Americans slowly returning to Tijuana

SAN DIEGO - New numbers obtained by 10News show American tourists are slowly starting to return to Tijuana, but it is not quite the rebound that is being trumpeted by the Mexican government.

10News caught up with Brittany Clemens as she crossed the border. She visits Tijuana several times every week.

"The food is good," said Clemens. "There's just a lot to do."

Before this year, she never visited because she was fearful of violence. But when she heard fewer reports of violence, she made a decision.

"I went over there and gave it a chance, and it's not that bad," said Clemens.

Since 2010, homicides in Baja have dropped from 1,528 to 584 in 2012, according to Mexico's National Statistics and Geography Institute.

Mexican tourism officials say that is one reason for the rebound. This year, some 45 percent of Baja visits were from foreigners, compared to about 25 percent several years ago, according to the Baja California's tourism department.

Mexican leaders are also touting another reason -- an appetizing one. Celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain have championed "Baja Med," which combines local flavors with cuisine from the Mediterranean and Pacific Rim. That has attracted foodies from all over.

Kenn Morris heads the market research firm CrossBorder Group.

"People are coming for good food, wine and a very good experience at a very affordable price,” said Morris.

The low point for border crossings was 2010, when 19.5 million crossed in the first half of the year. In 2013, that number jumped to 20.2 million, up 3.9 percent, according to the CrossBorder Group.

While the trend is a clear increase, it is still far below the peak of more than 28 million visitors in 2004.

The reason? According to a scientific 10News/UT San Diego poll in August, 54 percent of local residents have not visited Mexico in the past year and lingering safety concerns are the main reason. The concerns are not as strong to the north.

"You see a change in attitude from people in Orange County and Los Angeles, but you can see a strong negative perception still in San Diego," said Morris.

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