Princess Cruises and Holland America Line recently followed in the footsteps of Disney Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Carnival Cruises when they became the latest lines to cancel calls to Mazatlan, Mexico, throughout the winter/early spring due to a handful of violent incidents that occurred in tourist districts. And now the destination’s tourism bureau is fighting back.
Travel Agent spoke to Julio Birrueta of the Mazatlan Tourism Trust Friday, and he told us he thinks the proper due diligence was not performed before the major cruise lines pulled the plug on the tourist destination that averages roughly 500,000 cruise passengers a year.
“I believe there are parameters in the industry that they could have checked with and got more information from before they made this decision—and they obviously didn’t,” says Birrueta, referring to the slew of suppliers who sell the destination successfully. “We really feel like they overreacted. There are incidents all over the world. Can you imagine if they pulled every cruise line from everywhere? It really comes down to how these incidents affected the tourists’ experience and they didn’t.”
Birrueta noted that Mazatlan has a population of roughly 9,000 Americans and Canadians who live there.
“We have Americans and Canadians who call this destination their home, who can tell you how safe this area is to visit,” he says.
Birrueta says the overall negative publicity that Mexico has received in the last two years due to its ongoing drug wars may have contributed to the quick trigger finger of the cruise lines.
“It may be a connection with the overall perception of Mexico, but geographically most of these problems have not been near the border,” he says. “I think it is now up to us to show the cruise lines and the world that we are safe.”
Birrueta says Mazatlan’s secretary of tourism is currently in Miami to speak with the cruise companies in order to follow up on their concerns. Birrueta says he expects all the lines to return to the destination when Mazatlan’s next cruise season kicks off in October.
Mazatlan's woes began earlier this year when cruise publication Seatrade Insider reported in January that a mugger stole a necklace from a female guest and pushed her husband. In addition, a crew member's laptop was apparently stolen. A third incident involved money missing from a purse left in a taxicab.
That month, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Disney Cruise Line adjusted some Mexican Riviera itineraries to remove Mazatlan as a port call. The actions were taken in response to several criminal incidents that occurred involving passengers and crew of Azamara Journey and Holland America's Oosterdam. At that time, however, Princess had only adjusted its Sapphire Princess itinerary that week and Holland America Line only skipped one port call at Mazatlan.
On a positive note, earlier this month, Mazatlan welcomed more than 300,000 revelers from across the globe for its annual Carnaval celebration, March 3–8, 2011. Thousands of North American visitors joined the full array of festivities, as destination resorts reported increased bookings and occupancy rates near capacity.
This week, Mazatlan celebrated the announcement of new non-stop flights into the destination on American Airlines’ affiliate American Eagle, with service from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Aeromexico is increasing capacity from Mexico City, while Sunwing will continue flights from Toronto and other Canadian gateway destinations.
According to tourism officials, the additions grow Mazatlan’s airlift by 20 percent over 2010. The average passenger load for all flights into Mazatlan has increased by 7 percent in January and February 2011 over the same period last year.
Groups and conventions are also up 20 percent from last year, while hotel reservations for Easter week are up 30 percent over 2010 numbers.