Mexican port near Ariz. gearing up for cruise ship business
Submitted by SHNS on Thu, 10/23/2008 - 13:12. By GABRIELA RICO, Arizona Daily Star western news
Cruising the Sea of Cortez will be another draw to Puerto Penasco, Mexico where construction on a massive port to accommodate cruise ships is set to begin next year.
"The home port will be similar to those in Miami or San Diego," said Epifanio Salido Pavlovich, director of the Office of Tourism in the Mexican state of Sonora. He said Holland America -- which last week made its inaugural sailing to the new Port of Guaymas -- has agreed to sail four- to seven-day cruises originating and ending at a home port in Puerto Penasco, also known as Rocky Point, with two to five stops along the route.
Salido said the port will be ready to receive its first ship in about three years.
When the port project is finished within about five years, as many at 200 cruises a year could be offered from the Puerto Penasco cruise ship terminal, Salido said. He said officials plan to approach other major cruise lines to complement the service offered by Holland America. The project is being funded by Mexican government and private investors.
Initially, the state of Sonora is spending about $15 million to jump-start the project, said Jesus Fontes, planning director for the state tourism agency. He said the total cost has not been calculated, since the design has yet to be developed. The cruise-port plan comes as other transportation improvements are under way.
The new Puerto Penasco airport is expected to open in the spring, and the highway to San Luis Rio Colorado later in 2009, Salido said. Improvements also are being made to the Lukeville Port of Entry, the re-entry point into the United States from the main road to Puerto Penasco.
Construction of a private hospital, catering to U.S. baby boomers, is also under consideration.
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Puerto Penasco, about a four-hour drive from Tucson, has grown tremendously in recent years with retirees from Arizona fueling the growth. The city has about 45,000 permanent residents, and an additional 25,000 seasonal U.S. residents occupy the condominiums along the shoreline. Puerto Penasco has 42 hotels and motels and 14 RV facilities with 6,000 units that attract 2.3 million tourists a year, according to Sonora tourism data. The state ranks third out of 31 states and Mexico City for foreign investment, with more than $550 million annually.
E-mail Gabriela Rico at grico(at)azstarnet.com.
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)