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Tourism Industry
Costa-Pacifico, the new Mexican beach resort area

April 10, 2009. 22:25

The Mexican government plans the creation of a Planned Touristic Center Centro Turistico Integralmente Planeado (CIP) in Escuinapa, Sinaloa; just in the heart of the Mexican Pacific Coast and sixty miles south of Mazatlan. Under the name of Costa-Pacifico, the expectation is that this new tourist resort area will become a world-class beach destination starting in the year 2012. The project is intended to be twice the area of Cancun, to have 2 marinas, and to attract investments rounding 7 billion U.S. Dollars in the first 3 years.

The tourism industry plays a key role in the Mexican economy. According to the Ministry of Tourism SECTUR, this industry represented 1.96 million jobs in 2007, the third biggest foreign exchange income for the country, and 8.5% of the Mexican GDP. The World Trade Organization (WTO), ranked Mexico in the world seventh position in terms of international tourism arrivals during 2007.

The beach tourism industry in Mexico is divided in two main branches. The first one includes destinations with a long tradition where guests have been attracted by the beauty of their beaches, the colorful towns and their convenient location and accessibility. These places grew by their own fate, with no specific planning or trace for development. Their proximity to big urban areas favored their development; Acapulco is just 3 hours from Mexico City, and Puerto Vallarta is 4 hours away from Guadalajara. These destinations became increasingly popular for both national and international tourism, but their growth has been unorganized and in most cases unsustainable. In the other hand, they have attracted considerable amount of foreign and national investment that have helped to boost their local economy by the creation of jobs, the touristic services spending and the building of infrastructure. The main destinations in this branch include Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Manzanillo in the pacific coast, and Veracruz in the Gulf of Mexico.

The second branch includes those locations that were systematically created by the Mexican federal government in order to become world-class beach destinations. Their main characteristic is that they were conceived and built up in places with huge potential but with no significant touristic activity. These locations are named Integral Planned Touristic Center Centro Turistico Integralmente Planeado (CIP) and its administration and foundation depends on the Mexico´s national trust for the promotion of tourism Fondo Nacional de Fomento al Turismo (Fonatur). This agency has been responsible for conceiving, planning and building of several new destinations. Since its foundation in 1974, at least five destinations have already consolidated their presence in the world travelers markets: Cancun, Los Cabos, Ixtapa, Loreto and Huatulco. Up to date one fifth of the international visitors to Mexico end up hosted by a Planned Touristic Center; with an estimated spending surpassing the 5 billion U.S. Dollars.

The Planned Touristic Centers initiate by the government “expropriation” and purchase of the land from the established locals. Then, access infrastructure is created to facilitate the arrival of huge flows of domestic and international visitors; airports are built, roads and highways are created or improved to connect with major cities. Since the beginning of the project, the government takes control of the broad real estate development and administration. World class investors are invited and motivated to launch their hotels, touristic services facilities, golf courses, supermarkets, beach front real estate developments, health services, training and education institutions, etc. The foundation of the projects is always grounded in a very detailed regulation which intends to rule a sustainable growth and guarantee the permanence of the natural resources and the environment.

But these initiatives have their detractors. Greenpeace and other environmental NGOs have criticized that the developers have given priority on an aggressive economic return and that no significant actions have been taken to conserve the existent natural resources. In addition to this, some projects have been shadowed by crashes between developers and locals who fear the displacement from their historic lands. Also, the new developments sometimes put at risk their traditional economic activities and way of living. Other cases have failed to deliver positive results and enormous amounts of resources have been wasted. For example, in 2005 a new destination was announced to be built in the western state of Nayarit, just a hundred miles from Puerto Vallarta, but this center named Litibu has faced several problems and claims from locals and NGOs who have argued unfair practices from developers and unsustainable planning. This Planned Touristic Center is moving too slow, if not immobile, and it seems that there is a long way to go until it reaches its development potential.

Despite the failed cases, in February 2009 the Mexican government announced the creation of Costa-Pacifico in Escuinapa, a long traditional fishers and shrimp growers town located in the state of Sinaloa, just sixty miles south from Mazatlan; a very famous spring breakers´ destination. This project is intended to have a public investment of around half a billion U.S. Dollars in an area projected to double the size of Cancun. The Ministry of Tourism has established a three-year target to attract 7 billion U.S. Dollars in private investment; 55% national and the remainder from foreign investors, mainly from the U.S. and Spain. The resort area is to include four golf courses, two marinas for a total of 1,000 vessels, 44,200 hotel rooms, a light railway, and a five mile beachfront walk. Government officials have insisted that the environment is going to be the cornerstone of Costa-Pacifico, transforming nature in a tourist attractive by itself. The project is also supported by previous infrastructure developments in the region, like the Mazatlan-Durango highway; which is currently one of the most important road infrastructure projects in Latin America funded in an investment of 1.3 billion U.S. Dollars.

In terms of job creation, the project has already generated 2,545 direct jobs in its first stage of construction. The estimation by the year 2025 is that Costa-Pacifico will have a total population of half a million people grounded in around 150,000 touristic related jobs, and it will be receiving more than 3 million domestic and international visitors per year.

Will Costa-Pacifico face the same difficulties as Litibu, or will it join the success of Cancun and others while becoming the central axis of the Mexican touristic future?

For more information visit the official Fonatur and Ministry of Tourism portals:

Ministry of Tourism

DoingBusinessInMexico Staff
Published: April 10, 2009. 22:25 | Last updated: April 13, 2009. 10:48
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