Mexico Could Lose Tourist Hotspot Status As Violence Spreads To Resort Towns

The stage at MTV's Spring Break 2001 in Cancun, Mexico, which airs March 23-25.  3/14/01 Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect.*** Exclusive ***

The stage at MTV's Spring Break 2001 in Cancun, Mexico, which airs March 23-25. 3/14/01 Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect.*** Exclusive ***  (Getty Images North America)

The spread of Mexico’s drug war from border cities such as Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana to major metropolitan areas like Monterrey and popular tourist resorts like Cancún and Acapulco has scared away many tourists from north of the border.

As a result, Mexico may now be in the precarious situation of losing its perennial spot on the list of the world's top 10 tourist destinations.

Mexico's Tourism Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu hasn't said why the drop has occurred, but there were declines in 2012 in border tourism and popular areas that serve as cruise ship stopovers.

The country has shown an overall drop in the number of international tourists arriving.

The regional director for the World Tourism Organization said last week it may be less a story of Mexico losing tourists than about other countries such as Russia, Malaysia and Austria making big gains -- possibly those scared away from going to Mexico.

Despite the drop in visitors, tourism revenues to Mexico have been growing.

The spring break mecca of Cancún had avoided much of the violence that has hit other resort towns like Acapulco. But a recent string of violent attacks shed light on the violent encroachment of drug violence in the Gulf town.

Authorities in the Mexican resort city said they are investigating a possible link between a taxi drivers union and organized crime after an attack inside a bar killed seven people, most of them members of the union.

Quintana Roo state Attorney General Gaspar García says the gunmen who burst into "The Little Mermaid" bar specifically targeted union members meeting there last week. He said the union's deputy secretary was among those killed.

García said Friday that investigators have yet to determine who was behind the attack.

While Quintana Roo has not seen the levels of violence plaguing Mexico's northern border states, it is a major drug trafficking zone.

Several Cancún taxi drivers have been arrested recently for selling drugs or participating in drug-related killings.

The escalation of violence in spring break centers has also caused the U.S. State Department to issue a series of warning to travelers in Mexico, including one specifically aimed at college students.

“While the vast majority enjoys their vacation without incident, several may die, hundreds will be arrested, and still more will make mistakes that could affect them for the rest of their lives,” the State Department warned. “We encourage all U.S. citizens to phone home periodically to assure family members of your safety and inform them of your whereabouts.”

Besides violence related to the drug war, Spring Break in Mexico can be dangerous for more traditional reasons.

A  University of Southern California senior fell to his death last week while on spring break in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Samuel Levine, a psychology major and a member of Sigma Chi fraternity, purportedly fell from a sixth-floor balcony at a hotel. Mexican police said he died of severe head trauma.

“Our deepest sympathies are with Sam’s parents and family members, with his close friends in the Sigma Chi fraternity and around campus, and with each of you in the psychology department,” Steven A. Kay, the dean of USC’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, said in a statement released Wednesday, according to the New York Daily News. “Sam touched so many of us here at USC with his talents and ambition, and we all grieve for his incredibly promising life that was tragically cut short.”

A toxicology report has not yet been released  in order to determine whether Levine had any drugs or alcohol in his system.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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