March 2007

Nautical Tourism

Preparing For A New Wave Of Visitors

By Carol L. Allen

Great development projects, the ones that leave their imprint as the years pass, are distinguished by having foreseen in their plans both the smallest details and the largest economic impacts; they forge an integrated vision from the time they are conceived.

Northwestern Mexico, the Sea of Cortez region, is proud of its rich natural and cultural history and is awaiting one of those great projects. It needs and deserves one.

The Sea of Cortez region extends the length of the Gulf of California, from the mouth of the Colorado River to Cabo Corrientes, and it encompasses — besides the Gulf — the Pacific seaboard of the Baja California peninsula, the territory of the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Nayarit, Sinaloa, and Sonora; the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, and Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco.

The Sea of Cortez project will include 29 ports of call. Fifteen already exist: four marinas now in operation and 11 that will be renovated or expanded.

The remaining 14 will be completely new with five of these on mobile vessels or platforms, offering basic support service to boaters. In addition, there are private initiatives, such as the three marinas that are part of the Sandy Beach Resorts project, which can be added to the network or nautical ladder.

An Excellent Engine Of Growth

Tourism is a sector with a formidable multiplier effect due to its direct impact on other sectors of the economy. In this region it has also become the principal magnet for population in zones with little potential for other activities – as in Baja California Sur – and is, therefore, an excellent engine of growth.

The federal and state governments of the region have entrusted to the National Trust Fund for Tourism Development (FONATUR) the leadership of the Sea of Cortez Project, as the first sustainable regional tourism development in the history of the country. Its vision is to make tourism the productive sector that promotes the conservation of the ecosystem of the Sea of Cortez Region.

FONATUR intends for the Sea of Cortez to become the new icon of Mexican tourism, and, as a strategy for making it so, to position it on the world-tourism stage.

Considering the richness and fragility of the ecosystem, tourism linked to nature has been selected as the target market: ecotourism, nautical tourism, cultural tourism, rural and adventure tourism, sports and health tourism. These market segments are specialized, discriminating, and aware of their environmental responsibility.

The nautical-tourist segment has been selected as the engine of tourism throughout the entire region because it does not generate massive concentrations of visitors, its activity is dispersed throughout the entire territory and so has low impact, such tourists seek contact with nature, and they have high purchasing power.

Research: Getting To Know Boaters

FONATUR carries out systematic market studies for each of its destinations.

Two studies have been done for this program. The first, conducted during 1999 and 2000, quantified the universe of boats on the United States West Coast and in its Southwest, identified where they are registered, and how they were likely to get to Mexico; it also determined the supply of slips.

The research was updated in 2002 to focus on proprietors of motor cruisers and sailboats. It is estimated that on the West Coast of the United States there are around 8,000 owners of boats longer than 30 feet, which is the minimum length for long-distance cruising.

These boats could cruise to Mexican waters on the Pacific Ocean but are too large to be trailered. Also in the Southwest of the United States are 13,500 trailer boats.

During 2005, a third study determined the origins and profile of the target market, so as to effectively design the publicity to be used, as well as the scale of service to be offered in each port of call: moorings, controls, provisioning, surveillance, and lodging.

At the moment, the region has 4,494 spaces in 21 destination marinas. Average year-round occupancy is 76 percent, and all of the marinas meet the technical requirements of the Law of Ports. Of the total, there are 2,749 slips on the water and 1,745 spaces on land.

In general, Mexican destination marinas are full-service facilities that are comparable to marinas on the West Coast of the United States, particularly with those in California.

Five new private marinas, with a combined supply of 1,842 new spaces, are planned for the next five years. Of these, 900 spaces were expected to have entered operation between 2003 and 2005, and the remaining 942, between 2006 and 2007.

Source: page: Singlar – Sea of Cortez project