A series of shootouts over the weekend killed 18 people, including community police, near Acapulco and Los Cabos, Mexico.
According to ABC News, seven people were killed in San Jose del Cabo Saturday night when marines responding to reports of gunfire encountered heavily armed men in tactical vests in two vehicles with California license plates. A car chase ensued, after which the vehicles crashed and all seven people in the cars were shot dead by the marines. In a separate incident in La Conception, which is near Acapulco, eight people were killed when gunmen ambushed community police. Two of those dead were from the community police force. Later that morning, when state police arrived to disarm the local agents, another shootout ensued in which three more people were killed. At this time it is unclear how those three died. 30 members of the community police force have been detained on suspicion of crimes ranging from homicide to illegal weapons and drug possession.
The gun battles were the latest in a series of violent incidents in tourist areas in Mexico as drug cartels battle for control of territory. In December, bodies were found hanging on bridges near the Los Cabos International Airport in what was believed to be an attempt by gangs to intimidate their rivals. In late August the violence had prompted the State Department to issue an updated Mexico travel warning that included Los Cabos, Acapulco and other major tourist areas. That warning is still in effect.
Since the issuance of the travel warning, the Los Cabos Tourism Board has been engaged in a new plan to improve security. Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board, tells Travel Agent that the destination is on track to complete a new marine base, which will house a C5 Intelligence Center to monitor a newly expanded security surveillance network, in the second quarter of this year.
“The marines are currently leading security efforts in the destination,” Esponda says. “Working with the State and Municipal Police in Los Cabos, Mexico’s elite forces are doing everything possible to protect and secure the destination."
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.
Esponda tells Travel Agent that, despite the travel warning and recent violence, this past holiday travel season in the destination showed strong visitation and high hotel occupancy.
“Overall, 2017 was a strong year for Los Cabos demonstrating the destination’s resilience and loyalty from our repeat guests who make up 70 percent of our visitors,” Esponda says. “Our private and public sectors remain committed with the destination to ensure all travelers are safe and secure.”
Looking ahead, this month Los Cabos is also aiming to improve communication with travel agents with the launch of a new B2B website at visitloscabos.travel. The new website will have a section dedicated to travel agents that will include photos, itineraries and example videos they can share with clients. This year will also see the debut of a number of new luxury properties, including Le Blanc, Solaz, a Luxury Collection Property, Montage, Ritz Carlton Reserve and Garza Blanca.