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01/02/2014

Never mind the headlines: Americans still love Mexico

QTO
Mexico's many attractions – ancient temples, sprawling beaches, and gorgeous colonial cities, such as Querétaro, pictured above – continue to win out over other, less appealing aspects of the country's international image. (Oakland Ross/Toronto Star photo.)

Bravo, Mexico.

Rarely has a country suffered so much bad press – drug cartels, illegal migrants, and much gut-wrenching violence – while somehow managing to hang onto its reputation as a fine destination for tourists.

Despite a recent tide of often distressing news, Mexico is holding onto its position as the leading foreign destination for U.S. travelers. In fact, the competition isn’t even close.

Granted, the latest numbers are a year old, but they probably provide a fair indication of current trends.

According to just released statistics from the National Travel and Tourism Office of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Americans made 20.3 million trips to Mexico during calendar year 2012, far more than to any other country and practically double the 11.9 million visits by Americans to the Number Two destination.

For the record, that would be Canada.

The results were not entirely positive for Mexico. Although still in first place, the country suffered a 1 per cent decrease in visits by Americans that year, even as foreign visits by U.S. travelers, across the board, saw an increase of 5 per cent compared to 2011.

Britain is the third most popular destination for U.S. travelers (2.5 million visits in 2012), followed by the Dominican Republic (2.3 million) and France (2 million).

As for Canadian travelers, they are proving to be just as resistant to bad news as are their American counterparts, at least when it comes to Mexico.

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians paid almost 1.6 million visits to Mexico in 2012, up from 1.5 million a year earlier, putting the country in second place (true: a distant second place) behind the United States among Canadians’ favourite foreign destinations. Cuba was third, followed by the U.K.

Oakland Ross is a foreign affairs reporter for the Toronto Star.

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