Safe and sound at Camp Cancn

Tour operators' concern for safety can go too far, writes Candida Lloyd
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The Independent Travel
As a cheap method of getting to Mexico last December, I decided to take up an Airtours offer of a package holiday to Cancn for pounds 450. As part of the bargain I was entitled to an introductory talk by the tour company's enthusiastic reps. Along with a group of more than 100 British tourists, I listened to lengthy descriptions of the resort's attractions and organised trips. I'm sure the performance was typical of hundreds of package holiday introductory talks.

After my two weeks in Cancn I was left with the distinct feeling that the travel company's main aim was to keep all its charges wrapped up in cotton wool. Meanwhile, the wary spent their excess cash on Airtours' own trips, and at the company-recommended clubs and bars. The reps have a difficult job - they want to ensure everyone has a good time. They may also feel that if tourists choose to stay in a mega US-style resort like Cancn they are not looking for adventure.

But I don't think that was the whole picture. Why suggest, for example, that you were taking a risk using the local bus system or the "bone-shaker" as they called it. Costing a few pence to go anywhere and running every couple of minutes 24 hours a day, it was far superior to anything London has to offer. Similarly, the coach system for trips further afield was condemned with a story about how some holidaymakers were left stranded in the middle of nowhere by an ignorant driver who had gone off for his dinner.

In reality, the coach system is superb. The luxury coaches - air conditioning, videos, toilets, and even some with free drinks - cost about a pound for every hour of travel. They went regularly to every possible part of the country. There were no hold-ups, break-downs or difficulties in getting information and seats.

Local restaurants and visits to the less touristy parts of Cancn were also discouraged. Instead, recommendations were made for organised tours of poor people in poor housing, while pub crawls mainly targeted American- style bars. The general impression given was to be wary of all things local and stick with what you know. I'm sure that for many people this was what they came for, but more timid folk would surely have been frightened into accepting the Airtours outlook of the world.

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