(Mexico photo courtesy of lightmagic)
One of the unfortunate side-effects of today's highly viral and media-drenched world is that we change our travel plans, according to the latest headline.
While I always recommend taking the necessary precautions before travelling to any country, I also believe that we need to keep things in perspective. The recent swine flu outbreak is no exception.
The World Health Organization suggests that now 72 people have likely died of the swine flu worldwide, since the outbreak a month ago. These deaths are of course very unfortunate, but to put that number in perspective, it's roughly as many lives as malaria will claim worldwide in the next 5 minutes. Malaria is something travellers need to concern themselves at all times, a much greater risk than the swine flu.
The biggest loser when such headlines get blown out of proportion, can be the many people who employ themselves in tourism. In Mexico's case, tourism is one of the country's largest industries, being the 8th most visited country on earth, with over 20 million visitors a year. It's quite unfortunate when something unpredictable impacts the way of earning a living for so many.
I happened to be in Asia when the 2004 Tsunami took place, and I remember the lack of travellers that existed for months afterwards. Hotels and restaurants were empty everywhere, I remember seeing hundreds of out-of-service taxis parked one day, because the tourists had stopped coming to the entire region, not just the limited areas that were affected by the tsunami. (Asia is of course massive as we all know)
It will surely take months for the tourists to come back to Mexico, as it took months for them to return to Asia after the Tsunami.
Most countries are now lifting their travel warnings regarding Mexico, while still advising people to take precautionary measures. But we should always take precautionary measures when we travel, regardless of where we are going, or what the latest headlines are saying.