As questions about Mexico’s safety for tourists continue to circulate, Puerto Vallarta has hired a security assessment by the College Station Texas Police Department to determine the safety of the destination. The study was conducted in July 2014.
In a time when most tourism destinations hesitate to speak about security out of concern it may frighten visitors, Puerto Vallarta has continuously hired leading security assessment firms to review its security. Studies completed in 2011 and 2012 by Thomas Dale & Associates, and this year’s study conducted by Tourism & More present findings that showcase how Puerto Vallarta continues to provide a safe and friendly small town feeling for both its visitors and locals.
The study was conducted in July of 2014 by Dr. Peter E. Tarlow and teammates Sergeant Calder Lively and Officer Ryan Clements, both of the College Station Texas Police Department. The team of leading destination security firm Tourism & More set out to assess the current tourism security situation in Puerto Vallarta and answer one fundamental question: Is Puerto Vallarta a safe and secure city for tourists?
The assessment of Puerto Vallarta’s security was conducted using a combination of personal interaction, interviews and the team’s extensive experience. They conducted formal and informal interviews with members of the different police departments based in the destination including tourism police (policia de seguridad turística), municipal police (policia municipal), transit police (policía vial) and the Federal police (policía federal); members of the tourism industry; members of the hotel industry; local media, representatives from the cruise terminal and piers, the Puerto
Vallarta airport executives; destination management companies; local business owners, representative from the US Consulate in Guadalajara; Mexican and US visitors to the city, Mexican naval officials and time-share sales reps.
In general, the researchers found that Puerto Vallarta provide its visitors, locals and expat populations a safe setting where people feel comfortable walking around town without perceived fear. Puerto Vallarta is a place where storefronts show their merchandise without need for much security and where some still feel comfortable with leaving their doors unlocked.
The study, however notes that “if one is looking for trouble, it can be found, but if one stays away from locations such as these, then they should not impact a visitor’s experience.” It also noted that Puerto Vallarta tends to lack international signage and taxi prices, and its tourism police require training and basic knowledge of English. As a result of the assessment, Tourism and More provided the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board with different options to develop tourism trainings, promote its safety standards, as well as provide an analysis of the city’s emergency planning and crisis management plan as it relates to its tourism infrastructure and solutions for improving signage.
Dr. Peter E. Tarlow is a world-renowned speaker and expert specializing in the impact of crime and terrorism on the tourism industry, event and tourism risk management, and economic development. In 1999, the US Customs service asked Tarlow to work with its agents in the area of customer service, cultural awareness, and custom’s impact on the tourism and visitor industry. In 2000, due to interagency cooperation on the part of the Bureau of Reclamation, Tarlow helped to prepare security and FBI agents for the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Tarlow is currently working with police departments of the state of Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games and disclosing a security training in Curazao.
The following is an edited version Tourism & More’s Security assessment of Puerto Vallarta’s zones.
This area contains not only many of the city’s shopping offerings as well as the Malecón, a seaside
promenade that serves as an entertainment, shopping, and dinning district. The researchers visited
the site numerous times, at different hours during the day and night. During these visits they noted:
1. There were a large number of families along the Malecón. Visitors walked the length of the
Malecón without fear and were not hassled by street people.
2. There were large numbers of teenage groups. These groups kept to themselves. The
researchers did not note any interaction between these teenage groups and local drug dealers or
strip club promoters.
3. The researchers learned that eight tourism-policing officers were on duty on Sunday night.
Among these officers two were fluent in English, and two had basic English communication skill.
Zona Marina/Zona Hotelera
The zone consists of a tourism-oriented marina with numerous restaurants and shops, a large empty
shell of an uncompleted commercial center, a golf course and upscale residential homes. The
tourism police patrol the marina on a twenty-four hour basis. The research team interviewed five
of these officers and found that none of them spoke English.
On the positive side, the Marina is safe and secure. The researchers observed single women going
to work before sunrise without any concerns, people drove their cars with the windows opened and
store owners and security guards reported that the area is safe. They did note however that there
have been incidents of theft (jewelry, wrist watches), and that as in any large city, precaution is
The cruise terminal is not only spotless but within the terminal itself security appears to be excellent.
The terminal personnel are well trained and top of the line security cameras are used and are
constantly monitoring the area twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. To further enhance
security manpower the terminal stands in close proximity to a naval base. Not far from the cruise
terminal are major shopping centers; locals have reported to the research team that many cruise
passengers and crew personnel take advantage of these shopping centers while they are on shore.
This other major tourism zone is a combination of “hippy culture,” a major public beach, a pier,
numerous shops and restaurants, and a hippy and gay community. The zone tends to be more active
at night than the Malecón. In fact, the zone is filled with tourists both during the day and at night.
During the research team’s multiple visits, they found the following:
1. During the day, they interviewed one of the tourism police officers. She spoke English and
was highly knowledgeable about the area. She was able to give recommendations regarding places
to dine and visit.
2. The zone is home to Puerto Vallarta’s largest beach that is popular with both visitors and
locals. Although it was reported to the researchers that the beach has lifeguards, none were seen.
The researchers did see Mexican naval personnel who were guarding the beach in a full uniform. On
the positive side the crowds were well behaved, and the signage explaining the ocean conditions
was excellent and written in both English and Spanish.
3. The Zona Romantic offers a variety of late night experiences. Many of these locations are a
place to relax, meet people, and enjoy a party atmosphere.
Additional information on Puerto Vallarta is available at www.visitpuertovallarta.com
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