Mazatlán Tours U.S. to Increase Air Connectivity to the Destination

Mazatlán is making moves. Representatives from the destination on Mexico's west coast are in the United States this week meeting with airline and industry partners to discuss the increase in air connectivity to Mazatlán. Travel Agent spoke with Oralia Rice, Secretary of Tourism, Sinaloa, Carlos Berdegue, president and CEO of El Cid Resorts and Ernesto Coppel, President of Pueblo Bonito Resorts to get the scoop.

"We have been working with airlines in an international campaign to promote Mazatlán," says Berdegue. "We are here to announce that starting next year we will be investing money with airlines to promote travel in cities where we are getting the most traffic for Mazatlán."

So far the group has met with U.S. Airways and United Airlines and tomorrow they plan to visit with American Airlines. The number one message that the destination is looking to bring to the airlines is the news of three important infrastructural projects taking place at the moment. The first is that the port of Mazatlán is being completely rebuilt. Second is the new Mazatlán-Durango highway, which will open approximately seven new markets for Mazatlán. Third is the new convention center that is designed to increase the meetings and conventions traffic to the destination.

"We have invested $400 million in the port," says Rice. "We are ready to call cruise lines back anytime. Holland America will call back next season, and we are ready to hear from more lines." Mazatlán was hurt badly when several cruise lines canceled their ports of call in the destination, but cruise activity is gradually picking up. In fact, local businesses and tour operators in Mazatlán recently welcomed more than 600 passengers aboard Oceania Cruises flagship, “Regatta” in late May. The travelers, primarily American, Canadian, Thai and Dutch, spent 12 hours in the city, exploring the historical center, sampling the local cuisine and touring the nearby rural communities.

Despite the departure of cruise lines such as Holland America in 2011, cruise activity is gradually picking up in the port of Mazatlán, beginning with Oceania Cruises. Tourism officials held meetings with a number of cruise lines at Cruise Shipping Miami this past March, many of which intend on returning to Mazatlán soon.

The Mazatlán-Durango Highway will connect the destination to Texas and is expected to be completed in November. The highway will shave an estimated six hours off the journey between the state capitals of Mazatlán and Durango. It will pass Sierra Madre Occidental through 63 new tunnels and 11 new bridges, including what will be Latin America's tallest cable-based bridge. "We are telling the airlines that Mazatlán will be a very important hub for them to increase the number of Mexicans going to the United States and coming from Durango," Rice says.

Finally, the group wants the airlines to be aware of the increase in business travel to Mazatlán thanks to the convention center. "This convention center is receiving conventions mainly from the domestic market, and the number of people attending events has grown about 47 percent from last year," says Rice. "This year we will host the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) in November. This is a good sign because these groups are coming to Mazatlán to help it become an important meetings and conventions destination. We want the airlines to know that this will increase that segment."

Infrastructure aside, Mazatlán is has much to offer tourists. "It is important for agents to know that coming to the destination will allow their clients to relax, visit colonial cities and use the destination as a home-base to drive to other neighboring tourist attractions. We have a lot of things to show that will make an enhanced vacation," says Berdegue.

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