Carnival continues visits, why not Princess Cruises?

July 16, 2011

A coule of weeks ago Princess Cruises announced the cancellation of visits to Puerto Vallarta for the remainder of the year based on ongoing security concerns in the region. When questioned about the move to continue visiting Puerto Vallarta, the line stated that they only visit ports of call believed to provide a safe environment for passengers and crew. Well, the American Consulate doesn’t seem to have a security issue with Puerto Vallarta, (The U.S. Consulate General has issued no advisories against travel to Puerto Vallarta and is not aware of any incidents that would have a significant impact on our current security assessment.) so why does Princess Cruises? Carnival Cruise Line issued a statement recently saying that although they will not be visiting Mazatlan, they will continue to visit Puerto Vallarta.

Carnival Cruise Line has evaluated continued security concerns in Mazatlan, Mexico and extended their cancellation of visits to the port. Carnival Splendor’s 7-day itinerary from Long Beach, California will now feature two days in Cabo San Lucas and a 12-hour stay in Puerto Vallarta. Carnival Spirit will also continue her nine-day itineraries from San Diego and Los Angeles from September 2011 to March 2012. The amended voyage includes two-days in Cabo San Lucas along with visits to Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo and Ensenada. “We have been calling at Puerto Vallarta on a weekly basis for many years and at this time have no plans to discontinue our visits there,” a representative from Carnival said in a statement to e-Travel Blackboard.

Princess Cruises has stated that the cancellation of visits to PV is only until the end of this year and then they will re-evaluate the situation. Perhaps by then they’ll understand the situation better, like Carnival and the American Consulate seem to.


Virgin America applies for new flights to Vallarta

July 16, 2011

From USA Today a few days ago:

Virgin America wants Puerto Vallarta to become its next destination. It announced today it will ask the U.S. Department of Transportation for regulatory approval to add flights to the Mexican resort destination from its hub in San Francisco. Virgin America also needs approval from Mexican aviation regulators.

If approved, Puerto Vallarta would become Virgin America’s third destination in Mexico. Cancun and Los Cabos are the others. Virgin America says it hopes to begin the route in time for the winter travel season. Virgin America would go head-to-head with Alaska Airlines’ nonstop service on the route.

We’ve seen a strong demand for travel to our Mexican destinations and we’re looking forward to giving our flyers another world-class leisure option,” Virgin America CEO David Cush says in a release. “We’re proud to be growing and offering travelers a very unique flight experience at a time when most airlines are shrinking their schedules and reducing the amenities provided to fliers.”

American Consulate clarifies position on security in Vallarta

July 16, 2011

I’m currently not in Vallarta, so I guess I missed a couple of articles that were featured in a couple of the local newspapers about how the American Consulate feels about security in Vallarta for Americans. Whatever was written, it seems they misquoted or it was taken out of context, as this was recently sent out by the Consulate in a press release. Good to have it clarified that they do not have any concerns about American security in the region.

Guadalajara, Jal., July 13, 2011—Statement of Daniel F. Keller, U.S. Consul General to Guadalajara, concerning statements attributed to U.S. Consular Agent in Puerto Vallarta.

“I am deeply disturbed by statements which appeared in a recent news report published by at least two news media organizations based in Puerto Vallarta under the headline, ‘Preocupa a Consulado Inseguridad en Puerto Vallarta.’ The statements, which are attributed secondhand to U.S. Consular Agent Sra. Kelly Trainor, are taken out of context and attribute to Ms. Trainor things she did not say.  Moreover, the statements are made to falsely imply that the U.S. Consulate is concerned by the present security conditions in Puerto Vallarta. The U.S. Consulate General has issued no advisories against travel to Puerto Vallarta and is not aware of any incidents that would have a significant impact on our current security assessment.  The Consulate is prepared at all times to respond to legitimate inquiries from media representatives — which did not happen in this case, American citizens, and other interested parties.  This specific report, regrettably, is irresponsible and does not meet the standards of professional journalism.”

Manufacturing Business in Mexico is strong…

July 12, 2011

This article was featured in the NY Times yesterday. Here’s some of the highlights:

When the latest bloody headlines from the drug war in Mexico reach headquarters in New York, Ken Chandler, the manager of an American electronics manufacturing plant here, jumps on the phone. He is not begging to come home. He is begging to stay. “We try to put them at ease, to say it is not time to pack up,” said Mr. Chandler, who oversees the company’s operations in this border city, where the military arrived last week to help purge drug cartel members from the police department.

Not that his employer, Spellman High Voltage, needs much assurance. Like a crop of other manufacturers at the border, including six companies in this city alone, Spellman is expanding its operations, with a new plant under construction after making a calculation that offers one of the starker paradoxes of these violent days in Mexico. Despite the bleak outlook the drug war summons, the Mexican economy is humming along, not without warning signs, but growing considerably faster than that of the United States.

Over all, jobs in Mexico’s manufacturing sector increased 8.2 percent to 1.8 million as of January, the most recent figures available, driven mostly by what Mexican officials called regaining health in the auto and electronics industries, the engine of the economy along the border.

