Don’t drink the water. Or the alcohol, either.
For dozens of American tourists their quest for a sun-filled vacation at some of Mexico’s exclusive resorts in Cancun, Cozumel, Playa Del Carmen and Riviera Maya, their dream get-away has instead turned into a nightmare of blackouts, hospital visits and in the case of one Wisconsin woman—death.
In a series of watchdog reports, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel told how tainted alcohol is suspect in many of the incidents.
In one recent report, the newspaper said, “The blackouts have happened to men and women, young and old, to singles and couples, according to interviews with travelers and family members whose loved ones died or were injured at the resorts, as well as hospital records, ambulance receipts, hotel correspondence and other documents.”
The news reports chronicled how Abbey Connor, a 20-year-old from Pewaukee, Wis., died in January after being pulled listless from a pool at the Paraiso del Mar, one of several Iberostar resorts near Playa del Carmen where she had just started a vacation with her parents and brother. She was brain dead and taken off life support a few days later after being flown to a hospital in Florida.
Her brother—who was also found face down in the resort pool—suffered a concussion, a broken collar bone and alcohol poisoning, but survived. According to reports they had been drinking at the resort for two hours and had blood-alcohol levels of 0.25 and 0.26.
The incident came four days before another American woman and her boyfriend blacked out after having a couple of mixed drinks and then two tequila shots at the same pool bar in the same resort.
After the initial report, the newspaper heard from other travelers who recounted 32 similar incidents of blackouts at Mexican resorts after drinking small or moderate amounts of alcohol—sometimes as few as two drinks.
“While many woke up hours later and found no obvious crime had been committed, others described gaining consciousness to learn they had been sexually assaulted, robbed, kicked out of their hotels or swindled by local hospitals and ambulance companies,” the news reports said,
A few dozen incidents may not seem like many when you consider the resort region got 10 million foreign tourists last year—and is the top travel destination for Americans.
But it undercuts the notion that “as long as you stay inside the resort you are safe.” The fact is that Mexico has a major problem with adulterated alcohol. As much as 36 percent of the alcohol is consumed or produced illegally and is potentially dangerous. One reason is that Mexico has a 53 percent excise tax on alcohol, which makes bootleg tequila very profitable.
And if you are the unlucky traveler who happens to get a blackout dose like some of the travelers, you might end up paying huge medical fees from area hospitals that demand payment in advance, along with lackluster or indifferent investigations from Mexican police and the resorts themselves.
All-inclusive resorts, in Mexico or anywhere, should not have blackouts on their “inclusive” list.
The U.S. State Department issued a tepid alcohol cautionary advisory in the wake of the newspaper reports and Apple Vacations, which books trips for a half-million Mexico vacations each year, has said it will increase its efforts with resorts to comply with alcohol procurement regulations. That’s not very reassuring.
If Mexico can’t get a grip on its bootlegging problems, it deserves to lose its $20 billion tourism industry.
Build a wall—an economic one if necessary—by warning off unsuspecting U.S. tourists. That’s the dire challenge to the U.S. State Department, travel agents and companies and cruise lines here in the U.S. that service Mexican resorts.
A visit to the hospital—or the morgue—is on no one’s excursion list.