Acapulco rape of 6 overshadows Mexican tourism

City was troubled already; now nation is under scrutiny
2013-02-07T00:00:00Z Acapulco rape of 6 overshadows Mexican tourismThe Associated Press The Associated Press
February 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

ACAPULCO, Mexico - The tourism world turned its eyes on Mexico after six Spanish women were raped by masked gunmen during a vacation in this long-troubled Pacific resort.

While there has been talk of reviving the golden era of the '40s and '50s, international tourists have long steered away from Acapulco, even before the drug violence of recent years, as the city fell into disrepair and glitzier Cancun and Los Cabos gained favor.

The question now is whether the attack will affect other resorts as Mexico prepares for its annual spring break onslaught and peak season.

The hours-long assault was carried out by a gang of gunmen who burst into the beachfront home before dawn on Monday and tied up the six men inside, then raped the women. A seventh Mexican woman was unharmed.

"We are really sorry about what happened with the Spanish tourists because ... it is something that affects Mexico's image," said Juan Carlos Gonzalez, tourism secretary of Quintana Roo, the Caribbean coast state where Cancun is located and which hosted about 17 million tourists last year.

But he added, "We are definitely not as contaminated with the crime issue as other states in Mexico."

Acapulco barely registers on U.S. tourists' radar anymore, said Kathy Gerhardt, a spokeswoman for Travel Leaders, a network of independently owned and operated travel agencies in the U.S.

"Those individuals trying to lump Acapulco into the list of top Mexico destinations for U.S. travelers are simply misinformed," she said.

In a recent survey of more than 1,000 travel agency owners, managers and agents, "not a single individual chose Acapulco as a top international destination they are booking for their clients," Gerhardt said.

"We do not see any spillover effect," she added, for areas like Cancun, which Travel Leaders lists as the No. 2 foreign destination for U.S. travelers, after Caribbean island cruises.

From a 2009 shootout that killed 18 near Acapulco's fabled Flamingo Hotel to this week's attack, the resort once celebrated in Frank Sinatra songs and Elvis Presley movies has been the scene of body dumpings, beheadings and taxi-driver killings as gangs vie for drug-transport routes once controlled by the now-decimated Beltran Leyva cartel.

Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises - some of the last lines making port calls in Acapulco - canceled those in December, before the latest attack.

An estimated 50,000 Spaniards travel to Mexico each year, but mostly to the Caribbean coast, not Acapulco. But Mexicans and Spaniards living in Mexico, like the victims, flock to Acapulco during Easter week and other long holiday weekends.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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