Tuesday, May 25, 2010

HWY 8 Travel Warning to Penasco Has No Basis in Fact

The U.S. Consulate may issue travel warnings based on little to no information and even less investigation, but I don't and neither do those of us who live in Puerto Penasco or travel there frequently. So when something like this happens we go to work to find out the facts.

Here is what the members of The Rocky Point Tourism and Visitors Assistance Bureau (RPTVA) found out. At the top is a kind of press release about the issue, and beneath that is a video that addresses both the HWY 8 travel warning and the offensive ad that showed up in the Arizona Republic. Without further ado:

U.S. Consulate Warrant unsubstantiated, uncorroborated…and untrue!

PUERTO PENASCO, MX (May 25, 2010)-- While it is not unusual for the U.S. Consulate in Nogales, Sonora to release a travel advisory for parts of Mexico, the latest warrant, dated May 19, 2010, has left an entire community wondering where the Consulate gets its information.

Business leaders in Puerto Penasco, known commonly as Rocky Point, met on Monday to discuss the backlash of calls and emails received as a result of the warning that specifically mentioned dangers on Highway 8, the road to this popular beach resort town.

According to the director of Mexico's Federal Highway Patrol, no incidents like those discussed in the warning have occurred. The AFI, which is like the Federal Investigative Agency, has also denied any knowledge of problems along Highway 8. Local police chief Erick Landagaray expressed surprise that the Consulate would issue a warning without so much as a thread of truth to it, without first consulting with his office. The Attorneys General at the State as well as Federal level have also said there is no basis for the claims of violence on the road to Puerto Penasco.

Fausto Soto, Director of International Relations for the City of Puerto Penasco attended the meeting, where all agreed the highest priority should be in preparing travelers with the truth, regardless the economic effects on the city.

Nevertheless, according to the American business community, it seems that in this case the U.S. Consulate has violated their own policy not to rely solely on unsubstantiated rumors...and in this case, they got their facts very, very wrong, in the process harming an entire community, many of whom are Americans.

It would be naĂ¯ve to think that the timing of this warning was accidental, coming as it did right before one of the biggest weekends for this resort community. That negative reports hit the media harder right before Spring Break or other important holidays for travelers is nothing new. What is new, however, is the participation of the U.S. Consulate's complicity in unnecessarily scaring the traveling public and causing harm to many American-owned businesses south of the border.

The hope in Puerto Penasco is that those who know and love Rocky Point won't stay away or cancel their travels plans without first verifying the veracity of what they've heard, even if the rumors come with the stamp of the U.S. government.

And here is the video. I hope you will watch it, as it has a lot of information about both the travel warning and the unfortunate "threatening" ad that caused so much hysteria north of the border.

The lesson? Don't believe everything you hear, and only half of what you see.

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