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MEXICO - Baja California Beckons

Talk with people about past trips to Baja California and you'll hear tales of camping on the beach, gorgeous views and lobster dinners with buckets of beer for just a few bucks.

In recent years, tourism travel to Mexico has slowed in part because of a tough economy in the United States and in part because of heightened violence in several Mexican border cities.

On Monday, Juan Tintos Funcke, the Secretary of Tourism, State of Baja California, wanted to send a clear message to Californians: "We are close and we are safe."

Questions about security for tourists surfaced while Tintos Funcke discussed the upcoming AgroBaja. The agricultural, cattle and fishing expedition that is expected to draw tens of thousands of participants is scheduled for March 3-5, 2011 in Mexicali.

Business meetings are just one of the reasons thousands of people visit Baja California. Other events including Baja 1000, wine festivals bike rides and regattas bring California residents south.

In 2010, the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for parts of northern Mexico including Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Chihuahua City, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Piedras Negras, Reynosa, Matamoros and Monterrey.

"Tijuana and Baja have surpassed the situation that other states in the Eastern part of the northern border are going through right now," Tintos Funcke said. "The situation has become much better. I have to point out that no tourists have been involved in the past years when these types of incidents have taken place."

In December, citing a drop in business, Carnival Cruise Lines canceled its year-round ship to the Mexican Riveria.

Esenada is not included in the cruise ship route that's called the Mexican Riveria. In fact, Carnival has 144 trips scheduled to the port of Ensenada from Long Beach, said Tintos Funcke.

"Carnival did not cancel going to Ensenada because they consider Ensenada a very secure destination," he said. "We're doing our job as to putting more attractions and more services in many of the spots that the cruise ship passengers visit."

The cruise ship stops are important to the region because approximately 2/3 of those cruise line customers are from the Los Angeles area. Baja California wants those groups to return to the area by land.

Tintos Funcke also considers the upcoming groundbreaking ceremony for the new San Ysidro border crossing on the American side scheduled to take place in February to do more to connect the region.

"We're sure it will alleviate a lot of the negative impact that the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce has pointed out in the thousands of employments that are lost and the millions of dollars that are lost in revenue for both sides of the border including the Southern California region," said Tintos Funcke.

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