taxis

The Mexico Taxi Project collects traveler tales through hidden cameras in cabs. Photo by S J Pinkney.

Would you be convinced that it’s okay to travel to a potentially dangerous destination just because a bunch of perfect strangers – albeit people from your own country – said it was safe?

That, apparently, is what the Mexican Tourism Board is counting on with its “Mexico Taxi Project” – a hidden camera campaign that films tourists returning from vacation on the taxi ride home. As you might expect, the commercials feature holiday-goers telling their taxi driver how much fun they had on vacation in [insert Mexican city] and how safe they felt when they were in Mexico.

Now, I’m not disagreeing that Mexico is safe, because there are surely parts of the country that are perfectly fine to visit. But I do wonder if people are actually persuaded by marketing like this – after all, the folk behind the campaign are free to pick and choose the “responses” that best serve them (in other words, the positive ones).

The thing is, no place is really 100% dangerous or 100% safe – you can have bad experiences in supposedly “safe” places (including at home!) or great experiences in “risky” environments. When I visited Brazil several years ago, I never encountered a shred of trouble – yet I ran into countless other tourists who told tales of being mugged at knife/gunpoint, being pick pocketed and even seeing people’s jeans get stolen out from under them as they were stripping down to their bikinis on the beach. With such divergent experiences, it was almost like I was visiting a different country from all those other tourists!

The lesson I drew from all of that was to not let other people’s horror stories stop me from visiting some place I really wanted to go (while avoiding being reckless obviously – I’m not about to traipse into a war zone or anything) nor to let people’s fairytale experiences lull me into a false sense of security. Ultimately, a little adventurousness, a lot of research, and a few precautions can make for a great trip.

What do you think? Are you swayed or dissuaded from traveling because of other people’s stories? Do hidden camera campaigns help you make up your mind?