Drug Wars Dampen Tourism to Mexico

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MAZATLAN, Mexico -- The drug wars in Mexico have taken a toll on the Mexican economy. The death of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Jaime Zapata south of the border last month is the latest example of the kind of headlines that could keep tourists away.

Two American agents from the ICE were gunned down on a highway north of Mexico city. Armed bandits attacked the pair at a checkpoint set up along the road. The attack has led some lawmakers to call for a review of U.S. strategy in the region.

Several hours to the west of where the tragedy occurred is the Mexican Riviera. In Mazatlan, hotel owners geared up for what is normally their biggest time of the year -- carnival and spring break. They're hoping it will be a big one.

However, they're also worried. Mexico is battling a serious image problem.

Chuck Holton has been living in Mexico with his family for the past three months, and is keeping an eye on the situation there.  Click play to watch his report.  Also, see more of his analysis here, including tips to parents whose kids are considering a trip to Mexico for spring break.

The narco-wars have killed more than 500 people this year alone. At that rate, 2011 could surpass last year's bloody death toll of 15,000. While the vast majority of those killings took place in only four of Mexico's 32 states, even the safest areas have felt the effects.

Last month, Disney Cruise Lines canceled their scheduled berthings in Mazatlan, a major blow to the city's tourism industry. Yet deep discounts and a frigid winter up north have so far kept the hotels in business, with some resorts reporting up to 80 percent occupancy.

Sill, tourism officials know that discounts are a short term solution. The killing of an American immigration agent only makes it tougher for Mexico to lure American tourists - and their money -- to the Mexican Riviera.

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