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During 2014, Baja California tourism struggled to recover from multiple setbacks but was buoyed by visitors of Mexican-American descent, according to a year-end report by the state secretary of tourism.

Óscar Escobedo Carignan

During 2014, 52 percent of Baja tourists described themselves as “of Mexican-American origin,” compared to just 37 percent who described themselves as natives of the U.S., tourism secretary Óscar Escobedo Carignan said in a radio interview republished in several Baja newspapers on New Year's Eve.

Tourists of Mexican-American descent were apparently less likely than their U.S.-born counterparts to be discouraged from visiting Baja because of periodic warnings from the U.S. State Department that travel in the region could be dangerous.

Escobedo also noted that Baja tourism has failed to recoup major losses of European and Asian visitors and said his office continued looking for ways to draw them back.

Among the most significant obstacles to tourism during the past year, Escobedo cited the December 28, 2013, collapse of a section of the scenic highway between Tijuana and Ensenada (which remained closed for 353 days before re-opening) and an increase of 5 percent in the federal sales tax, from 11 percent to 16 percent.

Nonetheless, said the tourism secretary, the closure of the scenic highway came with some positives: tourism in San Felipe and Rosarito increased to levels not seen for six years.

Another bright spot, he said, were the 700,000 passengers aboard cruise ships that stopped in Ensenada, though only 60 percent of them left their ship to pass time in the city's tourist district.

Altogether, said Escobedo, cruise-ship visits to Ensenada added $23.6 million to the local economy.

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Visduh Jan. 5, 2015 @ 8:24 p.m.

This state secretary of tourism has a lame view of the tourism potential of Baja. We've been seeing all the reviews of the "gourmet" eateries in TJ and the joys of the wine country of Baja. This dufus mentions neither of them. I'd wonder if he's even read all the press-agentry output of the local industries.

Those M-A tourists who come are not in the sort of danger that others have to accept. Most of them can speak the local lingo as if they are natives, look about the same, and can avoid the scrutiny that others receive. The real problem is that our State Department has finally concluded that its long-running failure to tell the truth about northern Baja and its dangers is no longer OK. Much of what tourists encounter there is nothing new: the shakedowns by crooked cops (or those who dress up and pretend to be cops), the strongarm robberies of vulnerable and naive young college-age types, and the other rip-offs have been around since the late 1940's. Oh, they have periodic clean-ups there from time to time, administration to administration, but nothing really changes.

No, the Gringos have finally gotten the word, and they aren't coming if they pay attention. Baja and Mexico had a golden opportunity to turn the border zone into a tourist magnet and blew it. The fact that a few years ago, Mexico was teetering on the edge of being a failed state didn't help. Rather than a place you had to fear, it could have provided a clean and exotic experience, with low prices. But tawdry won out, and then when the drug cartels and kidnappers took charge, all was lost.

A few fools will keep going there, along with Reader restaurant reviewers, but for the most part smart tourists eschew the experience.


AlexClarke Jan. 6, 2015 @ 6:06 a.m.

I stopped going there years ago. If you want to visit Mexico and experience the corruption and gangs and poverty all you have to do is go to San Ysidro.


monaghan Jan. 5, 2015 @ 8:52 p.m.

Give Baja Norte a break. It is still an amazing rare place. I know young people -- not punks, people with jobs who love the beauty and solitude of Baja -- who just returned from a magical post-Christmas-week vacation. They drove in a caravan of friends with dogs, camped far south on an isolated beach covered with shells and bleached bones of pelicans and other sea birds, fished and ate their catch, surfed, swam and paddle boarded, hiked in the greening desert, hung out around an evening bonfire. It was a long drive but worth every minute, including the off-road parts. No hassles, no other people of any demographic -- "pristine" was the word. I envy them their experience. The Border wait was an hour forty-five.


Visduh Jan. 6, 2015 @ 7:28 a.m.

I don't doubt they had a wonderful time. I know a few folks who head to Baja annually and love it. But the gauntlet of "civilization" you have to run to get to pristine spots is the problem. Oh, and if you need a cop or some other sort of emergency responder, good luck. Heaven forbid you have an accident or need emergency medical care.


Fulano de Tal Jan. 6, 2015 @ 2:03 p.m.

At the very same your friends returned from Baja, a young American woman surfer named Josie McKee was also camping on the beach in Baja. She had her truck stolen while she was sleeping in it and ended up with a broken collar bone.



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