Mostly American-owned and in border states, the plants import raw materials duty free and export assembled products, lowering the cost of goods in the United States and providing jobs that pay more than the Mexican average (typically $8 to $16 per day on the assembly line) but a lot less than American wages.

Some of the new or expanding plants come at the expense of plant closings in the United States. Electrolux, which makes washers, dryers and other home products, closed a plant in 2009 in Iowa but opened one in Juárez last month that is expected to employ 400 people. Others are from investors farther afield. Foxconn, a Taiwanese firm that makes iPhones, Dell computers and other electronics, is one of several Asian companies taking root. It opened a plant in Juárez last summer. Down the coast from here, Posco, a Korean steel manufacturer, has announced plans to expand its operations with a second plant that will employ 300 people by 2013. Several other companies plan to built or expand in other states as well.

Over all, the Mexican economy, the second largest in Latin America after Brazil, grew 5.5 percent last year, its fastest pace in a decade, and is expected to grow 4.5 percent this year, driven largely by manufacturing as well as internal growth from an expanding middle class. The American economy, by contrast, is expected to grow between 2.7 percent and 2.9 percent in 2011, the Federal Reserve projected late last month.

Economists say Mexico’s growth would be even stronger without the cartel violence, which in the last five years has left more than 40,000 people dead, according to the count by national newspapers.

Why do they have to put it that way? Over 90% of those killed were narcos killing each other or being killed by police and/or the army. The other 10% consists primarily of the army or police killed fighting against them. There has been little “collateral damage”, as Rumsfeld used to like to say…

The Bank of Mexico reports foreign investment was $17.7 billion last year, far off pre-recession levels of $25 billion and fed in good measure by a single transaction, the purchase of a one of the country’s largest beer companies by Heineken.

Security costs are rising to protect property and shipments, and safety remains the top concern expressed by potential investors, said Bob Cook, the president of the El Paso Regional Economic Development Commission, which helps recruit businesses to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico’s most violent city. “But we are still working with more companies now than we did three years ago,” he said. Business is business, and the proximity to the United States is hard to pass up. The rising cost of labor, transportation and the renminbi have made some companies reconsider Mexico instead of China, he contended. Despite several murders a day, trade between Juárez and Texas rose 47 percent last year to $71.1 billion, he said.

“Central location, great infrastructure, suppliers and labor pool,” he said. “Those things haven’t been tampered with by organized crime.”

See the full story here.


Paradise remains safe and welcome…

July 11, 2011

I believe the best way to overcome the the negative and sensationalist coverage of Mexico is to hear from Americans and Canadians who actually live in Mexico and hear how their lives have been affected. For an overall majority, their life has not been affected; they continue to live their lives and for them “paradise remains safe and welcoming”. Here’s a piece from a US newspaper, the Bemidji Pioneer.

As a U.S. citizen and former Bemidji resident, now living in beautiful Punta de Mita, Mexico, near Puerto Vallarta, I am saddened by all of the negative media stories about Mexico.
These stories are, in many cases, very misleading. My little piece of paradise remains safe and welcoming, contrary to some media reports. My local friends and neighbors are suffering financially, as these stories continue to be in the news. For those of you who have traveled to Mexico, you know what a lovely and hospitable place most of Mexico is. Yes, there are problems in some areas, just as in many parts of the states. But, we shouldn’t be writing off the entire country. It is a very large and diverse country with wonderful history, beautiful scenery, wonderfully affordable cuisine with fresh seafood and local fruits and vegetables, and hospitable people who love and cherish their families and neighbors. We have felt very welcomed here. I could share many positive stories with you about our life in retirement here in Mexico. I have felt safer here in our little village than I sometimes felt in little Bemidji. Our crime rate here is very low. Please do not buy into the idea that all of Mexico is dangerous. Come on down. Talk to your friends who have been here and they can tell you that this is a delightful place. You will receive a warm welcome.
Shari Seeling Cronk

Americans still flocking to Mexico…

July 3, 2011

according to an ABC news report, quoted by Michael Zenn of BoomerAbroad. Unfortunately no links were included for the report, or for the one by the LA Times, but it all sounds good!

