mexico. To address that warning, as well as recent violent incidents like this past weekend’s shootout, the destination is implementing a five-point security plan. Developed in partnership between the public and private sectors and representing an investment of $47 million, the plan includes the addition of new, permanent police; the construction of a new marine base; adding new security cameras and wiring existing security cameras into a centralized crime reporting system; and organizing a hotel security committee to share best practices and setting new training and security protocols aligned with OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council) standards. The new marine base in on track for completion in the second quarter of this year, Esponda told Travel Agent earlier this week.
Despite the violent incidents and the August travel warning, Los Cabos has continued to show signs of strong tourism growth over the past year, Esponda says.
“We closed  with 16 percent growth from 2016 in international and domestic visitors, notwithstanding the situation around the world,” Esponda says, noting the hurricanes and earthquakes that have taken place over the past year. “I think it speaks to the resilience that Los Cabos has as a tourism destination.” The tourism numbers track with several hotel openings that have taken place in Los Cabos over the past year, as well as an increase in airlift – Southwest Airlines doubled its capacity to the destination in 2017, and United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta also all added capacity.
Looking ahead, Rodrigo says that the first phase of the destination’s new website for travel agents is set to launch at the end of the month. The new site will serve as a direct point of communication between travel agents and the tourism board, and will offer information on training and certification, as well as video testimonials to share with clients. The destination also just announced plans for a new Viceroy hotel, which is slated to open this spring.