Meetings and Events In Mexico – What You Need to Know

The problem with Americans is that we are stupid … Really.

In the world, we are laughed at because of our ignorance, it is both funny (in a sick way) and frustrating for those of us that try and be good world travelers, and although I was just talking some big shit, I, too sometimes fall victim to my inner American but at least I give it a go and eat local foods and try and speak the language without butchering it. I will go off the beaten path to see how the locals live, work, and play.

One of the things that has been truly frustrating over the past couple of years is the American Media and their treatment of Mexico. If you were to believe everything that they are saying about Mexico, you would think that it is a lawless land with gunslingers, hangings in the square, 12-year-old kids carrying AK-47s to school, and diseased people staggering through the streets spreading swine flu on purpose.

This is not the truth; Mexico is safe.

Because of the bad press, meetings, events, and incentive programs are not going to Mexico, which is hurting their local economies, impacting people in their daily lives, and actually could make the situation worse and yes, I am not an idiot; there is a “situation”.

The situation is that there is a drug trafficking and gang problem; this is a fact. Another fact is that, compared to the size and population of Mexico, the problem is not as significant as the American Media would like you to believe.

Let me repeat: there are not criminal gangsters with rocket launchers on every corner waiting to give you a pound of pot, a kilo of coke, and a good dose of H1N1 Swine Flu to boot.

Here is what Lonely Planet has to say:

Travel Alert: The level of drug-related violence throughout Mexico is a major problem, with the states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango and northern Baja California the worst affected. Tourists are not specifically targeted, but any travellers visiting these areas, and in particular the cities of Ciudad Juárez, Nogales and Tijuana should exercise extreme caution. Check Safe Travel for current government warnings.

The reality is, Mexico, for the most part, is safer than your little suburban hell of a neighborhood where Mr and Mrs Professional down the street has a twelve-year-old chugging booze in the basement, a 16-year-old huffing in the garage, and a 17-year-old contemplating running away with her 27-year-old boyfriend, while the kid next door is planning to blow up his school.

I have just returned from 10 days in Mexico with a group of meeting, event, and incentive planners, spending most at the Site Chicago Annual Retreat and Education Event but also driving through ultra-rural terrain from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta and what did I see?

What I witnessed in Mexico will amaze and shock you!

I saw great people smiling and having fun, who want the Americans to come back and ask what they (the average person) did wrong and what they can do better to make us feel safe. In Guadalajara, I saw police officers giving directions and helping motorists with flat tires, and I saw kids in the street playing soccer, not running for cover.

In the countryside, I witnessed shocking acts of laughter, great food, and mucho cerveza with random tequila thrown in to make it even more appalling. One of the most shocking things was walking down the main street in a small town and……. Shopping… can you imagine!

Mexico is a great place for meetings, events, and incentive planners to bring a program. It is wonderful and inexpensive, and your attendees will have an experience.

What we have to combat is our own insatiable appetite for destruction, that part of our brain that watches the news to see the carnage that is confined mostly to the border towns and other spots that are normally not frequented by tourists. Yes, Molly, sometimes bad things happen in tourist areas, but sometimes people get shot in downtown Chicago, Midtown Manhattan, and even in Portland, Oregon.

Here is a look at the violence map; the states in red are where the majority of violence takes place. As you can see, these are states that you can avoid and will probably not host a meeting, event, or incentive program anyway.

Mexico Violence Map for Meeting and Event Planners
Source: Wikipedia

Have a meeting, event or incentive in Mexico, your attendees will be fine and I want to show you a little of what I experienced.

Over the next few days I hope to challenge your mind and paint a very different picture of a country where Americans and our dollars are still loved and desperately wanted. You hear me… there is still a place where Americans are loved people, we should be flocking there like geese to a baseball field.

In addition to a few posts about the places that we visited, I am in the process of uploading almost 1500 images to the PlannerWire Flickr Account.

Mexico has heart and soul, with children that laugh, business people that still wear suits and where family still matters (not the made up Sarah Palin type family values, real values).

Not hosting a meeting or incentive event in Cancun, Mexico because of violence along the US border is like saying that you are not having a program in Dallas because someone got shot in Chicago. It is stupid and shows our ignorance.

I hope to show you that we as Americans have a lot to learn and sometimes, in order to do this, we should turn off the TV and follow our hearts.

Viva Mexico!

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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