LIFESTYLE

Violence not keeping away Americans: Mexico sees 25% spike in U.S. travelers

A couple of tourists walk on the beach at sunset in Playa del Carmen, south of Cancún, Mexico. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

A couple of tourists walk on the beach at sunset in Playa del Carmen, south of Cancún, Mexico. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

Despite warning from the State Department of threats of kidnappings and violence, drug cartel bosses on the loose and regions with some of the worst rates of violent crime in the Hemisphere, U.S. travelers are still flocking to Mexico in droves.

According to information compiled by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S.'s southern neighbor was the top international destination for American travels last year, with Mexico seeing a record 25.9 million visitors from the U.S. in 2014 – a 24 percent rise from the previous year.

"U.S. tourism to Mexico has increased in large part due to Mexico's concentrated effort to improve its accessibility," Frank Cordova, tourism secretary for the Mexican state of Sinaloa, told the Los Angeles Times.

Cordova added: "Travelers have felt welcomed through the country's rapidly exploding number of direct flights, and the hotels, conference centers and tourism destinations springing up throughout the country."

The sharp increase in U.S. visitors to Mexico coincided with an overall 11 percent rise in international travel by U.S. residents last year. Overall 68.2 million Americans traveled abroad in 2014, with 30.8 million venturing overseas, the Commerce Department reported.

The numbers indicate the first marked rise in travel to Mexico since 2004, as for the last decade the number of U.S. travelers to the country have remained relatively stagnant despite repeated warning by the state Department and the ongoing drug war that continues to plague certain parts of the country.

Since 2007, when former Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared an all-out offensive on the country's drug cartels, Mexico has seen over 100,000 people killed in the ensuing violence and had large swaths of its territory turned into battlegrounds.

Mexico has attempted to push news of shootouts, kidnappings and carjackings aside and instead focus on the safety of certain locales in the country for international travelers.

While it is unclear if the increase can be partly attributed to the country's marketing tactics, it does appear that a recovering economy in the U.S. and the ability to fly cheaply to Mexico has driven up travel there from the U.S.

Commerce Department date found that the average airfare cost for international travel from the U.S. dropped two percent to $1,347 in 2014 from the year before and the average spending budget while overseas was down five percent to $1,484 from the previous year.

After Mexico, Canada was the second most popular international travel destination for U.S. residents with 11.5 million visitors from the country visiting there – about the same as the previous year.

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