Free fish tacos, no grumpy locals and all the tequila you can drink! Check out the article below, seems like the carjackings, police extortions and bad press has had a serious effect on tourism down there. While I'm not sure about the free comida and tequila (and anybody who surfs San Miguel knows the locals aren't leaving) I am starting to believe that it's gotten bad enough for the local government to take some steps in the right direction instead of just denying that anything bad is going on.
Are they there yet? In my opinion, no. Like I said before I'm not heading back until my sources confirm a heavy army presence in the area- everybody knows the local cops are on the take- I want to see those up armored Humvees cruising the toll road with the .50 cal locked and loaded.
Officials aim to create 'safe zone' for tourists
The federal government has stepped up patrols on the toll road between Tijuana and Ensenada, while the state has posted officers at the entrances and exits, said Oscar Escobedo Carignan, Baja California's tourism secretary. The federal Angeles Verdes tourist assistance police also has an increased presence in the area.
Municipal governments are banding together to create a “safe zone” for tourists from the San Ysidro border crossing to south of the port of Ensenada, along a coastal strip where assaults have occurred. They are revamping their tourist police to focus on areas such as downtown Rosarito Beach and Tijuana's Avenida Revolución.
Though not the only factors, extortions by police officers and attacks on tourists last year helped drive down the number of visitors to the state by nearly 2 million, said Escobedo, from 20.3 million in 2006 to 18.6 million in 2007. Though violence in Tijuana this week has not targeted tourists, promoters worry that the reports could further discourage visitors to the state. Escobedo and other government officials claim that a series of government measures has drastically reduced the numbers of incidents against tourists since Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán took office Nov. 1 and five new mayors were sworn in Dec. 1. The newly elected officials have vowed an unprecedented front with President Felipe Calderón's administration against organized crime and police corruption.
Tourism is a key industry for Baja California, creating close to 9 percent of jobs in the state and accounting for 11 percent of its revenues, Escobedo said. In Rosarito Beach, Mayor Hugo Torres said 70 percent of the 130,000 residents who work in the city depend either directly or indirectly on tourism.
Rosarito Beach has especially suffered from the drop in tourism revenue over the past year, Torres said.
“Thirty percent is the official figure that is used, but in many cases it's more than 50 percent,” Torres said from his second-floor office at Rosarito Beach City Hall. Occupancy of the Rosarito Beach Hotel, which Torres owns, has fallen between 30 percent and 40 percent, he said.
The city's 149-member police force became a subject of scrutiny last month after gunmen attacked its headquarters, reportedly intending to kill Jorge Eduardo Montero Álvarez, Rosarito Beach's director of public safety. His bodyguard was killed. The entire force was subsequently disarmed as the officers and their firearms undergo background checks. In the interim, state and federal police have been leading routine patrols in the city, and Torres claims that reports of tourist extortions have ceased.
Torres is creating a 30-member tourist police force to be based in the offices of the city's Conventions and Tourism Committee and responsible for patrolling areas frequented by visitors. In addition, he said he is equipping 120 volunteers with radios so they can report suspicious activity in the tourist areas, and give the volunteers a non-police contact to call.
Baja California's tourism secretariat has hired its own watchdog to oversee the road between the San Ysidro border and the entrance to the toll road in Playas de Tijuana.
“If somebody is stopped by a police officer, he (the watchdog) walks up to the police officer, and says, 'I am here to serve as an interpreter,' ” said Escobedo, the tourism secretary. (I would love to be there when this happens!)
While many visitors have been canceling their visits to the state, Tom Mitchell said he is continuing to lead tours down the Baja California peninsula.
“We never drive in the dark. It's just thinking safe,” said Mitchell, an East County resident. “If you're an American traveling down, we recommend that you caravan with somebody else.”
Carlsbad resident Kathy Berlin was in Rosarito Beach last week with her sister and a friend, spending three nights together at a house she and her husband have owned for 11 years.
When the friends drove to Ensenada, they made sure to stay close to another vehicle, the retired insurance agent said.
“I don't like what's going on,” she said of the current wave of violence. But I'm still here. I still love it.”
I'd like to go back- the place has huge potential. We'll see....