Lea Marquez-Peterson, Special to Inside Tucson Business
If there is one word to describe our recent trade mission trip to Puerto Peñasco, it’s “opportunity.” They are on the precipice of many changes over the next several years. The city is known by many as a sleepy beach town, and it was obvious that it had been hard hit during the 2008 economic recession.
Real estate, construction and tourism dollars dropped dramatically. Thankfully, the information our delegation heard during our trip spoke of optimism and possibility. The National chamber (Canacanaco) announced recently that tourism from the U.S to Mexico is recovering and has risen by 11 percent nationally. This trend can also been confirmed in Puerto Peñasco, whose Mayor – elect Ernesto “Kiko” Munro, was quick to mention that tourism was up 22 percent year to date in 2015.
The Cruise Home Port will be a huge boon to the “Arizona beach town.” Our delegation, comprised of 20 from Arizona, asked many questions and learned that two-thirds of the foundation of the home port has been completed — almost 750 meters. Diana Nieves, marketing manager of the home port, and Luis Castro Galán, the captain of Puerto Peñasco, toured us by water and explained that an additional 300 meters will be built at a 45-degree angle to reach the 60-foot depth needed by the cruise ships.
As many of us heard, construction was delayed last year. Nieves explained that the construction company had determined the natural rock they were using was not efficient. They stopped construction to strategize and after several months, began manufacturing a concrete product with local labor.
The delay caused a challenge in the steady continuation of federal funds. Now, fortunately, after the brief delay, the public-private partnership in charge of the construction is back on track and very optimistic.
While construction continues on the Home Port, we learned that the Puerto Peñasco airport has plans of its own. Alonso Domínguez, the Puerto Peñasco airport manager, excitedly announced they had secured a small regional airline to fly from Phoenix on Fridays and return on Sundays to draw Phoenix tourists.
Being from Southern Arizona, we immediately asked about the possibility of a flight between Tucson and Puerto Peñasco.
The airport is also planning for a future 3,000-square-meter terminal to accommodate cruise ship tourists in the future. Direct flights from Tucson and Phoenix into more Mexican cities will foster economic exchanges. Our chamber will continue raising awareness and facilitating the dialog on both sides of the border.
Our delegation of attendees included real estate developers, property management firms, restaurant owners, Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema’s office, the U.S. Commercial Service, the Tucson Mexican Consulate’s office, the Arizona Daily Star and Arizona businesses of all size. Together, we agreed that Mayor Elect Munro brought renewed energy and optimism to his beach town as well as the Southern Arizona-Northern Sonora region. He identified many key projects he would like to champion including special events to draw tourists, a renewed emphasis on the safety and security of Puerto Peñasco, the value of a desalination plant and many real estate developments.
He spoke of the city’s lack of a boardwalk or public market for the future cruise ship tourists. In addition, he stressed that Puerto Peñasco does not currently have an efficient public transportation system. Mayor Elect Munro realizes the value that a new bus system for residents and visitors could be to the local economy. He takes office Sept. 16 and will have only one three-year term per the current Mexican election law. Our chamber will work closely with the mayor elect on his ambitious goals.
In addition, during our mission, our Tucson Hispanic Chamber signed a collaborative economic development agreement with the Peñasco Chamber for Commerce, Tourism and Services, CANACO, during a private luncheon for our delegation at the Playa Bonita Resort. Our agreement spoke to collaboration and building sustainable tourism and trade within our region. We also plan to promote to Arizona retailers that Mexican businesses buying product for resale do not have to pay sales tax per our Arizona Department of Revenue. We heard anecdotes about businesses shopping in Tucson and Phoenix at local stores who were unaware of the law.
Puerto Peñasco has many exciting opportunities over the next several years — a potentially booming cruise business, the development of a retail center, a public transportation system and the construction of a state-of-the-art airport terminal. With over 10,000 Americans living in Puerto Peñasco and only a four hour drive from Tucson and Phoenix, Puerto Peñasco is destined for a major transformation.
Interested in learning more about opportunities in international trade and tourism with Mexico? Our chamber hosts trade mission trips to Mexico every quarter, and our next trip is to Mexicali in the fall. Mexicali has had a number of industrial developments recently and is attracting attention and foreign direct investment. Learn more atwww.TucsonHispanicChamber.org or call 620-0005.