Azamara Calls in GuaymasThe cruise industry has high priority on the national tourism development agenda, according to Fernando Olivera, undersecretary of Tourism for the Federal Secretariat of Tourism for Mexico.

Speaking to Cruise Industry News, Olivera said that Mexico is committed to developing better products for passengers and better opportunities for cruise lines to generate more revenue on their Mexican port calls. The goal is to develop the industry so that it becomes more beneficial to all parties involved.

“Today, we are focusing on the Mexican Riviera,” said Olivera. “The Pacific destinations have suffered, while the Caribbean side is strong. The challenge for 2012 will be to maintain and grow the level of business in the Caribbean and to rebuild the cruise traffic in the Pacific.

“After three decades, the Mexican Riviera needs to relaunch its product,” he continued. “We are working to define and differentiate the identities of the different ports. There have always been the same itineraries and the same ports. It is time to evolve into something new.”

One game changer could be a planned new port of call in the Baja. That would be very interesting, according to Simon Douwes, director of deployment and itinerary planning at Holland America Line. Referring to the project as Puertos Cortes, Douwes said it would cut down the long sailing distance from California to the first port of call, allowing the ships to reduce speed and hence save fuel.

In Puerto Vallarta, Alex Casarrubias Garcia, port director, said: “We are working more with the ministry of tourism and on the federal, state and local government levels. We have previously been working alone as a port, but now plan to have other ports and the government join forces, and also to involve Los Angeles and San Diego, as they are the main homeports. We all have a common agenda – we need to have ports and tourism authorities work together to develop and enhance the product.

In Acapulco, Bernardo Varela, director of ports and the agency division for Grupo TMM, operators of the cruise port and shipping agents for several cruise lines throughout Mexico, said that the issue was not just a matter for the ports, but that the government must step up and help the destinations differentiate and renew themselves.

Acapulco is also a natural homeport – only a three hour drive from Mexico City, according to Varela. In addition, Panama can be used for turnarounds, he noted, allowing ships to tap into other Central and South American markets.

According to Piquis Rochin, director of international promotion for the Acapulco Destination Marketing Office, last October a partnership was announced with the state of Guerrero for a series of new security measures, launching a new program called Acapulco Seguro. Some 400 new graduates from the federal police academy are participating in the program.

In Mazatlan, Rafael Rivera, in charge of the cruise industry and natural services for the department of tourism for the state of Sinaloa, said that the port has eliminated the head tax and the previously obligatory tug boat services since September 2010 – “taking everything off the table” – to attract cruise ships. According to Rivera, Mazatlan was already the most reasonable port of call even before these costs were removed. Other efforts are underway to improve the product, to develop special offers and experiences for passengers, and to help drive shore revenue for the cruise lines.

“Our government is working hard to solve the problems,” Rivera added, noting a security training program involving more than 100 recruits that will be deployed in Mazatlan. “The 100-plus member security force will ensure that nothing happens to cruise passengers,” he said. “But then nothing has happened to cruise passengers here.

“We are ready to knock on the door of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association to show them we have complied with their recommendations. Then, we can reinitiate our love affair.”

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Winter 2011-2012