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Tijuana getaway cheap for the fearless

Marketplace Staff Feb 26, 2009


Steve Chiotakis: Mexico’s drug war claimed thousands of lives last year. The violence is particularly heavy in the towns just south of the border. But despite all that, steep discounts and a cheap peso are luring many Americans to one Mexican getaway. From Baja California, Phillip Martin has more.

Phillip Martin: On Tijuana’s busiest tourist strip, Avenida Revolucion, desperate merchants are out on the streets in full force.

Merchant: Come visit Tijuana, amigos. Come!

The ongoing violence here has left the streets basically deserted. Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton have been banned from traveling to Tijuana. The State Department has warned Americans to be careful when heading south.

But that didn’t stop Floridians Linda and Steve. They’re carrying armloads of souvenir T-shirts and sombreros.

Linda: We feel safe over here. I mean, what they told us is that it’s the bad killing the bad, so that’s good.

But not so good for Mexico’s vendors.

Enrique: Wanna take a picture? Take a picture.

One merchant named Enrique has a donkey painted in black and white zebra stripes. His deal is, if you buy two T-shirts, you get to take a photo free of charge. Enrique says they need all kinds of giveaways, because the narco-wars have put a damper on business.

Enrique: It’s a big problem in Tijuana, drugs. A lot of drugs and a lot of gangsters.

Steve Wood from Anacortes, Wash., thinks the steady drumbeat of grim news creates a great buying opportunity in Mexico. Wood recently purchased a couple of timeshares in Baja California, and he also found a great deal on a five-star hotel here in Cabo San Lucas, complete with a lake-sized pool.

Steven Wood: We got a deal in the mail: An opportunity to come down here for $299 for an entire week.

Martin: Do you find opportunity when other people are afraid to travel?

Wood: Yes I do. I think that’s how we generally got our timeshares.

These days, many hotels are only about 40 percent occupied.

Alberto Gutierrez is a resort sales rep in Cabo. He’s convinced the number of tourists will inch up as Americans put the violence in perspective:

Alberto Gutierrez: Americans know that the drug cartels are not going to go in and destroy the resorts. They know that tourism is the second source of income. And of course, there’s always great deals.

If you have no problem going where many others fear to tread.

In Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, I’m Phillip Martin for Marketplace.

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