PLEASE SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE
A few weeks ago, I wrote a column on “fake news” in the travel industry. The media had resurrected a story about a tragic death in Mexico of a young woman who was found dead in a resort swimming pool. The story came to light for a second time because a lawsuit was filed. There was rampant speculation about the cause and one of the causative actions was leaning towards the resort utilizing tainted liquor. Not so fast!
After the lawyers made the accusations, the Mexican government went to work.
In the latest sampling by the Federal Commission on Protection against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris), laboratory tests of the alcoholic beverages of the hotel Iberostar Paraiso del Mar were found to be normal, ruling out allegations that adulterated alcohol had been served.
Now I am sure that some may suggest that the Mexican government is corrupt. But let’s take a look at this. Iberostar is one of the largest hotel companies in the world specializing in 4 and 5 star properties in Spain, Mexico and the Caribbean. One question I have is why would a worldwide corporation risk their reputation over tainted booze? Could it happen? Absolutely. But I would be more apt to expect that in a smaller hotel – perhaps an independent hotel. Certainly, Iberostar (and any other national or international brand) knows the power of the Internet and social media and how reputations can be ruined and fortunes can be wiped out in minutes. Lest we forget Dave Carroll and United Breaks Guitars and one estimate of $180 million in a stock plunge.
Another question is why would Mexico not take this seriously? Mexico has the ninth largest economy in the world and tourism is (and has been) one of their top industries. Mexico is the eighth most visited country in the world with more than 30 million visitors annually, nearly 10 million from the United States. In fact, the US Department of State has issued only one warning and it is a generic warning for crime-riddled sections of Mexico. The alert specifically addresses the Cancun area in Quintana Roo:
Quintana Roo (includes Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Tulum): No advisory is in effect. However, U.S. citizens should exercise caution when traveling south of Felipe Carrillo Puerto or east of Jose Maria Morelos as cellular and internet services are virtually non-existent.
I think we can agree that the death of this 20-year old college student was a horrific and tragic event. We (and more importantly, our clients) need to remember that this can (and does) happen anywhere. Mexico is not any more unsafe in this regard as your local watering hole. Could a rogue bartender or another guest slipped something into the drink? Certainly that is not beyond the realm of plausibility with an under-age (in the US) and presumably inexperienced drinker letting loose in the sunshine of a Mexican resort. In the US, one study suggests that 1 out of every 13 college students has been drugged or suspect they have been drugged. This is not a Mexico problem.
As we do with all clients, we need to remind them to be alert and cautious. The chance of something bad happening begins the moment they lock their home’s front door behind them. Common sense should prevail at the local grocery; and that same common sense should prevail on vacation.
UPDATE: According to an article in Time this morning (8/15/2017), Mexican authorities have seized 10,000 gallons of tainted alcohol from an undisclosed manufacturer. The seizure included 31 resorts, bars, and nightclubs in the Cancun area. While the article states that the lobby bar of the Iberostar Paraiso del Mar was closed, Iberostar maintains it was closed for an unsanitary report and not tainted alcohol. There is no mention of any other bars on the property being closed. We will keep abreast of this and try to make sense of it.