Swine flu fears ease, making travel to Mexico inviting
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Mexico's on my mind.
Our southern neighbor, the top foreign tourist destination for Americans, has been battered in recent months, first by overblown reports about drug-related violence and then by a health-care scare that turned out not to be so terrifying after all.
Last week, the number of Americans with H1N1, the swine flu virus - 3,000 and counting - surpassed the total cases in Mexico. Yet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to advise against nonessential travel to Mexico.
I suppose there's enough culpability to go around - from insatiable 24-hour news operations to a vice president who can't keep his foot out of his mouth to a local mayor whose edict banning sick citizens from city hall bred more humor than healthful living.
Essential or not, I could have my bags packed tonight if I had reservations tomorrow along Mexico's Riviera Maya.
Local travel agents report that the mass exodus of tourists from Mexico has subsided somewhat. A few intrepid travelers even have rescheduled recently canceled trips for later this summer.
It's a good time to go, at least economically. Apple Vacations, the Philadelphia-based tour operator that sends thousands to the country's beauti ful beaches every day, announced a week ago a sale of up to 70 percent off for sum mer and fall travel to Mexico. Fares on Ap ple- owned USA3000 are dirt cheap as well: $100 nonstop (one way) from Cleveland to Cancun in late May.
I don't mean to diminish the seriousness of the situation. It still may be that this disease will surprise us in ways the medical community can't predict. And until the risks are known, it's better to overreact than ignore.
But travel bans are notoriously unsuccessful at stopping disease. And in any case, the Mexican tourist areas far from the nation's capital largely were unaffected by the flu. Houston and San Antonio are closer to Mexico City...