Published On: Wed, Aug 23rd, 2017

Comment: Tainted alcohol casts shadow on Quintana Roo travel industry

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Arnie Weissmann, editor in chief of award-winning news source Travel Weekly, and editorial director of Northstar Media’s Travel Group, explains the terrible problem with tainted alcohol in the state of Quintana Roo.

First, Mexico. The report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week recounting incidents in which American visitors believe they may have been drugged, incapacitated and possibly abused is deeply disturbing.

An earlier Journal Sentinel report on allegations of tainted alcohol left some room for skepticism, because anyone who has been to Mexican beach resorts has likely witnessed tourists who drink too much, sit too long in the sun and get sick.

But the credibility of the accusers was bolstered after Mexican authorities seized 10,000 gallons of illegal alcohol, finding problems in several well-known tourist and resort bars in Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

In the most recent report, visitors recount nightmarish incidents that resulted after possibly being drugged.

One could point out that the sum of the incidents (the paper heard from about 60 travelers) represents the experience of dozens out of the millions of visitors who recently made Mexico the eighth most popular travel destination in the world.


But the common threads to these stories — indifference to the victim’s plight from resort personnel and police, reports of an avaricious medical system eager to exploit foreign patients and the seeming impossibility of justice — could have a chilling effect even on repeat visitors who love the country.

Those visitors might be willing to accept that there’s only a small risk of becoming a victim, but they would want to believe that, should a problem arise, they could get help.

Change is clearly needed, and there is a precedent for what to do when a destination or travel product has been damaged by unsettling incidents.

The cruise industry, which has impressive statistics regarding customer satisfaction, found itself rocked by just one narrative after honeymooner George Smith went missing from a cruise in 2005. The story attracted sensational media attention and put cruise lines’ handling of crime in the spotlight for years.

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