Recent reports strongly indicate that the highly televised Mexican drug war has not stopped most Americans from traveling or moving South of the Border.  In fact, according to an ABC News report, of the 5.25 million Americans living in other countries, the vast majority (over 1 million) live in Mexico, and many more may be on their way.  A number of Mexican communities now virtually look like U.S. suburbs and in some cases American and Canadian property owners outnumber locals.
No Fear Here
In areas far from US border towns, such as Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Mexico’s drug war is a distant and far away place.  In fact, when surveyed, most Americans living here feel that they are much safer than in cities like L.A., New York, Chicago, Atlanta or Miami.  Indeed, recent statistics prove them to be right.
According to a report last year by the LA Times, tourist areas in Mexico are 12 times safer than Tampa or Honolulu, 17 times safer than Dallas or West Palm Beach, 26 times safer than Orlando or Houston and a whopping 39 times safer than the U.S. capital, Washington D.C., and Americans and Canadians are coming in droves.
Why Here, Why Now?
Americans and Canadians are sneaking South of the Boarder for all the usual suspects: tropical weather, pristine property, tree-lined beaches, white-sand, warm turquoise water, crystalline coastlines, the beckoning beach lifestyle, and a litany of other adjectives.  But perhaps this time they are descending on magical Mexico for a compelling new impetus altogether.
When the global recession hit, many retirees and investors were driven south where life is cheap and the living is easy.  A dollar down here buys roughly 30% more, taxes are negotiable, and the economy is rebounding at a rapid pace.  Personal debt and the credit crisis are virtually non-existent since Mexicans do not generally use credit to buy things.
Surging Economy
That could explain why the Mexican economy is surging (not sputtering) out of the global recession, recording a 4.3% growth rate in the first quarter of 2010 alone (much faster than the U.S.)  And if you had invested $10,000 here in 2000 you would have witnessed a 232% gain in your bank account.
Perhaps the biggest bonus for retirees and investors in Mexico has been their opportunistic purchases of homes, condos and real estate property.  In key areas, real estate development in Mexico is far outpacing growth in other countries. For example, Playa del Carmen was named the fastest growing area in the world just a few years ago and Tulum, just to the south, is poised to grow even faster in the next 5 years.
Healthcare Heaven
The other goldmine that Americans and Canadians are getting in Mexico is the veritable healthcare jackpot they enjoy that includes full medical, dental and vision coverage for about $600 a year. This government run healthcare plan (IMSS) was created for Mexican employees but is also open to legal foreigners. Imagine a healthcare-fantasy world where there are no deductibles, no co-pays, no limits, no prescriptions to pay for and even pre-existing conditions are covered after 1-2 years.  No small reason to make your way to Mexico.
There are now over 18,000 major American companies currently investing and operating in Mexico and it is estimated that over 1 million Americans are buying, building and or retiring here.  In truth, no one knows exactly how many American or Canadian retirees, entrepreneurs, and families are now traveling or making plans to relocate to Mexico. One thing’s for sure, it’s not a few, it’s not slowing down, and there seems to be no end in sight.  And for those who might doubt it, just ask the Mexican locals and they will quickly remind you “they’re moving in all around us!”.
by Michael Zenn, Boomers Abroad

Vallarta Security Study

July 2, 2011

For the past couple of weeks the conclusion of a security report about Puerto Vallarta has been floating around, and I’ve neglected to post it because I couldn’t find out who had asked for the study or to substantiate whether it was real or not. Well it seems it is, the PV Tourism Board asked Thomas Dale & Associates to do the assessment. TDA has clients such as Walt Disney, CNN, Qualcomm, Linkedin and many others.

Its a 14-page report that concludes with the following:

Agent Moya was contracted by Thomas Dale & Associates to conduct a Security/Threat assessment for the Tourist Bureau of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Moya went to Puerto Vallarta (PV) on April 6th through the 13th and gathered necessary information to present a comprehensive report in relation to all aspects of tourist security.

Scope: The geographic area of study is the resort city of Puerto Vallarta (PV) in the State of Jalisco, Mexico. Although the PV ex-pat population and tourist areas extend into the neighboring northern state of Nayarit known as Nuevo Vallarta, this study will concentrate on old PV. The PV airport in Jalisco is the same destination for all tourists/ex-pats and accumulated area data is relevant to the study.

Methodology: Since tourism is the cornerstone of the PV economy, all aspects of PV society were important to the study. Moya began with interviews of domestic as well as international tourists, American and Canadian Consuls, retired ex-pats, time share members, seasonal boaters, business owners, hospital administrators, gay community business representatives, ex- pat Health insurance professionals, cabbies, conventioneers, and honeymooners.

The interviews focused on three areas; “do you feel safe in PV? If not why; Have you been a victim or know someone who was a victim of a crime? If so, were you satisfied with the outcome? Are you aware of the US government cautions regarding travel to Mexico? If so, what helped you decide on Puerto Vallarta?” The interviews were followed up by requests to local law enforcement sources for crime data and Department deployment. The Civil Protection Dept. (FIMA) was also consulted regarding natural disasters and is discussed later.

In addition to personal interviews, police statistics, and official tourist government sources, As illustrated, Puerto Vallarta has a large ex-pat resident population and multi-million visitors every year. The number of negative events involving foreigners or non-foreigners is fractional compared to other resort cities in Mexico or the United States. Its support services are above average and focused on serving the visiting public. According to the Federal Police, the limited land transit makes the smuggling of guns and drugs through Puerto Vallarta very difficult. It lies between the influence of the La Familia cartel in Michoacan to the south and the Sinaloa cartel in the North. Situational awareness should be practiced whenever you are out of your customary environment.

Recommendations: With the emergence of social websites as a popular communication medium, periodically monitor them for negative or unfounded criticism and offer rebuttals when appropriate. Prior to travel consult your travel agent for travel/medical insurance. Also check your primary carrier for out of country programs.

That’s about it. I was expecting something a little more comprehensive. Really didn’t give us much that we already didn’t know. Perhaps they should have asked STRATFOR to do the report. But at least we know how the report originated.