Students have been running to California, Texas and Florida for spring break in greater numbers this year as drug violence empties Mexican beaches. Image: CC

Acapulco, a traditional hot spot for U.S. students on spring break, is dealing with empty beaches and quiet hotels this season. Tourist warnings about drug violence in Mexico from the federal government and several states have convinced many students to take the party elsewhere. Mexican drug violence has swelled spring break crowds in southern California, Texas and Florida.

Students advised to avoid Mexico

Acapulco and other spring break destinations in Mexico are feeling the effects of the negative press resulting from an epidemic of drug violence. On its website, the State Department has issued a warning saying that “drug-related violence has been increasing in Acapulco,” and “U.S. citizens should be vigilant in their personal safety.” Earlier this month the Texas Department of Public Safety advised students to “avoid traveling to Mexico during spring break and stay alive.” While the State Department also mentions that “this violence is not targeted at foreign residents or tourists,” the Texas public safety department stresses that “drug violence has not discriminated — innocent bystanders and people who may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time are among the casualties.”

Murder epidemic in Acapulco

Mexicans in Acapulco looking at beaches devoid of foreign tourists would agree with the State Department, insisting that the violence is simply drug cartels killing each other and their neighbors. Tourists should feel safe, they say. But according to the Acapulco morgue, in 2010 there were 1,010 murders in Acapulco, a stunning 843 murder increase from 2009. There have been more than 300 deaths already in 2011, putting Acapulco on pace to break last year’s record. Mexican news station El Universal reported that foreign tourism could drop as much as 88 percent in Acapulco this year. On the Caribbean side of Mexico, drug violence has also affected the spring break mecca of Cancun, where hotel occupancy is 71 percent this week, according to the Cancun Hotel Association. Spring break occupancy is normally more than 80 percent.

Students flock to U.S. spring break destinations

As drug violence scares college students away from Mexico, spring break destinations in southern California such as Lake Havasu have become even more crowded than usual. MTV, which staged its annual spring break extravaganza in Acapulco last year, is broadcasting its spring break experience from Las Vegas in 2011. Panama City, Fla., a city traditionally wary of spring break, has been reaching out to college students on Facebook in hopes that crowded beaches will dispel the negative image created by the 2010 Gulf oil spill. In South Padre Island, Texas, city officials said the spring break crowds that packed the beaches last week were the largest in recent memory.



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