I am sure you all have seen the headlines this week. “Family Searching For Answers After Daughter Dies at Resort During Vacation in Mexico.” It dominated my timeline and feed on social media. Ugh, here we go again. And, not unlike our current President, the media is proving to not be our friend. When I read the first article, I wanted to shout “fake news, fake news” but couldn’t. It is not fake at all. Tragically a woman died as a result of an incident at a resort in Mexico. The issue is that only part of the story is being told.
I do not want to minimize the tragedy. A young woman died. Her older brother was severely injured. Friends and family are still in shock and mourning. And rightfully, they are seeking answers as to how this happened.
As we look at what we know, the young lady and her brother were in Mexico celebrating the passing of final exams. They had just arrived at the Iberostar resort. And they stated they had been drinking before planning to meet their parents for dinner. And from this point on, the story gets confusing.
The authorities ruled it was an accidental drowning. The father does not understand how one can drown in waist deep water. In the US, there are an average of 335 drowning deaths in bathtubs with more than half of them not being infants. So drowning in a swimming pool under the influence of alcohol is not unreasonable. Tragic; yet not unreasonable. When you factor in that the blood alcohol content was determined to be nearly three times the legal limit in her own state, you can see how this happens.
There is speculation that the alcohol may have been tainted; but so far, any conclusive evidence.
But, is it fair of the media to condemn a resort or a destination based on what initially appears to be an unfortunate accident? Or at worst, some tainted alcohol that resulted in an unfortunate accident?
As travel professionals, it is part of our job to advise clients of the risks of traveling—many of them are the same as the risks involved with going to the grocery store. Mexico, in large (and particularly in the tourist areas) is a very safe destination. The cold, hard facts will tell you that in Mexico, there will be rapes. There will be murders. There will be abductions. There will be robberies. In general there will be crime. The cold, hard facts also tell you that these are happening in your town as well.
Most people would not walk alone in an unfamiliar area at night. Most people would not walk into an unfamiliar bar and accept a drink from a stranger. Most people would not drink in celebration to the point of achieving a high blood alcohol content and then go swimming.
When your clients head out on vacation, remind them that in addition to their swimsuits and party clothes, that they need to pack their common sense. If something seems amiss in your destination, it very well may be. Do something about it. Travel in pairs (at least). Do not become the most trusting person on the planet because you left your cares behind.
We hear these stories frequently, and more often than not, they are a result of some form of reckless behavior on the part of the victim. Does anyone remember Natalee Holloway? Every year we hear of teenagers falling from balconies in foreign hotels (the railing height regulations are different than in the US) after drinking too much. We hear of rapes because a woman met “a really nice guy” in some bar. I hate to be a “negative Nellie” but there is bad all around us and we need to make sure we are aware of our situations. And going on vacation is certainly not an excuse to let your guard down.
As to the media—I know you have a job to do. I know that the sensationalistic headlines earn clicks and sell papers. But, there is another side to this story. While one woman tragically lost her life, there are millions who have visited Mexico and had a wonderful trip. And that is the other half of this story!