LOS ANGELES Fonatur, Mexico’s National Tourism Development Trust
Fund, announced the launch of aggressive, long-term developments on
the Sea of Cortez, in the western state of Nayarit and on the
Yucatan Peninsula at a recent press conference here. The projects
Escalera Nautica del Mar de Cortes, the Nayarit Integrally Planned
Resort and Costa Maya will spur private investment and tourist
dollars in those regions, according to John McCarthy, Fonatur’s
president and CEO.
All three projects, which will take place over the next eight to
20 years, emphasize low environmental impact and seek to draw high
“We’re looking for high spending power,” McCarthy said. “We’re
focusing on quality, not quantity, of tourists. The product here is
Yet he acknowledged that value is important to visitors from the
United States. He cited a recent Conde Nast Traveler poll
indicating that 79 percent of respondents feel Mexico offers good
value for their money.
In terms of investment, McCarthy called Mexico one of the most
stable, open and deregulated emerging economies and pointed out
that, thanks to a change in the law a few years ago, Mexico now
permits 100 percent non-Mexican ownership in most economic
activities, including real estate and tourism-related
Escalera Nautica del Mar de Cortes
The largest development, Escalera Nautica del Mar de Cortes,
spans the Baja Peninsula, the Sea of Cortez and the West Coast of
Mexico’s mainland. It encompasses three programs.
First, the Integral Tourist Regions program will develop tourism
infrastructures such as roads, restaurants, bars and shops in three
regions: from Tijuana and Mexicali near the U.S. border south to
Santa Rosalita; from Rosalita south to Topolobampo; and from
Topolobampo to Nuevo Vallarta.
So far, officials have drawn up a master plan for the regions
and began creating tourism development strategies for areas within
them, such as Loreto, a small resort town in the state of Baja
California Sur on the Sea of Cortez, El Vizcaino, a natural whale
sanctuary on Baja’s Magadelena Bay and Copper Canyon, a national
park in the western state of Sinaloa.
Among the amenities will be a ferry from Loreto to Los Moches on
the mainland, where disembarking passengers can ride a train to
Copper Canyon, according to a Mexico tourism spokesperson.
Secondly, the Integral Coastal Town Improvement Project will
develop and embellish coastal towns throughout the three regions,
from San Felipe in the north to Nuevo Vallarta in the south, with
infrastructure improvements such as water-treatment facilities.
In addition, a land bridge, which McCarthy dubbed a “dry Panama
Canal,” will cut horizontally across Baja California Norte, linking
Santa Rosalita on the Pacific Ocean with Coronado on the Sea of
To date, officials have drawn up urban development plans for
five towns and a master plan for the bridge, which is scheduled for
completion in 2006.
The third component of the development is a network of 27 ports
of call in towns such as Puerto San Carlos on Baja’s Pacific shore
and Altalta on the mainland will facilitate the safe navigation of
charter yachts and other small vessels. The Mexican government will
create an operating and franchising company called Singlar to
oversee the ports, ensuring that each offers the same high level of
quality and is not overdeveloped, according to McCarthy.
“It’s not our plan to build 27 Cancuns,” he said.
Fonatur officials forecast that these developments will attract
$1.7 billion in investments into the five states covered by
Escalera Nautica: Baja California Norte, Baja California Sur,
Sonora, Sinaloa and Nayarit. Those investments will include hotels,
restaurants, bars, entertainment centers, charter fleets, theme
cruises, yacht and sports clubs, spas, galleries and handicraft
Thirty-three miles north of Puerto Vallarta, near Punta Mita,
the Nayarit Integrally Planned Resort will encompass 2,138 acres in
three zones along 16 miles of coastline when fully built out in
Officials are targeting the development at affluent visitors who
enjoy activities such as golf, sailing and exploring nature.
Among the planned features are 14,500 lodging units, three golf
courses, a 150-berth marina, beach clubs, commercial and
entertainment centers, a marine park and an aerodome.
The first phase, the Litibu Polygon, will include six hotels
totaling 1,930 rooms and a capacity for another 1,270. This phase
also will feature a PGA golf course, beach clubs, entertainment
venues and residential units.
The subsequent phases, Capomo Polygon and La Penita, will
include 5,900 rooms and 5,400 rooms, respectively. Construction
dates were not yet available.
While McCarthy stressed sustainable development as the key
element in all three projects, it is paramount at Costa Maya. In
fact, 82.6 percent of the area’s nearly 32,000 acres is earmarked
for a nature reserve; the rest will encompass tourist and urban
McCarthy called the proposed area a “Mexican Bora Bora,” with
low-rise, palapa-style hotels integrated into the environment.
The first phase will include 13 luxury hotels with a total of
2,260 rooms, as well as three PGA golf courses, entertainment,
retail shops, residential units and a water- and forest-themed
In all, 6,000 hotel rooms will be available after build-out.